For an impromptu apple galette, less can be moreish
This is another one of those recipes that has come from a bare cupboard. One of the great tests for a cook is arriving at a holiday house where there is a distinct and predictable lack of provisions. This happened to me recently, and this tart came out of a couple of Granny Smith apples I managed to scrounge from a tree in the garden.
I cut around the wormholes and found some butter and flour for pastry, and made what I think is a pleasing apple galette. Pleasing mostly for the fact that it was delicious and that it came from almost nothing. As ever in cooking, working with less is often better than more. It reduces the deliberation, and the sense of need encourages creativity. What I enjoyed about cooking this was the spontaneous nature of putting it together. Also, there is a kind of Rumpelstiltskin magic to cooking without shopping, and it can impress the people eating more so than a carefully planned meal.
The term galette is usually applied to flat, free-form pastries. Unlike a tart, which has edges and often has a custard or chocolate or fruit filling, a galette doesn’t require any pastry forms or blind baking or some of the other fiddly steps that can make pastry desserts uninviting.
Originally French, one of the best known is the galette des rois – a pastry topped with almond cream and then sandwiched with another piece of pastry. Traditionally, the galette des rois is eaten on the day of the Epiphany. Which is how I feel about my moment with the Granny Smiths and the empty pantry.
There are various other apples that would be fine in this recipe. Granny Smiths work well because of their acid and the fact they can stand up to cooking. It is best to stay away from apples that become mushy when cooked: a Jonathan, for instance, or Golden Delicious. Most importantly, though, is the fact the sourness of the Granny Smith can hold up against the sugar.
Shortcrust pastry would normally be used for this recipe, dusted with sugar. But puff pastry, pricked thoroughly with a fork to reduce its chance of rising, could work just as well. The galette could be served with cream. But in an empty holiday house, we settled for eating it warm with our hands.
– pastry (recipe below)
– 4 Granny Smith apples
– 2 tbsp butter, melted
– 4 tbsp icing sugar
Line a baking tray with baking paper and set aside.
Roll the pastry into a circular disc about three millimetres thick and 26 centimetres wide. Place the pastry onto the lined baking tray. Place the pastry in the fridge while you prepare your apples.
Preheat your oven to 200ºC. Peel the apples, cut in half and remove the core. Slice the apple halves widthwise, as thinly as you can (about two millimetres). A mandolin is good for this.
Leaving a one-and-a-half centimetre edge around the pastry, fan the apple slices in concentric circles over the pastry.
Press the tines of a fork around the edge of the pastry to decorate it.
Brush the apples and pastry edge with melted butter and dust generously with icing sugar. Try not to get too much sugar on the edge of the pastry as it may burn in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes before lowering the temperature to 180ºC and continue to cook for 15 minutes, or until the apples are golden and the pastry is cooked. The base of the pastry needs to be a deep golden colour.
– 250g flour
– 30g almond meal
– 150g chilled butter, diced
– 95g icing sugar
– 60g egg (1 large egg)
– pinch salt
Place the flour, almond meal, butter and icing sugar into the bowl of a food processor.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with a fork.
Run the processor until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Pour the egg into the flour mixture and pulse until the dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add one tablespoon of water, a teaspoon at a time).
Tip the pastry out onto your workbench and press it together by hand, incorporating any floury bits that haven’t been mixed in yet.
Shape the pastry into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour before using.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 26, 2015 as "Less is moreish". Subscribe here.