Yummy Yammy Cheesy Galette

When you first come home from having been away for a week, there’s not much in the fridge. But I did not feel like going shopping yesterday or today, and anyway I was playing tennis this morning, then flipping the cottage, then waiting for guests to arrive – honeymooners(!), repeat visitors Sally and Ryan – how wonderful to see them again!! I was wrapped up in Sarah’s book for many hours as well (while waiting for Sally and Ryan), so it was after 6pm by the time I thought about dinner. Earlier I had taken a chicken out of the freezer, thinking to roast it, thinking we haven’t had one with a teriyaki sauce in a while and that might be nice, but it was too late for that. Maybe tomorrow.

Hmmm, very limited choices then. I could always make mac and cheese but didn’t feel like that either. I said to Samuel, “Can you make a dough?” He is good at making dough even if he would rather amuse us by hemming Coco in with pillows and blankets on the couch, from which she did not care to move so we concluded that she liked it.

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By “dough” he knew I meant a pizza dough. I knew we didn’t have any mozzarella so a conventional pizza was out of the question, but my daughter Marie has a recipe for a savory galette that came into my mind. Only it’s been five months or so since I made it at her house and couldn’t remember it well.

I remembered her recipe started with a pizza-crust-type crust. Thus the dough I asked Samuel to make.

I remembered it had butternut squash, but I didn’t know I had one/forgot I had one/didn’t see the one I had till I was all done. But I knew I had yams. That would work.

I remembered it had fresh sage. I knew I didn’t have that, but I do (always) have dried sage.

I remembered it had fontina cheese. I knew I didn’t have that, but I did (miraculously, considering how nearly-empty my cheese bin is right now) have asiago. That would work.

I knew it didn’t have ricotta cheese on it, but I had some of that, and thought it might be good to include.

It might have been good to look up Marie’s recipe then and there but I didn’t (or I would have added more onions).

Samuel made the dough, a regular pizza dough. He grated a big chunk of asiago. I cut up two big sweet potatoes (a.k.a. yams) into small cubes and put them in my cast iron skillet in butter and a bit of water over a medium flame to roast (forgetting that Marie’s recipe calls for the squash to be oven-roasted), then remembered the half onion sitting in my fridge and something in me said Add the onion to the roasting yams. I sliced it up thinly, added it to the yams in the pan and covered the pan till the yams were soft, stirring them once or twice with a good spatula; they were done in about ten minutes.

Samuel rolled out the dough, I put olive oil on it and spread it all over the surface with my hand (just enough to cover the surface, not enough to pool). He then salted and peppered the surface. I put small dollops of ricotta cheese on next, using teaspoons to push grape-sized blobs onto the dough (you see the white blobs?), reasonably spaced. Cooked yam cubes and onion slices went on next (well distributed of course), then some dried sage, then the asiago.

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Into a hot (450F) oven the two galettes went for a good half hour until the crust was nice and brown. It was totally delicious. The combination of cheeses with yams with the sage and onion – oh, yummy! Did I need two pieces?? I enjoyed two pieces! And the crust this time! The crust was especially good. We think it might be because Sandy bought King Arthur bread flour last time I was out of flour, which has more protein, which is supposed to make a better crust. We agree it is better. If you can, buy this kind of flour for your crust.

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After we chowed down on this delicious stuff while enjoying Iron Man 2, I found Marie’s recipe, which I will happily share because 1. It has actual measurements and 2. It serves as a springboard to my altered version. You will see that the “pastry” for Marie’s Butternut Squash and Carmelized Onion Galette is not a pizza dough. I guess I forgot that too. There are various ways I veered from this recipe. But the basic idea is quite the same.

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It all goes to show that you can look and see what’s in your fridge and maybe not have to go to the store in order to make something yummy for dinner!

Lasagna Pizza Galette

Oh, look, ricotta. What can I do with that?

I came home from being away for a few days and opened the fridge to see what might be possible for dinner, and there was a container of ricotta, front and center, staring at me, practically begging. You know you want to use me. I did, not only because I had an idea brewing, but because it had been in there almost too long.

Two experiences contributed to the new concoction I made tonight. New for me anyway.

  1. While in D.C. this past weekend, we stopped for a bite to eat at a pizza place and were intrigued with the one that had pickles on it! That’s right, pickles along with ham, pulled pork, feta cheese and a bit of mustard. They call this a pizza, and I’ll play along. It has a crust like a pizza, is round like a pizza, and has creamy, melted cheese on it like a pizza. The rest is a stretch, but it didn’t matter because it was totally delicious. The server described it as an “open sandwich.” Put whatever you want on a pizza crust. Hmmm.
  2. Claudia and I had a conversation about pie vs. galette. I think of galette as the free form version of pie, I said. To me pie has more fruit than galette, she said. Deeper maybe, ok, fair, I said. Look at us, she said. 🙂 Claudia made a plum pie. The sticky dough made with gobs of butter was hard to work with, hard to make pretty, but oh how amazing it must have tasted. I could only dream about it because she lives in Germany. I’m sure it’s long gone.

