You might call the galette the nonconformist of pastry doughs, the bold individual, the outsider who shrugs at the long-held traditions of French baking. Known as a “free-form” dough, the crust forgoes formality in favor of a more rustic, casual approach. Julia Child was one of the first to bring the humble galette to the American masses—her no-frill dough recipe is still a classic for home cooks everywhere. Like Julia herself, the pastry is straight-forward and unfussy–no haughtiness or snobbery, no complex glazes or perfect pinch patterns. Instead, it is simply folded over at the edge with effortless efficiency, ready to warmly embrace the baker’s filling of choice without complication.
“The galette can do anything you like,” explains Sam Seneviratne, the pastry chef behind the popular blog, Love, Cake, and the upcoming book, The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking. “It’s a basic, buttery dough that’s sturdy and versatile.” In other words, a blank canvas upon which to get creative. How does one become a bolder baker? According to Seneviratne, “Every chef develops their own unique way of cooking, their own voice. You define your own style.”
For the New York-based baker, a blending her Sri Lankan heritage with her American roots creates unique recipes that are all her own. “I love cinnamon and cardamom and tropical spices—in a warm, chocolate and caramel kind of way, not like a piña colada!” Having worked as a food editor and chef, eventually honing her skills to focus specifically on baking, Seneviratne was ultimately drawn to the tactile nature of baking. “All the sensual pleasure appeals to me—like the feel of pressing my cheek on warm bread dough.”
While experimenting and playing around with different ingredients and combinations is key to being a bolder baker, so too is paring down ingredients and allowing individual flavors to really shine through. And at this time of year, as summer slips gently into fall, what better ingredient to highlight the bounty of this in-between season than the heirloom tomato cradled in the simplest of pastry forms? Seneviratne shares her recipe here, adding, “The galette crumbles apart in the most beautiful way. There is really no way to mess it up.”
The Heirloom Tomato Galette
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 to 8 tbsp ice water
1 ½ lbs heirloom tomatoes, cut into thick slices
2 tbsp basil leaves, torn, plus 1 tablespoon chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp heavy cream or milk
½ cup whole-milk ricotta
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Note: A layer of grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano can also be added between the tomatoes and the crust, if you have some on hand. Or a sprinkle of crushed red pepper…
1. To make the pastry, combine flour, butter and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add 6 tablespoons of water to the mixture, and stir with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. Add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of water if you need, but stop before the dough gets too wet. (It should just hold together when squeezed.)
2. Gather the dough into a rough ball in the bowl with your hands. Put a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and transfer the dough onto it. Wrap the dough with the plastic and flatten it into a 6-inch disc. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Meanwhile, place a few layers of paper towels on a cutting board. Lay the tomato slices on top of the paper and sprinkle with some salt. Flip the slices over and sprinkle again. Let stand about 30 minutes. (This is to release some of the extra water in the tomatoes.)
4. On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll the dough out to a 13-inch circle. Transfer the parchment with the dough to a rimmed baking sheet. If the dough has become too soft at this point, pop it in the freezer for a few minutes.
5. Top with the prepared tomatoes and torn basil leaves, and drizzle with olive oil. Fold a 3- to 4-inch border of the pastry up and around the tomatoes, pleating the dough as needed to seal. Brush the pastry with cream and place in oven.
6. In a small bowl, combine ricotta and remaining tablespoon of basil. Season as desired with salt and pepper.
7. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the tomatoes are charred in spots, about 30 minutes. Let stand a few minutes, then top with the ricotta mixture. Serve warm.
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All images copyright Love, Cake (where you can also find more of Sam’s recipes). Her book, The New Sugar and Spice: A Recipe for Bolder Baking, is now available.