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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cranberry and Pear Galette

The weather in San Francisco is completely unhelpful when it comes to determining the seasons. If you’re not paying close attention, an entire month can slip away with little trace. I’m still trying to figure out where October went…if it weren’t for the Halloween pictures, I wouldn’t believe it was over.

Well, at least I can count on the produce at the farmers markets to help me (loosely) keep up with the time of year. And, based on the bounty of pears, apples, persimmons, cranberries, squash and pomegranates…well, we’re in the midst of autumn.

The fall and winter months are synonymous with warm fruit desserts. Tender fruit baked with homey spices, perhaps a crisp and nutty topping, a flaky crust, or buttery biscuits that absorb the flowing juices. Perfect with a scoop of ice cream, which immediately starts melting into the fruit creating the most delicious bite. It’s impossible not to slow down for a moment and say “mmmmm”.

Pears and cranberries are a simply lovely combination in fruit desserts. The sweetness of the cooked pears melts into the tart cranberries. Add some frangipane to the mix and you can’t go wrong.

One of my favorite ways to feature fruit in desserts is in the form of a galette, or a free-form pie (think of it as a pie without the pan).

In this version, I used Bartlett Pears which turn from green to golden as they ripen. The flavor of the pears will come through, even if you start with slightly under-ripe pears. This galette is not only beautiful and delicious but as easy as…well, pie.

Cranberry and Pear Galette
For the Crust:
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
3-4 tbsp cold water
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:
2 Bartlett Pears, cored, peeled if desired, and cut into chunks
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1/3 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick room-temperature unsalted butter
1 egg
1 Tbsp flour
2 drops almond extract

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the butter pieces in a bowl or plate and freeze for at least 20 minutes. Refrigerate the water in a small cup until needed.

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process for 10 seconds to incorporate the ingredients. Add the frozen butter pieces and pulse 6-10 times until the butter and flour mixture looks like crushed crackers and peas.

Immediately transfer the butter-flour mixture to a large bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the cold water of the mixture and fluff it in. Then, add another and another, until 3 tablespoons have been added. Continue to fluff and stir 10 to 12 times. It will not be a cohesive dough at this point, but before bringing it together, you need to test for the correct moisture content. Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze firmly. Open you hand if the clump falls apart and looks dry, add a bit more water (one teaspoon at a time). The dough is done when it holds together (even if a few small pieces fall off). If the butter feels soft and squishy, refrigerate before continuing. If it’s still cold and firm, continue to the next step.

Turn the dough onto a work surface and gently knead 3-6 times. Flatten the dough into a 6 inch disk and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For the filling, put the pears, cornstarch brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and toss together. Set aside. Grind the almonds with the sugar and salt in a food processor until the almonds are finely ground. Add the softened butter and process (scrape down from food processor sides if needed). Add eggs one at a time, making sure first egg is thoroughly mixed before adding the next. Add the flour and almond extract and mix well.

Dust a work surface with flour and set the disk of dough on the flour. Dust the top with flour and roll it out until you’ve got a14-15 inch circle bout 1/8 inch thick. Fold the dough circle into quarters and transfer to a sheet pan, then unfold dough.

Put the almond mixture in the center of the dough leaving a 3 inch margin on all sides. Mound the pear mixture on top of the almond mixture and then put the cranberries on top.

Fold the excess dough up over the fruit in a clockwise direction until the fruit is enclosed (there should be about 4-6 inches of exposed fruit in the middle).

Chill the galette in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.


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