When peach season arrives in Montana, which is now, I rush into the kitchen to bake a galette. And what is a galette? It’s a sheet of thin, buttery pastry topped with fresh fruit. The edges of the dough—which may be ragged—are simply folded up and pressed around the outer edge of the fruit. Voila! No fancy shaping.
The key to a great galette is to make sure that the fruit juices thicken up during baking so that the pastry stays crisp. To do that, I spread a thin layer of ground nuts, flour, and cinnamon onto the rolled out dough and then layer on the fruit. As the galette bakes, the fruit juices merge with the flour and nuts and bubble and thicken to a perfect syrupy consistency.
Galettes are best when very fresh. Serve as is. They don’t need a thing.
You can make the pastry hours or even a day or two ahead and refrigerate it. It must be cold when you roll it out. The nut and flour base may also be made ahead. Peel and slice the peaches just before assembling the galette to maintain the fruit’s natural color. If you have a baking stone, this is a good time to use it. You’ll need a 14-inch pizza pan or large rimmed baking sheet for baking the galette.
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably organic
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed
Ground Almond Base
¼ cup sliced or slivered almonds
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 pounds firm, ripe peaches, about 6 medium
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
½ cup sugar
To make the pastry, either weigh the flour (by far the most accurate method) or measure it by dipping a dry measuring cup into the flour container, filling it to overflowing, and sweeping off the excess with a straight edge. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Slice the cold butter and add to the bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into smaller pieces, about ½ inch or so. Then reach into the bowl, and with your fingertips, rapidly press and flatten the butter pieces into flakes. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t soften and don’t be concerned about flattening every piece of butter. Add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, and stir and toss with a fork to combine. Stir just until the dough comes together in one mass. If the dough seems dry, add only enough additional water to make it cohere. Shape the dough into a ¾-inch-thick disc—you’ll see large flakes of butter in the dough—and enclose with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm the dough.
To make the ground almond base, process the almonds, flour, sugar, and cinnamon with a food processor for a few seconds until the nuts are finely ground. Or, if you have some ground almond meal or flour on hand, substitute 1/4 cup of that for the almonds.
If you have a baking stone, set it on the center shelf of your oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you don’t have a baking stone, just preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
To peel the peaches, bring a large pot of water to the boil and have a large bowl of cold water nearby. Add the peaches to the boiling water and cook 30 seconds. Transfer peaches with a slotted spoon to the cold water. Allow the peaches to cool for 30 seconds or so then remove them from the water. One by one cut the peaches along their seam into halves with a sharp paring knife and slip off their skins. Freestone peaches will come apart with a gentle twist. Remove the pits and cut each peach half into 6 or 8 slices. Cut each peeled cling peach half into 6 or 8 slices while the fruit is still attached to the pits. Put the sliced peaches into a bowl.
To shape the galette, roll the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface into a very thin, roughly shaped circle, 14 inches in diameter. If the dough is very firm, let it sit at room temperature about 10 minutes or tap the pastry all over with the rolling pin to flatten it a bit, then roll it out. You may not think the dough will be able to become 14 inches in diameter, but it will. (If the dough feels too soft, fold it in half, transfer it to the pizza pan or rimmed baking sheet, unfold it, and refrigerate a few minutes.) Do not be concerned about rough edges of dough or if your circle is perfect. This is rustic. What’s important is that the dough is thin, thin, thin. The butter flakes melt during baking and the pockets of air that are formed make the pastry flaky.
Transfer the dough to the pizza pan or rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the ground almonds and flour onto the center of the dough and distribute with your fingers into a thin powdery circle about 11-inches in diameter.
Arrange peach slices, overlapping them slightly, in concentric circles on the nut layer. I make three circles, beginning with the outermost. Scatter the cold butter bits over the fruit, and sprinkle evenly with about 6 to 7 tablespoons of the sugar. Bring up edges of the pastry to cover the outer edge of peaches and press gently to adhere. Brush the pastry with water and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
Put the galette into the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or maybe even longer, until the peach juices bubble thickly, like a syrup, and the pastry is well-browned with random darker spots. The sugar must be well caramelized.
Cool the galette on its pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer with a wide metal spatula to a wire cooling rack. Sometimes juices leak onto the pan during baking causing the galette to stick, so loosen the galette carefully to avoid tearing the pastry.
The galette is best when very fresh. Serve it plain. It needs nothing extra.
Note: I’ve successfully reheated leftover galette the next morning in a preheated 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.