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So here I was thinking free form and wanting to do something with my must-be-used ricotta when I saw it in the fridge. That’s all there was at first.

Okay. Start with a pizza dough, which we have discussed in my pizza pile post https://anunboringpath.com/2018/07/31/pizza-pile/. While the dough was resting I gathered basil and oregano from the garden (oh, how glorious basil and oregano are in August!!) and cut it up, took out the ricotta, looked for mozzarella but didn’t happen to have any so settled on a small chunk of asiago (it’s a stronger cheese – don’t need too much, but the flavor works), grated that, chopped up a red pepper and a couple handfuls of spinach, defrosted the half a can of Don Pepino pizza sauce I had put in a jar the last time we made pizza, and took out the jar of grated parmesan that I keep ready to go in the fridge. I oiled the pan with olive oil and sprinkled cornmeal on it. I’m hungry, worked fast.

Ready. I rolled out the rested dough bigger than my pizza pan by about 4” all around. Truth be told, that’s just how big it rolled out. Looked good to me. Not overly picky when I am hungry. I set the pan on the first thing that caught my eye on the counter that would raise it up high enough for the dough to hang down, which happened to be my teapot without its lid waiting by the sink to be rinsed, which you cannot see in this photo, but trust me, the teapot is under the pan and the dough is hanging down the sides.

True confession: I was just making dinner for me and Samuel. That’s all. This is the point where I realized the idea might work and it might be yummy and I ought to be taking some pictures so I could share it!

Here it is with the pizza sauce, then the spinach, basil and oregano, then the red pepper, then small blobs of ricotta.

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Next came the salt and pepper and parmesan.

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Then the grated asiago. I began flipping the sides up. This is the part that reminds me of a galette. Wherever it lands, it lands. After it’s done, the whole thing is fabulous, but the part encased in the dough all around the edges is extra fabulous. But I am getting ahead of myself. And I know I’m being terribly UN-EXACT this time. So sorry. Been away. Hungry. Slacker!

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When all the sides are flipped up, it looked like this.

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And when it has cooked until it’s almost done, it looks like this.

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I like mine a little darker and the bottom crust a little crisper, so I slid it off the pan right onto the oven rack and in five more minutes ended up with this.

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Seems to be a combination of pizza, Stromboli, calzone, lasagna and galette.

  • Round, thin crust, creamy cheese on top like a pizza.
  • Crust enveloping cheese like a Stromboli or calzone.
  • Ricotta to remind me of lasagna or calzone.
  • All in a free form that still reminds me of a galette.

I have no idea what to call this! But it was divine. Note past tense verb was.

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Pies, Galettes, Bread and …Cartwheels?

I have been cooking and baking for a long time. When I was a kid, we always helped my mom make the salad or stir the pot. When I was 16 I got a job at a French restaurant called Picot’s Place in Hamden, Massachusetts, and learned to make Beef Wellington, French onion soup, chocolate mousse and the best omelets ever. I wanted to learn to be a master chef and was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Before I turned 18 I had worked in the kitchen at a German restaurant, at a country club and, for part of a summer, at a little country inn in Bavaria. Starting in my 20s I made food for my family all the time.

What on earth this has to do with cartwheels is a good question. Getting there…

Today was a baking day with Kaileena, my ten-year-old great niece. She said she wanted to make something like a tart and had mentioned swirl bread as well. A wet front has been coming through our area, so on this rainy July day, we picked up Mom, got what we could from the garden before the skies opened up, and headed for the kitchen. We decided on plum galette and cinnamon swirl bread.

Kaileena has helped make pies at home at Thanksgiving every year but had never made any kind of yeast bread before, not that she remembers anyway. She helps a lot in the kitchen at home, loves watching cooking shows and is very comfortable in the kitchen. Nonetheless, kneading bread dough until it is smooth and elastic, incorporating enough flour but not too much and keeping yourself and the kitchen from becoming a gigantic mess is no minor effort.

Kaileena kneading bread dough

“Wow!” she said upon seeing that her dough had risen the way it is supposed to.

And oh how yummy the bread was, lightly toasted, a few hours later with its delicate swirls and hint of cinnamon…

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Rolling out pie dough so that it doesn’t stick to the counter, is the right shape and the right thickness and then transfers nicely to the pie dish takes some doing as well. Kaileena had the distinct advantage (and pleasure!) of working alongside her great-grandma.

