Sunday, August 25, 2013

Plum Galette with Blue Cheese and Cracked Pepper


Give a man a spectacular pie crust, and he will make a spectacular pie. But teach a man to make a spectacular pie crust, and he will make pie after pie after spectacular pie. And he will turn any and all conversations onto the subject of pie crust. And he will bore people with talk about the critical size of butter lumps and the importance of proper cold rests until he has no remaining friends. But that is okay. Because he will have pie.

So yeah, I've been a bit obsessed lately. But really! Pie crust! Delicious and flaky and like a buttery dream! A week or so ago, I mentioned that I was introduced to a new method of crust-making. And since then, I have made that crust three times. I have made dozens of hand pies, and I have made this plum galette. And I aim to make quiches, turnovers, and lord knows what else until I run out of butter. Yes, it takes some timing and planning and work. But it's oh so worth it.

But back to this plum galette. Yes, it had a spectacular, flaky crust. But its charms did not end there. It had a paving of the season's ripe plums, sliced thinly, fanned out beautifully, and brushed with a generous glaze of plum jam. It was so pretty, I almost just left it at that. But then, to gild the lily a bit — and to win the coveted "most interesting combination that still manages to be tasty" award at an annual pie party — I added a sprinkling of blue cheese, and a few cracks of coarse-ground black pepper. The end result is surprisingly delicious — still clearly in the sweet camp, but with surprising savory notes that add interest, and keep it from being a one-note summer fruit pie.

And if you're wondering the best accompaniment for such a complex combination of flavors, let me point you to a recent story about Cicerones — beer experts who specialize in finding the best beer to drink with your food (and many other fields of beery knowledge, like figuring out if your taps have gone all nasty, how best to store your brew, how to make it, and all that good stuff). You can hear more about it over at NPR. And if you're wondering how I fared in the pie competition — first place. It's all about the sweet and savory. And the crust.

Plum Galette with Blue Cheese and Cracked Pepper

adapted very loosely from the template on Cafe Fernando, as inspired by Chez Panisse, but they are not responsible for the crust obsession and topping "creativity."

About 1 1/4 cups (150 grams) flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 scant teaspoon coarse salt
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, cut in half-inch pieces
~1/4 - 1/3 cup ice water

3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 tablespoon almond meal or flour
6 smallish red plums, sliced into slim 1/4-inch wedges (or fewer larger plums)
~1/2 cup plum jam (if your jam is particularly lumpy or has lots of skin and such, you may need to start with a larger amount)
1 egg, well beaten

1 handful crumbled blue cheese
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, very coarsely ground (I just bashed them with a mortar and pestle)

To make the dough: Place dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor. Add butter and pulse until broken down to sizes varying from peas to almonds to walnuts. Pour mixture into a large bowl, and add the smaller amount of water recommended. Toss together and squeeze the dough to determine if more water is needed. The dough should just hold together, with shaggy dry areas as well as areas that are moister. If the dough is too dry, add the remaining water and toss. Transfer dough to a shallow container or wrap into a rough square in plastic wrap. Chill at least a couple of hours, or overnight.

After the dough has chilled, unwrap it onto a floured surface. Pat the dough into a square, then use a rolling pin to roll it into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. The dough will crumble and be rough around the edges, but don't add more flour or water — it will come together during rolling. For the first "turn," fold the dough into thirds, like a letter. The seam should be on the left side. Chill 30 minutes.

For the second turn, take the dough out, this time with the seam at the bottom. Again roll the dough into an 8 1/2 x 14 inch rectangle and repeat the previous step. Chill 30 minutes.

For the third turn, repeat the previous step, then wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

After the dough has chilled for the final time, roll it to a 12-inch circle (or slightly larger, then trim to 12 inches). Transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the dough, leaving an inch of unsprinkled border. Sprinkle the almond meal or flour over the sugar. Starting from the outside, fan the plum slices, slightly overlapping, in three concentric circles, leaving an inch or so of border (the overhead picture of the tart shows how I did this). Sprinkle another tablespoon of sugar on top of the plums. Then fold the edge over, crimping it around the filling as needed. Brush the crust with the egg wash, and sprinkle it with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Transfer the galette to the freezer while you preheat the oven (just 15 minutes or so).

Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit. When hot, remove the galette from the freezer, and transfer the galette and its parchment to a non-frozen baking sheet. Bake until the crust is deeply golden and the plums seem cooked, ~40-45 minutes.

When the galette is almost done, heat the jam in a small saucepan until runny and melty. Push through a strainer to remove lumps and skins and such. When the galette comes out of the oven, brush the glaze generously over the fruit (the baked plums will be soft, so use a gentle touch). You can leave as is, or else sprinkle with the blue cheese, and then return to the turned-off oven for a minute or two, until it just begins to soften and start to run. Remove, sprinkle with the black pepper, and serve.


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