Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Potluck Experiments: Plum Galette

Chez Panisse is a very famous restaurant in my hometown of Berkeley, notable for the fact that it basically started the California cuisine movement: use fresh, local foods to make fusion cuisine - very Californian.  I've never been there since a) I can't afford it and b) my mother and the owner got in a fight back in 90's and my mother holds a grudge.  Berkeley isn't a cosmopolis - it's really just a small town that happens to have a large university in the middle of it - and the personal interactions are what you'd expect to see in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  Imagine a Thornton Wilder play with more grumbling about the lack of state educational funding.  (I'm not kidding about this: Thornton Wilder went to Berkeley High.)

In any case, I have that Berkeleyan smug disdain for Chez Panisse that everybody there develops eventually.  "Oh, yes, Chez Panisse.  Did you know that the original Peet's is just around the corner?  And it's so much easier to just grab a slice of pizza at the Cheeseboard.  Chez Panisse is just okay now.  Oooh, you know what I heard?  Now they're using beets in everything.  Can you imagine?  Beets!  Chez Panisse is so overpriced."  We're allowed to complain about it but nobody else is.

The internet does not have the same attitude towards Chez Panisse.  For example, this website is run by a guy who loves Chez Panisse.  In fact, he posted this recipe because of a picture he saw in the flicr photostream for the Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary Party.

This photo, to be precise.  Original.
Now I completely get what he's talking about, because when I saw one of his photos on his website I decided that I had to try making a plum galette as well.

His photo.  Who wouldn't want to try making that?
I had to fiddle with his recipe a bit to make it work but it turned out all right in the end.  While I can't tell you is if this is the type of thing that they serve at Chez Panisse, I can say that the people at the potluck liked it.  I was expecting the crust to be softer but it's actually flaky.

A galette is a French pastry that is usually flat and round, made with a flaky dough.  It's a very broad term and also refers to a buckwheat pancake and various other things.  It can have sweet or savory fillings, and the fillings are held in by rolling up the outer edge of the dough.  You bake it on a cookie sheet instead of in a pie or cake pan.

Like the stereotypes of French recipes, this one has lots of little fiddly steps.  I'm not sure why many French baking recipes are so detail oriented, if it's the way that they're translated to English or if the simpler recipes just aren't popular in English speaking countries.  In any case, this galette recipe is practically a walking stereotype of a French recipe: 7 ingredients but more than 20 steps and it takes hours.

If you're wondering why I would bother making a French recipe after complaining about them, it's because they usually turn out really tasty.  They're worth it.  And once you've made a recipe a couple of times you can usually make them much faster than when you have to read each step.

Tips: the original recipe made two galette doughs but only enough filling for one galette.  Why?  I don't know.  I've modified it to make one dough and one filling.

I've also changed some of the instructions about what actions to take because the original recipe didn't have the right descriptions (IMHO).

The dough needs to be refrigerated overnight, and then you'll need about 1 1/2 hours the next day to roll the dough, put in the filling, and bake it.  Give yourself enough time.

Plums come in different sizes and colors.  The original recipe doesn't say what type of plum he used.  Based on the photos, I think he used the larger, darker ones (maybe a Stanley plum).  The end of October/beginning of November is at the end of plum season, so Trader Joe's was selling the smaller plums like Red Beauties and Santa Rosas.  It doesn't matter which type of plum you use as long as they're decently ripe but not overripe.

The recipe calls for 8-10 plums.  I used 6 plums in the galette and 2 plums for the glaze.  I should have used more plums when laying them out on the dough but I didn't get how much you need the plum slices to overlap.  You want to cover about 1/3 to 1/2 of the previous plum slice with the one you're laying down.  They separate as the dough expands when it bakes.

For the ice water, you don't want to put several ice cubes in a glass of measured water because the ice will melt and increase the amount of water.  Instead, put the water in the refrigerator and add several ice cubes for about a minute right before you use the water.  This will chill the water sufficiently without letting the ice cubes melt very much.

You should use cider vinegar for this recipe instead of white vinegar.  The cider vinegar adds some sweetness that white vinegar doesn't have.  If you need to use a substitute, try red wine vinegar with some sugar or honey.  White vinegar cannot be used as a substitute in this recipe.

You can use plain table salt instead of sea salt.

When rolling the dough inwards to form the border right before baking the galette, you need to pinch the dough firmly together so it doesn't unroll when it's baking.

Plum Galette
Original recipe

1 stick + 1/2 tablespoon (8 1/2 tablespoons) butter, cold
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup ice water
1 3/8 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

6-10 red plums (reserve 2 for the glaze), depending on size
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons sugar (for the glaze)
1 tablespoon butter, melted

First day

Cut the butter into small pieces and chill in the freezer for 20 minutes.  Stir the vinegar and water in a small bowl and keep in the refrigerator until needed.

In a food processor with a metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt to mix.  Add the chilled butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Gradually add the water and vinegar mixture and pulse until the dough comes together and forms clumps and curds.  Gather the dough in a large ball, flatten slightly, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Keep the dough in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Second day

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and place it between two sheets of parchment paper.  Shape the dough into a flat disk by beating it with a rolling pin.  Roll the dough out into an 11-inch circle.  Trim the edges with a pizza cutter or small knife.  Put the circle on a cookie sheet and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Cut all of the plus except two in half.  Keep two plums for making the glaze.  Remove the pits from the other plums, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, and set aside for later use.  Chop the last two plums into very small bits and put the pieces in a pot with 1/2 cup of sugar.  You will use this pot to make the glaze later.

Melt the butter.

Take the frozen dough from the freeze and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on the top, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.  Arrange the plum slices in concentric circles on the dough, leaving the 1-inch border.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on the plum slices.  Roll or fold the dough inwards through the 1-inch border and pinch together tightly.  Brush the top of the rim with the melted butter and sprinkle the last of the sugar on top.

Bake for 45 minutes.

While the galette is baking, make the glaze.  Place the pot with the plums and sugar over high heat to bring to a boil.  You can a little bit of water to speed this part up.  Once the plums have softened and the sugar has boiled, turn the heat down and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  While the glaze is cooking, use a potato masher or a stick blender to pulverize the plum chunks.  Pour the glaze through a fine mesh strainer to strain out the plum skins.  Set the glaze aside.

Once the galette is baked, let it sit for 10 minutes to cool.  Brush the tops of the plums with the warm glaze.  Let the galette sit for another 10-20 minutes so the glaze can thicken.

Frozen dough after being beaten with a rolling pin.

Rolled out dough.

11 plums, 8 small ones and 3 larger ones.

Twice as many sliced plums as I needed.

I'm not very good at making circles.

Rolled dough to form the edge. I didn't press hard enough and it unrolled while baking.

Making the glaze.  I used a stick blender to chop up the chunks.

The finished galette, waiting for the glaze to dry.

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