My kitchen has enjoyed a good workout over the last several months as I succumb to the delights of life in retirement and baking almost every other day. Of course with a plentiful supply of home-baked goodies we've had to step up our entertaining calendar, as well as our exercise regime. But then I'm not complaining. Life is sweet.
Years ago I formulated a recipe for what is, in my humble opinion, a perfect Pâte Sucrée or sweet shortcrust pastry. It's relatively easy to handle and the finished texture is light and crunchy. It can be used in tarts and sweet pies, as well as the more rustic galette (French) or crostata (Italian), which is basically a free form pie.
According to the Australian Cherry Growers Association, the 2015 season promises one of the biggest crops on record. With recipes at hand, I am ready and more than willing to cook my way through as many cherries as possible. What say you, fellow cooks and cherry aficionados. Will you join me?
Let's start with my cherry preserves, which can be used to make a delightful country-style cherry and almond galette. Note, for this galette, you will need only 500g of cherry preserves.
1kg plump cherries, stones removed
1/2 cup vanilla-infused caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond essence (optional)
Place the cherries into a saucepan and sprinkle with the caster sugar. Over a low heat, poach until the sugar dissolves and the cherries start to release their juices. Take care not to overcook them, you only need to cook them until the cherries are tender, but hold their shape. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the preserves to cool. Ladle 500g each into airtight freezer safe containers and snap freeze. Defrost the cherry preserves when you are ready to bake with them.
CHERRY AND ALMOND GALETTE
For the sweet shortcrust pastry or Pâte Sucrée:
200g plain (AP) flour, sifted
2 tablespoons pure icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter, diced and chilled
1 free-range egg, lightly whisked
1-2 teaspoons of icy cold water, as needed
For assembly of the galette:
500g of cherry preserves, see recipe above
1/2 cup almond meal or rice crumbs, for the base
2 tablespoons flaked almonds, for sprinkling over the galette
1 teaspoon caster sugar, for sprinkling over the galette
1 free-range egg, whisked, for brushing over the pastry
icing sugar, for dusting
ice cream, to serve
To make the pastry by hand, combine the flour, icing sugar and butter in a large bowl and rub the butter into the sifted dry ingredients with your fingers, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. If it's a particularly hot day or your kitchen is very warm, use a pastry cutter rather than your fingers, as the heat will melt the butter too quickly.
Add the egg and work the dough gently, add a teaspoon or two of water if it feels a little dry. Turn the pastry out onto a board or bench that you've dusted lightly with flour. Form the dough into a ball, taking care not to overwork or knead the dough, as the gluten will develop and it will become tough. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate it for half an hour. The dough can be frozen at this stage too.
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C. Place a sheet of baking parchment onto a baking sheet. Now you are ready to make the galette.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a neat 28-cm circle. You can use a pastry crimper to cut neat edges if you like. Using the rolling pin, lift the pastry gently to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the centre of the pastry with the almond meal or rice crumbs, leaving an 8-cm border around the outside. Spoon the cherry preserves over the almond meal or crumbs.
Fold the edges upwards and into the centre and pleat or pinch the seams to make them stick together. If the dough feels too moist, pop the galette back into the fridge for about ten minutes. Brush the whisked egg onto the pastry and sprinkle the flaked almonds and the extra caster sugar over the entire galette.
Bake the galette for 25 minutes at 190 degrees C (keep an eye to check that the pastry doesn't brown too rapidly - this will depend on the heat of your oven). Now, lower the temperature to 170 degrees C and bake for 20 minutes longer, until the pastry is golden brown.
Serve the cherry and almond galette warm, dusted with icing sugar, and a dollop of good vanilla ice cream. Store any leftovers in an airtight container. Serves 6.
Preparation time: Allow for time to make the cherry preserves, the pastry (including chilling the pastry), as well as baking. Perhaps two-three hours.
Note: you can make the pastry in a food processor or your Tefal Cuisine Companion. To make the pastry in a #CC, place the flour, icing sugar and butter in the bowl fitted with the kneading/crushing blade. Mix on speed 8 for one minute or until it resembles breadcrumbs. With the machine running, add the egg, followed by 1-2 teaspoons of water, through the opening on the lid. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula if necessary, and mix on speed 8 for a minute longer or until mixture comes together. Proceed as outlined above.
Thank you CherryHill...
A word of thanks to the wonderful people at CherryHill Orchards in Victoria. Your plump, beautiful cherries are a welcome addition to my kitchen every summer and my family members love that I gift them with a box of cherries.
Dear readers, you might enjoy these, too...
Tell me, do you enjoy baking? Have you ever been disappointed with store-bought pastries? What's your favourite kind of pastry? Do you prefer choux, tarts, pies, or croissants? Thank you for taking the time to pop in and leave me a comment. I do love hearing from you.
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.