I was perusing the March issue of Food and Wine when I saw a most enticing free-form tart, glistening and juicy. But then I noticed that it was made with plums. Huh? Plums in March? Not to mention that it’s still February.
But even so the recipe attracted me. A buttery crust made in the food processor that promised to be easy to roll out, a French-style almond frangipane layer, all topped with jewel-like bits of fruit, Jacques Pepin as the author, how could it miss? But February plums, at least around here, come from South America, and I can only imagine their carbon footprint, not to mention the evident lack of just-picked freshness. However, piles of pears are heaped in the store, now is their season, and I hadn’t baked anything with them for ages. Thus was the pear galette you see here born.
If you’ve never made a galette, this is a great place to start. Their rustic beauty is endlessly charming, and if you like your crust crusty and browned, the free-form fold-over style used here ensures that. Just be sure to use pears that are juicy and fragrant, as the frangipane layer is there expressly to soak up juice.
Winter Pear Galette*
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 plus 1-2 T cold water
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
3 T ground almonds
3 T flour
2 lbs pears, cored and cut into small chunks
3 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup apricot jam
First make the pastry. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor, then add the butter. Whirl very briefly to combine, leaving visible pieces of butter. Add the water and whirl very briefly again, just until the dough forms big crumbs, but before it comes together into a ball. Turn the dough out onto a Silpat, or a lightly-floured surface and press into an flattened oval. Gently roll out to an oval about the size of the Silpat, or about 9×13″ if rolling on a board. If you’ve done it on a Silpat you’re home free, because you’ll bake it right on there, just set the Silpat on a baking sheet. Otherwise carefully transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment, so that the sticky juices don’t glue your galette to the sheet. Set the dough in a cool place while you prepare the filling – I just put mine outside, because after all, it’s February.
Preheat oven to 400°. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup sugar with the ground almond meal and the flour. When the dough has chilled a bit, sprinkle the almond mixture over the dough to within 2″ of the edges of the dough. Arrange the pear chunks over the almond mixture. Sprinkle most of the 1/3 cup sugar over the fruit, reserving a tablespoon or so. Place the butter bits evenly over the sugared fruit. Now fold the edges of the dough up over the fruit, pleating it as necessary, then sprinkle the reserved sugar over the edge of the crust. Place the galette in the oven and bake for about 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and crust is deep brown.
Warm the apricot jam and brush the edge of the crust with jam, then drop some additional jam decoratively over the hot fruit. Et voilà.