I’ve a confession to make: over the summer I botched about half a dozen galettes. I can blame my oven, the cruel, monstrous thing that just loves to torch any crust that dare enter its clutches. I can blame the time I neglected to remove my dough from the place on the counter directly above my dishwasher, just as my dishes were drying. Or maybe I can lament over the pints of fresh strawberries that leaked out of the crevices in the dough and burned the body of said oven. Rotten luck! Circumstance! Faulty flour, etc, etc!
I could tell you stories.
Or, I could be honest. I can tell you that it’s been a while since I’ve formed great pie dough. Instead I focused on breads, cookies, cakes and puddings — because I needed the quiet comfort of the weight of the things. This summer was the worst I’ve known, and the tactile feeling I got from making cakes in a bowl instead of a stand mixer, freezing almond ice cream and pulling sheets of perfumed cookies out of the oven delivered a calm I needed. I didn’t have it in me to consider the intricacies of pastry dough, a kind of dough that makes you hawk a clock rather than linger. Summer raged a platoon against butter, and I cursed as I pulled one sheet pan after another of ruined galettes.
What I love about baking is the methodical nature of it. I view a recipe as a blueprint for creating a life, something you can create from air, from nothing, and as long as you follow the outline, as long as you keep at it, you will make beautiful things. But if you aren’t humble, if you aren’t ready to accept that the directions can only take you so far and you can’t control humidity, ovens and forgotten sheet pans on top of dishwashers, then you’re done for. If you don’t practice, your technique atrophies, and so here I am, armed with a new food processor, re-learning the consistency and texture of pastry dough.
After forty minutes, I’m proud to say that there are no leaks or dough that reminds one of chewing cardboard, rather the pastry is a little tart, sublimely sweet and the crust is tender and hearty, a lovely home for the fruit capturing its last breath of air in the season.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned this summer, it’s this: you will fall. You will burn things. You will believe that the thing that made you extraordinary has left you dulled around the edges, simple and ordinary. And only in admitting failure, only in steadying yourself with your hands, only when you lift yourself up, only then you’ll find the extraordinary all over again.
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sticks (8oz) butter, cold and cubed
1/4 cup ice-cold water
12-14 fresh figs, halved
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp heavy cream
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt to combine. Distribute the cubed butter evenly amidst the flour and pulse 4-5 times for two seconds at a time. Your dough should have the texture of coarse sand with pea-sized bits of floured butter throughout.
With the blade running, slowly stream in the cold water until your dough just comes together. Tumble your dough onto your counter and wrap in cling film, pressing the dough into a fat disk, about 1 inch thick. Chill for an hour.
While the dough is chilling, prepare the figs, vanilla, syrup and sugar in a bowl, gently tossing the mixture with your hands. You don’t want the figs to fall apart so take it easy.
Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
Remove the chilled dough from the fridge, and on a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough until it’s 12-14 inches wide. Don’t get caught up in measurements — you just want a large circle where the dough is a 1/4 inch thick.
Transfer the dough to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Leaving about 2-3 inches of space from the crust, assemble your fig mixture and begin to fold the dough over the mixture, making sure you don’t have any tears or holes. Chill the galette for 15 minutes before transferring to the oven. After it’s chilled, brush on the heavy cream.
Bake the galette for 35 minutes, and then cool completely on a rack. Serve solo or with ice cream!