If you ask me cake vs. pie, I will tell you cake.
Every. Single. Time.
I will always, always, ALWAYS jump at the chance to make cake over pie. Mashing cold, greasy butter into flour is just not appealing to me. Cake leaves so much room for flexible fat substitutes and interesting ingredients whereas pies always require a certain ratio of flour to fat to filling.
But sometimes those days come around in the sweltering weight of a heat-glimmering summer day where everything is opposite. And the baker in question is not in the mood to make or consume cake of any kind. Not even Strawberry Shortcake or a Lighter-Than-Air Strawberry Chiffon Cake.
And so the pie/tart/galette/fruit dessert that had been patiently overshadowed all this time by glorious cakes is nudged quietly out of obscurity into the spotlight.
Though it’s a hassle to do all the chilling and butter-creaming and rolling, the oven will yield a perfectly gorgeous creation in return: a browned, barely-sweet, sugar-encrusted wall of crust rising up around a sea of tender, melt-in-your-mouth pears so sweet from bubbling in their own juices that they barely need anything else.
It looks a little bit rustic; it feels a lot light. It’s not a heavy dessert that will weigh you down on a hot day.
Notes on my Pear-venture
I cut down on the butter just slightly in the crust and accidentally put a tad more than called for when brushing the crust. I think both amounts could be cut down even further without sacrificing taste.
As noted in the recipe, I was short on time so I did some wacky freezing/chilling footwork but in short, this recipe can be turned out in far less time than the original recipe calls for. If you’re in a crunch.
My baking time was much shorter than the original recipe called for (and I set the temperature 25 degrees lower in my convection oven). My best guesses as to why the baking time was so much shorter than the suggested time are:
a) The crazy-hot temperature of my oven
b) Smitten Kitchen’s baking time is for double the amount of crust, as she said she did by accident
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 and 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2–inch pieces
2 tablespoon ground almonds
1 tablespoon flour
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
10 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 14-inch circle and chilled
1 pound firm but ripe pears (I used 3 large—2 bosc and 1 D’anjou)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sliced almonds (optional)
Make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large, wide mixing bowl. Cut in 5 and ½ tablespoons of the butter with a pastry blender or two knives, mixing until the dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Dribble four tablespoons ice water over the mixture, using a rubber spatula to pull the mixture together. Gather the dough into a mound (either in the bowl or on a counter) and gently knead it together, for just a few seconds. If it’s not coming together, add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it does. Wrap dough in a flat disc in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.*
When you are ready to roll out the dough, take one disk and let it soften slightly so that it is malleable but still cold. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 14-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour before using.
Make the galette: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (375 in my convection oven). Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on a lower rack. Toss the ground almonds, flour and one tablespoon of the sugar together.
Remove the prerolled dough from the refrigerator or freezer and sprinkle the almond mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 to 2-inch border uncoated. Peel and core pears (coring is made infinitely easier with handy apple slicers), then slice into approximately eight wedges. Slice each wedge into thin thirds, creating 24 slices per pear. Arrange the fruit in whatever pattern looks good on your rolled dough, making a single layer of snugly touching pieces, leaving the border bare. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the sugar evenly over the fruit.
Fold the border of exposed dough up and over the pears, crimping at regular intervals—make sure there are no breaks that will let juices leak. Brush the border with ½ to 1 tablespoon of melted butter, and sprinkle it with two tablespoons sugar.
Bake in the lower third of the oven (preferably on a pizza stone) for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the crust is well browned and its edges are slightly caramelized. If you wish, sprinkle sliced almonds over the galette 15 minutes before the baking time ends, so they get toasty and extra-crisp. As soon as the galette is out of the oven, use a large metal spatula to slide it onto a cooling rack, to keep it from getting soggy. Let cool for 20 minutes. If you want to glaze the tart, brush the fruit lightly with a little warmed peach (or nectarine, if you have it) jam. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or with plain yogurt.
Do ahead: This galette keeps at room temperature for at least two days, and even longer in the fridge. The unbaked dough, wrapped in plastic, will keep in the freezer for a few weeks, the fridge for a day or more. Rolled-out dough may be frozen and used the next day.
*Because I was in a rush, I shortened the chilling time quite a bit. The first chill around, I stuck the rough disc of dough in the freezer for 20 minutes. After rolling it out, I stuck it in the fridge for less than ten minutes. This is not optimal (the dough will become slightly warm and sticky), but if you’re in a rush, this will work.