Mom and Kaileena rolling out dough

She learned what a galette is – a free form pie, in this case filled with pieces of plum and a few dried cranberries, mixed (as with any fruit pie) with a little sugar for sweetness and flour to bind,

filling galette

and baked to golden brown!

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She even learned how to put a lattice top on this little pie (which did not last long)!

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Have you ever tried to put a lattice top on a pie? You start with rolling out a piece of the dough as thin as your bottom crust. A tool called a pastry wheel (which we affectionately in my family call a Raedle) is used to cut the dough into thin strips that have a zigzag edge. You start with two strips laid across the middle of the pie at right angles to each other, then add one strip at a time and weave them together working outward – over, under, over, under – and then another strip in the other direction until you have covered the pie. Crimp the edges and into the oven it goes. As they say, easy as pie!

If you have never made a pie, or put a lattice top on a pie, it’s a little like doing a left-handed cartwheel if you have been doing them right-handed or doing a right-handed cartwheel when you have been doing them left-handed – harder than it looks! Or like signing your name with your nondominant hand. Or like walking up stairs backwards or trying to have an intelligent conversation in a foreign language you learned in high school and never quite polished. In my case it’s like using a biscuit joiner – a woodworking tool that has nothing whatsoever to do with making yummy biscuits! I think about how cool it would be to make useful and beautiful things from wood, and I’ve watched other people do it many, many times, but doing it myself is oh so different!

If you do a thing often and are very practiced at it, you develop an ease, a finesse, an effortlessness. I think of Mark doing a drop shot, Brad or Lincoln or Ernie building anything with wood, Marie taking photos, Samuel doing a handstand, Kim holding a preemie, Claudia making jam. It’s easy to forget how many steps are involved when a given skill is broken down, how awkward and slow you (you too!) used to be back when you had not devoted so much time to developing and practicing it.

Doing a cartwheel, for instance, involves lunging with your dominant leg in front, then in one smooth motion putting your hands on the ground shoulder-width apart and turned 90 degrees, kicking your back leg up and over followed by your other leg and landing in a lunge facing the opposite way you started. That’s a lot of steps. Not to mention keeping your weight over your shoulders when you are upside down or keeping your legs straight.

Sure, that’s doable, right? This is Kaileena, who is not a gymnast, in mid-cartwheel on her dominant side.

Kaileena cartwheel

And this is her non-dominant side.

Kaileena cartwheel 2

Wait, what? How do I do this? It felt totally awkward to her, but no amount of awkwardness prevented her from wanting to try it again. And in one short session, that cartwheel improved considerably! Luckily, gymnastics is not a required activity for most of us.

As we get older we see the cycle of learning more clearly. People of any age can be eager and energetic but also fairly clueless about the how-to or the why, and certainly lacking in high levels of skill. Others come along to guide, instruct and encourage.  As learners we get the joy of doing something new, which is not only exciting but also feeds on itself and makes us eager to learn something else new. We also get what it feels like to be the novice so that we don’t get too impatient with the novices when we ourselves are on the guiding side. As guides we get the joy of passing along some of our sometimes-hard-earned knowledge and skill, and seeing someone else enjoy a thing maybe as much as we do, as well as carry forward a method, a style or a tradition.

I love this cycle. I love being in some things on the learning side and in some things on the guiding side. I got to make a beautiful red bench with my uncle’s patient help, and with my help and Mom’s, Kaileena got to make a scrumptious pie. For this happy face, I’ll guide her any day!

Kaileena and pie

My galette

I never heard of a galette before yesterday, but my mom led me to think about it. We were talking about being stuck in a food rut, and that made me think about food. Thanks, Mom.

Some people, as they think about food, eat some. But yesterday was the kind of day when, as I thought about food, I wanted to make some. A week ago I bought a bag of plums — beautiful purple plums. I had a hankering for Pflaumenkuchen, a wonderful German plum cake made on a sheet pan. This is not your ordinary sheet cake, especially if you have 9×13 with gooey frosting in mind. This is a sweet yeast dough (like a giant, flatter hot cross bun without the candied fruit) rolled out to fit the big (true half sheet size) pan, then topped with sliced fresh plums and a crumbly streusel and baked till it is golden. Heaven.

Pflaumenkuchen  was on the docket. It’s very tasty, and it’s been a long time since I had it. The bag of plums sat patiently in the refrigerator all week, waiting, as perfect plums do, knowing that glory is to come. Then, surprise! Thirteen (13!) cucumbers appeared before my eyes when I went to the garden to get lettuce on Friday night.  There was nothing to do but pick them.

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You don’t need 13 cukes to make a cucumber salad for dinner. Two will do, and did. (And it is really easy to make, by the way: Grate the cukes, squeeze the water out, and mix in a bowl with half an onion, very thinly sliced. For a dressing use lemon juice, sour cream, S&P and a little sugar to taste.)

