Wednesday, October 12, 2011

a Relaxing Week and Baking Mini Galettes



It's been a wonderful week away from work.  Jamie and I have enjoyed a few trips around the city, taking fun photos, cooking and baking, and catching up on sleep.  Tomorrow night, we have an incredibly exciting evening ahead of us.  A few days ago, we learned that Alton Brown is doing a book-signing at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in LoDo (downtown Denver).  Tickets are free (with the purchase of his book Good Eats Volume III), but you have to have a ticket to reserve a place - only 200 or so spots available.






So of course, we headed over to the Tattered Cover to find out if any tickets were left, and it turns out they were only at #164!  So tomorrow, we'll be meeting Alton Brown.  I'm so excited!  And I'm sure I'll be able to learn a lot from his book.  One of my cooking experiments this week wasn't such a success - coconut shrimp with orange coconut rice - the shrimp overcooked before the coating got brown and crispy, and the rice, in my opinion, was inedible, although Jamie kindly ate his without complaint.  :)







I made some pie dough on Sunday which I've been dividing into smaller amounts to make a few mini galettes.  They turned out just beautifully.  I love making cute, little things, and it's also ideal for just two people.  These mini galettes are small, about 7-8 inches in diameter for the finished pie.  They use only a fourth of the dough that a standard double-crust pie would, so instead of a deep-dish pie that serves 8-10 people, these make a modest 4 servings.

Galette is simply the French term for a free-form pie - instead of baking it in a pie pan, it's baked flat, with the edges folded up, creating an nice crusty edge, which when eaten cold makes a handy way of picking up a piece to eat without a fork!





I started with an all-butter crust, and I was thrilled with how the dough turned out.  I think shortening is a little icky, so I use it very rarely.  I don't think it has any flavor, and although it has a reputation of adding flakiness to pie crust, I found that my all-butter crust was perfectly flaky and extremely flavorful.  Until now, I've made pie dough using a pastry cutter, but for a change I used my food processor, and it only took 5 minutes from start to finish, which is another great thing about this recipe.  Using a food processor keeps the ingredients cold since you're not only working very quickly, but also the heat from your hands is not warming up the ingredients.  Very cold ingredients and not over-handling the dough makes perfect pie crust.





The first galette I made was an Apple Cream Galette, which tasted very much like an apple pie, with a thin layer of cream cheese underneath the apples.  Sweet juicy apples tossed with apple pie spice and brown sugar, with a flaky butter crust is just classic yummy-ness.

It was even better with a great big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream - actually, the scoop of ice cream wasn't that big, but the galette is so small, that the ice cream looks a little out of proportion in my photos.  Delicious, though!




The second galette I made a few nights later, which I think was my favorite, was an Almond Cheese Galette with Chocolate Drizzle - this reminds me so much of the Danish desserts my mom makes, her almond pound cake being one of my favorites.  I adore almond paste in desserts, and a while back I made Jamie my recipe for cinnamon rolls filled with cinnamon, sugar and almond paste, but he likes the almond to be much more subtle whereas I kind of like it to be right in my face with every bite.






So to compromise, I made the almond flavor in this recipe pretty subtle.  I used just a little almond extract whipped in with the cream cheese, and instead of almond paste sprinkled on the dough, I used a pistachio paste that we had leftover from another recipe a while ago.  And I really loved the combination of flavors.  The pistachio paste went so nicely with the almond, that I wasn't missing the almond paste at all.  To suit your own tastes, use what you like.  Any sort of thick nut or fruit paste would be delicious baked in this galette.  And the chocolate drizzle...  need I say more?




And it's as good for breakfast as it is for dessert!  This morning, we ate the the last of the Almond Cheese Galette with a baked egg dish.  I'm not sure what to call this dish - Baked Eggs sounds a little boring.  Jamie suggested Baked Egg Surprise, but I'm not crazy about using the word "surprise" in a recipe, since it always makes me think of the scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where they're served "Snake Surprise" for dinner!




