Friday, January 09, 2015

free your dough

I discovered this salted-butter apple galette recipe around Thanksgiving, after seeing Bon Appetit post a link to the dessert.  While they surely posted it with the holiday in mind, I loved the recipe so much that I'm reserving it a spot on my year-round baking roster.  Galette is a much prettier (and more French) way to describe a freeform tart or pie. With a galette, instead of manipulating your dough to fit the confines of a pie pan, you can let it be free.

No fussing with the crust, fancy crimping, or fork marks necessary-- just fold over the dough to make a delicious, buttery perimeter that will hold your filling in place.  It is beautiful simplicity that tastes just as wonderful as any pie you'll ever make.  Another thing I love about this recipe is that it democratizes pastry.  You do not need to own a pie pan, nor do you need any previous pie experience.  You need little more equipment than a knife, a vegetable peeler, a sheet pan, and a sauce pan for melting the butter.  (A rolling pin is handy, but you can also use a wine bottle to roll out your dough.)  While I adore kitchen equipment, I firmly believe that you should not let a lack of equipment stand between you and a recipe.  In fact, my favorite cookbooks are the ones where authors suggest a thoughtful workaround if you don't have the right gadget for the job.

The times I attempted a recipe without all the proper equipment or ingredients are the experiences I learned the most from.  I seem to recall staying up late to attempt my first batch of yeast-risen cinnamon rolls during my senior year of college.  This was long before I owned multiple rolling pins in various models, or had even a basic knowledge of yeast, and I rolled out the dough on a dormitory desk I transformed into a baker's bench.  After college, there were many days of impulse buys at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, which I was lucky enough to work adjacent to for almost five years.

  On Wednesdays, I would walk down from my office building, buy an ingredient I'd never heard of, ask a few questions at the farm stand, and figure out the rest as I went (i.e. lots of googling topics like "how to cook sunchokes", "how to cook rainbow chard", and "what to do with your beet leaves?") Then there were the many months spent out of town for work, in a remote area outside of Los Angeles where the nearest grocery store was a good thirty minute drive away. During this time, I lived in a work provided apartment with a stove but no oven.  I quickly learned the art of toaster oven cookery and on my days off, sometimes created "gourmet" meals made only from the ingredients I could find at the local general store/ gas station. The urge to cook was too strong to let circumstance dictate my meal options!  Then, when I lived temporarily in Denmark, I shared a basic apartment kitchen with a local and learned to make hummus in her quirky old blender instead of a food processor.

 I used google translate to decipher, letter by letter, the ingredients and cooking directions on Danish food packages  (leading me to wonder, what did expats do before google translate?)  My twenties were a time of recipe hacking, ingredient impulse buying, foreign language cooking, and technique googling, and I would like to think I'm a better cook because of it.  If you're ever feeling like your equipment list or pantry is lacking, figure out a workaround and carry on-- the adventure will surely be worth it.  Or find an alternative recipe: after all, a galette is every bit as tasty as a pie.
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