After dinner, eleven gorgeous cukes remained in a row on the counter, rejected for salad but nonetheless happy to serve. I know it is not what every person would think of when faced with this image, but what came to my mind was pickles. There was nothing to do but make more pickles. I’ve made pickles three times this season already, once at Millicent’s and twice at home. Last year when I made them with my sister Lynn, I discovered how easy and yummy they are. Thanks, Lynn!

Here I am with Millicent’s pickles. I would be surprised if she has any left.

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Yesterday was beginning to look like a busy Saturday. I won’t get into the sewing, or the flipping of the cottage for new guests, or the long overdue brushing of Bridget. We’ll get right to the kitchen. I have a huge white Pfalzgraff bowl that I have used a thousand times. It is the only bowl for eleven sliced up cucumbers — one of which was a whopping 13” long on account of having hidden itself under massive leaves — all layered with salt and topped with super thinly sliced red onion. The salt draws out the water from the cukes and the red onion adds flavor and makes the pickles prettier in the jar. Millicent’s pickles had red pepper in with them, which is prettier than red onion in my opinion. But we work with what we have.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to put the sugar in the brine, which I almost did one time. Bread and butter pickles are not the same without the sugar, you can take my word. I remembered the sugar this time, and was grateful to Millicent for having gifted me with a jar of pickling spice last weekend in Charlotte.  So I had everything I needed, mixed together in a pot waiting for a flame: vinegar, salt, sugar and spices.

But you have to let the cucumbers sit a while in the bowl with the salt, and a person needs breakfast.

Three critical factors conspired and led me down The Road to Galette.

  1. It was Saturday.
  2. I was by myself in the house.
  3. Fine Cooking magazine came this week (thank you, John).

If it were not Saturday, I would not be sitting with a leisurely breakfast.

If I had not been alone, I would not have been reading while eating.

If that particular magazine had not come, I would have been reading something else.

This month’s issue has a wonderful article on both sweet and savory galettes, and wouldn’t you know, the featured sweet galette was “plum, ginger and poppy seed galette.” Well, well. So much for Pflaumenkuchen.

Seriously though, who ever heard of a galette? What is it? If you are a chef, you know these things. My chef friend Danny didn’t miss a beat when I told him what I was doing. “My favorite is an apple galette with a little almond paste in it,” he said. “But I love all of them.” The rest of us have a thing or two to learn. A galette is basically an open, free-form pie. You roll out the pie dough, lay it on a flat sheet pan that has a short rim to it (to catch any oozing goodness), put the filling in the middle of the dough, and bring up the sides any way you want, fancy or not (in my case clearly not). The dough holds (almost) everything in and has that tender/crispy/flaky combo going for it. In the case of “plum, ginger and poppy seed galette,” poppy seeds are mixed into the dough, adding a texture you don’t encounter every day, which pairs perfectly with the sweet plums touched with the flavor of ginger and cinnamon.

The pickles happened while the galette was baking and I was wishing for a bigger kitchen. Soon the jars were cooling and the aroma of sweet baking plums filled the house.

My galette is not as pretty as the one in the magazine, but for a first try, I was pleased. In fact I was so pleased that I immediately took a picture of it still on its baking sheet.

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Then I wanted to stage it better, so I slid the galette onto one of my favorite glass cake plates. I always loved the ring of hearts etched into the glass on the bottom of this one. In my mind, hearts = love. When you make delicious food, you present it with love to those you love. Anyway, this made a better photo.

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But it was a bad idea. I did this same thing a long time ago, but the lesson sat in a dusty file too far back in the recesses of my memory. I hereby pass along a simple rule to keep in mind in such situations: Don’t slide hot objects onto cool glass plates. Let’s just say it’s a good thing my mother, some time back, off-loaded some cake plates she no longer needed. The crack I heard a few minutes after the fateful transfer told me in an instant that henceforth there would be a shorter stack of cake plates in my cabinet. I then transferred the galette to a different, flat (metal!) surface and in we dug. Oh, how I wanted to share with everyone I love! Of course if they were all here, this one galette would not be enough. But that is a problem I would love to have.

This morning as I put the pickles in the fridge, I discovered two half-full jars of yeast, and proceeded to combine the two into one to be efficient with space. Two did not quite fit into one, however, and I had a little yeast left in one jar. Lo and behold, there was just enough for… a sweet yeast dough! I used the plums yesterday, so Pflaumenkuchen was out of the question, but while getting the vanilla for this delectable dough, the box of currants in the cabinet caught my eye.

These sweet rolls aren’t exactly hot cross buns, but with a little honey and butter, I am very happy. It’s a good weekend!

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