This baked eggs dish, which I may just call a Crust-less Quiche is great for using up leftovers from dinner the night before - I used a few leftover cooked potatoes and some sliced cherry tomatoes, which was delicious.  Other good options are cooked crumbled bacon, mushrooms, onions, chopped spinach or bell peppers.  Whatever you like would be fantastic.






All-Butter Pie Crust
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4-6 tablespoons ice water

Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt, and place in your food processor.  Scatter the cold butter over the flour, and pulse the food processor a few times until mixture is crumbly, with some pieces of butter the size of peas.  Don't over process the mixture.  When the dough bakes, the water will evaporate from the butter, creating little steam pockets in the crust, which is what gives it a nice flaky texture.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture and pulse a few times.  Add more water, a little at a time, until the dough starts to pull together.  Stop, turn the mixture out onto a work surface, and gather it all together.  It should be pretty thick and a little sticky.

Divide into 2 equal balls (for 2 standard pie crusts) or 4 equal balls (for 4 mini pie crusts).  Flatten the balls into a round disk with your hands, then wrap each tightly in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  If you don't use the dough within a few days, store in the freezer.


Apple Cream Galette
  • 4 ounces (1/2 package) low-fat cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg, yolk and white separated
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon coarse Turbinado sugar
  • 1 recipe all-butter pie crust (use 1/4 of the dough from above recipe)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, cornstarch and egg yolk for 2-3 minutes until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, toss the apple slices with the apple pie spice, brown sugar and lemon juice.  Set aside.

Take the chilled pie dough and sprinkle with a little flour.  On a floured surface, roll the dough out fairly thin, until it's about 10 inches in diameter.  Place on a silpat, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Spread the cream cheese mixture in the center of the dough, leaving a two-inch border all around.  Arrange the apple slices on top of the cream cheese.



Fold the edges of the dough up, overlapping every two inches, and pressing the edges gently together.  Don't worry about sealing the folded edges too carefully yet.  Using a pastry brush, brush the egg white all around the edges of the galette, making sure to get it under the folds, too.  This will help to seal the folded edges.  Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.





 Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is browned and golden.  Cool for an hour before slicing.  Serve with vanilla bean ice cream or whipped cream.

Yields 4 servings.


Almond Cheese Galette with Chocolate Drizzle
  • 8 ounces (1 package) low-fat cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 egg, yolk and white separated
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup fruit or nut paste (such as almond paste, fig paste or even orange marmalade)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 recipe all-butter pie crust (use 1/4 of the dough from above recipe)
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar, cornstarch, egg yolk, lemon juice and almond extract for 2-3 minutes until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

Take the chilled pie dough and sprinkle with a little flour.  On a floured surface, roll the dough out fairly thin, until it's about 10 inches in diameter.  Place on a Silpat, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Spread the fruit or nut paste in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border all around.  Top with the cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the almonds on top.

Fold the edges of the dough up, overlapping every two inches, and pressing the edges gently together.  Don't worry about sealing the folded edges too carefully yet.  Using a pastry brush, brush the egg white all around the edges of the galette, making sure to get it under the folds, too.  This will help to seal the folded edges.  Sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is browned and golden.  Cool for an hour before slicing.  Just before serving, melt the chocolate according to the directions on the package.  Pour into a zip-lock bag and snip off a very tiny piece from the corner.  Drizzle the melted chocolate on the serving plates, and place the slices of galette on top of the chocolate drizzle.

Yields 4 servings.


Crust-less Individual Quiche (Baked Eggs and Veggies)
  • 1 cup assorted vegetables, chopped (cooked potatoes, cooked crumbled bacon, sliced mushrooms, chopped spinach, cherry tomatoes, onions or bell peppers)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 heaping tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Spray two individual baking dishes with non-stick cooking spray.  Place the vegetables in the bottom of the baking dishes.

Whisk together the eggs and yogurt.  Pour over the vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the grated cheese.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, until the eggs are set, golden and puffy.

Yields 2 servings.