Sunday, September 18, 2011


Deborah tries her hand on a free-form galette.

The harvest is in! The bounty at the farmers markets is overwhelming right now and this will continue for several more weeks. I have bought my huge batch of plum tomatoes and will be making tomato sauce to pack away for winter. I have bought big batches of apples and will begin to cook them down for apple butter and pie fillings. I am plucking the last of the roses and sunflowers from my garden for casual arrangements all over the house.

It is a late summer odyssey of hunting and gathering the best that nature has provided. I did not expect the gathering to include an animal hunt, but the latest grouping of sunflowers that adorn my dining table had hidden within the petal folds, dozens of tiny inch worms. They began to emerge, crawling across my computer screen as I sat checking email. Hey! Within a day I had to get a long handled broom and start sweeping them off my ceiling. So cute. Listen, nature is nature. I'm taking the good with the not so welcome.
One crop I eagerly anticipate is Italian plums or sugar plums. Every year I bake a tart or two showcasing these handsome egg-shaped beauties with their fetching dark purple skins. In the Wednesday food section of the NY Times this week, food writer Melissa Clark featured a free-form plum crostata that looked fantastic and easy enough to try. I like Clarks recipes; accessible and always based on seasonal ingredients. Crostata, the free-form tart, or galette, as the French and I know it, is a technique I have struggled with in the past. I love the casual looseness of its presentation, but rarely succeed in keeping the crust from falling apart. I make pies and tarts all the time so it isn't the dough per se that holds me back. Somehow when it comes to forming the galette I manage to bust a hole or two on its bottom edge and the juices come pouring out during baking, sticking to the pan and making removing the finished tart a task of prying, scrapping and holding back tears.

I was game to try it again with Ms. Clark's guidance. She warns not to get too attached to the tart's appearance as crostatas are notorious for busting a leak, just expect that as part of the what she calls its "shabby chic" appeal. My first ever galette was for a practical exam I took at cooking school where my artfully arranged apple concoction split a seam in the oven and became GLUED to the pan. I had to present it to the instructor with a whimper. I think I passed with a sympathy vote.
 A food processor makes quick and easy work of dough making.

Clark's dough recipe calls for combo of whole wheat and white flour, a little sugar and an egg. The dough was quick to make and easy enough to roll out. The filling requires little more than the plums and sugar. I added some cinnamon for a little depth of flavor and lemon zest to counterbalance that.

Folding the dough over the fruit proved to be as fraught with error as I always remembered. My dough cracked apart at every turn. I finally decided to place the jigsaw pieces of broken dough where I wanted them to be and then squeezed them together with my fingers to form a single draped sheet. Needless to say the damned thing leaked like crazy in the oven. It came out looking not so terrible and I was able to serve it in reasonable shape. My mother in law who is an excellent baker had never encountered this technique before and she seriously questioned what I was doing, but gamely took a bite and declared it "very good!" I thought it tasted pretty good myself. The whole wheat dough gives the tart a rustic mouth feel while the plums, so tart and juicy, are the stars of the show. Give it a try and try not to cry.

Link to :

Italian plum Galette or Crostata by me

-written by Deborah

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