Ballontine of Duck
When this blog was in its infancy, one of my first postings titled "Surrogate Baker" reported the story of a dinner invitation from our then new friend Leon Axel who lives across the street and featured a fruit galette that required emergency shuttling back and forth to our oven. We have since gotten together for dinner many times but this week, when we carried this peach galette across the street to Leon's, I was reminded of the first visit just short of three years ago. Late in the evening there was an unexpected visit from Leon's son Nathanial and his lovely girl friend who were returning from a concert nearby on Bleecker Street and hadn't yet had dinner. So we started all over again with Leon's fabulous ballontine of duck with cherry ginger chutney, a mixed greens salad from the local farmer's market with herbs just snipped from his terrace garden, and then the galette. As this is the height of an exceptionally fine peach season, and the galette turned out to be so special, I want to share this with you immediately. Luckily I had the foresight to take several step by step photos of the process which I think will be helpful and maybe even inspirational!
Perfectly Ripe Peaches
The Sliced Peaches
The Sliced Peaches Draining
The Reduced Syrup
Pouring the Syrup onto the Peaches
Getting out the Heavy Artillery for Rolling
Switching to My Longer Pasta Pin
The Pastry Draped Over the Pan
The Peach Mixture Nestled in the Pastry
The Pastry Draped Over the Peaches
I'll admit that from beginning to end it took about 5 hours but I think they were 5 hours well spent. In fact, pot luck is really the way to go these days with no one having the time to make a full scale dinner except on very rare occasions. There was enough galette to serve 5 substantial slices plus slightly smaller ones for breakfast. Leon served a lovely and rare berry liqueur from Finland with the tart.
When I was at the checkout counter the next day at Trader Joe's, the cashier asked me if I smelled lychees. I quickly realized it had to be the peaches. After peeling and slicing 9 peaches, the intoxicating floral aroma had impregnated everything I was wearing. It couldn't have remained in my hair as I had gone for my usual early morning swim. And what do you suppose I was thinking during that mile of laps? Hurrying home to eat that last piece of peach galette.
Oven Temperature: 400°F/200°C
Baking Time: 40 to 45 minutes
Perfect Peach Galette
This is my favorite peach pie transformed into a galette. I prefer it to a pie because the balance of fruit to pastry is truly perfection. It works for most fruit but especially well for peaches which, compared to nectarines and apples, are a little softer and don't hold up as well in a thicker layer. The thin, buttery, flaky, crisp crust encasing the luscious peach slices is truly heavenly.
Place the sliced peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle them with the lemon juice. Sprinkle on the sugar and pinch of salt and toss them gently to mix evenly. Allow them to macerate for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the peaches to a colander suspended over a bowl to capture the liquid. The mixture will release at least 1 cup up to 1 1/3 cups of juice.
In a small saucepan (preferably lined with a nonstick surface) over medium high heat, boil down this liquid together with the butter to about 2/3 cup or until syrupy and lightly caramelized. The exact amount will depend on how much juice the peaches release which you will be reducing by about half. Swirl but do not stir it. (Alternatively, spray a 4-cup heatproof measure with nonstick vegetable spray, add the liquid and butter and boil it in the microwave, about 12 to 18 minutes on high--watch carefully as microwaves vary). Transfer the peaches to a bowl, pour the syrup over them, and toss gently. (Do not be concerned if the liquid hardens on contact with the peaches; it will dissolve during baking.) Add the cornstarch and almond extract and toss gently until all traces of it have disappeared.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If necessary, allow it to sit for about 10 minutes until it is soft enough to roll. On a well-floured pastry cloth roll the crust into a 24-inch diameter circle. Fold it in quarters and transfer it to a 14 to 16 inch pizza pan, allowing the border to overlap the pan. Scrape the peach mixture into the pastry and carefully drape the border over the fruit, allowing it to pleat as evenly as possible. It will leave a small area in the center exposed.
Cover the galette loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for one hour before baking to chill. This will maintain flakiness.
Preheat the oven to 400°/200°C. at least 20 minutes before baking time. Set the oven rack at lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating. Place a large piece of greased foil on top to catch any juices.
For a delightfully crunchy crust, spritz or brush the pastry all over with water and sprinkle with superfine sugar. Set the pan directly on the foil topped baking stone and bake 40-45 minutes the juices bubble thickly in the center opening and the peaches feel tender but not mushy when a cake tester or small sharp knife is inserted. Rotate the pan half way through the baking time. If it starts to over-brown, cover loosely with foil.
Cool the galette on a rack for about 3 hours until warm or room temperature before cutting.
Pointers for Success:
- The peaches should be ripe and yield slightly to pressure but firm enough to maintain their texture when baked. If squishy, they lose their character.
- To peel peaches, bring a pot of water to a boil, add the peaches and turn off the heat. Allow them to sit for 1 minute. Drain at once and rinse with cold water or place in a bowl of ice water. If the peaches are ripe, the peels will slip off easily.
- As you slice the peaches, toss them occasionally to coat with sugar mixture.
- Be sure to put a sheet of foil under the pie pan as there is always a little spill over with this much fruit.
- For a truly crisp bottom crust, this juicy galette works well baked directly on the floor of the oven for the first 30 minutes. Then raise it to a rack in the lower part of the oven.
Understanding Concentrating the peach juices before baking keeps the filling juicy and requires only a small amount of starch to bind it.
NOTE: For the pie crust, put best flaky & tender pie crust in the search box and increase the recipe by 1 1/2 times. Rolling a crust this large and this thin can be tricky. This is a great dough--strong enough to roll thin but tender when baked. Be sure to roll the crust in a cool area--no higher than 75˚/24°C and work quickly. Move it on the cloth occasionally to ensure that it isn't sticking and add more flour if necessary.