Archive for January, 2010

Tangy Ranch Salad Dressing

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

ranchsaladweb

 
After my recent LENGTHY post on Lillian Hellman and pot roast I believe my readers and I deserve something short and simple today.
 
I’m nibbling on any greenery I can get my hands on at this time of year–usually augmented with apples, nuts, and dried fruit. So I thought I’d share with you my most recent salad dressing.
 
A few days ago I had a hankering to make the ranch dressing my neighborhood matriarch, Mary Parker (a.k.a. Gam), used to make. Hers was the first ranch dressing I ever tasted, about 30 years ago. I loved its smoothness, its tang (from buttermilk), and its gorgeous flecks of herbs.
 
Unfortunately, the file that contained Gam’s recipe has mysteriously disappeared from the Tinky laptop. The laptop is not, alas, the most reliable of electronic devices.
 
Instead I used some of what I remembered from Gam, took a look at a few other recipes in cookbooks, and came up with my own version of the dressing.
 
It isn’t exactly Gam’s formula, but it certainly perks up a salad. You’ll find it a little thinner than commercial ranch dressings (which probably contain mysterious thickening agents). It still adheres nicely to a lettuce leaf or a carrot stick. And its complex, fresh flavor beats that of any bottled dressing I’ve ever tried.
 
Cutting the Herbs

Cutting the Herbs

 
Not Gam’s Salad Dressing
 
Ingredients:
 
fresh herbs to taste (I used 1 handful parsley, 1 handful dill, and a few basil leaves)
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise (low fat is fine if you’re dieting)
1/2 cup sour cream (I should think Greek yogurt would also work very nicely, although I haven’t tried it)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
several turns of the pepper grinder
several drops of Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch paprika
 
Instructions:
 
Chop the herbs as finely as you can. I do this by crowding them into a small, narrow glass (like a juice glass) and sticking my scissors into the glass. You may need to chop your herbs in batches.
 
Combine the herbs with the other ingredients in a blender and process until the mixture is smooth. Place the dressing in a covered jar and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours before using it.
 
Makes a little more than 2 cups of dressing. Use within a few days.
 
 
I love having herbs on my window sill at this time of year!

I love having herbs on my window sill at this time of year!

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Lillian Hellman, Pot Roast, and Pentimento

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

cover

 
Playwright and author Lillian Hellman was the commencement speaker when I graduated from Mount Holyoke.
 
Of course, my class originally wanted Katharine Hepburn. All the senior classes in my era wanted Katharine Hepburn. The characters she portrayed onscreen epitomized what we wanted to be—smart, sleek, and strong minded; sophisticated yet caring.
 
(My friend Kelly, who programmed the films that showed weekly in the art museum auditorium, managed to stay within her budget because she showed at least one Hepburn picture every semester. They always sold out.)
 
Hepburn never accepted the annual invitations that winged their way to her from South Hadley, Massachusetts. Senior classes always had a backup. Hellman was ours.
 
I didn’t know a lot about Lillian Hellman at the time. I had read a play or two of hers (probably at least The Children’s Hour), and I had seen the movie Watch on the Rhine. I knew that she had been blacklisted by the film industry after refusing to name names in testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
 
Of course, I had also seen Carol Burnett’s infamous spoof of Hellman’s 1939 play The Little Foxes, which is now better known than the Broadway version with Tallulah Bankhead or the Hollywood film with Bette Davis.
 
I was intrigued by the idea of Hellman as a commencement speaker.
 
I wish I could tell you exactly what she said to the graduating seniors that day. (If I were at another of my alma maters, the University of Texas, I could read a draft of the address in her papers at the Harry Ransom Center.)
 
As it is, I’ll have to rely on memory—which, as Hellman’s career illustrates, is not always the most accurate recorder of information.
 
Here’s what my 20-year-old brain retained: Lillian Hellman was just plain mean. There we seniors stood in our white dresses and black robes, saying goodbye to our friends and feeling a little nervous about going out into a world in which employment and security were uncertain.
 
I remember her castigating our generation for moral and intellectual laziness.
 
I was shocked and resentful. I wouldn’t have minded her trying to inspire this group of young women to be smarter and more socially committed.
 
Yelling at us because she didn’t think we (whom she didn’t know) had much resolve, however, just didn’t cut it as far as I was concerned.
 
For years now the only thing about Lillian Hellman I’ve liked has been her pot roast.
 
I found the pot roast recipe in Heartburn, the delightful 1983 novel by Nora Ephron that fictionalizes the breakup of Ephron’s marriage with journalist Carl Bernstein. I think of Ephron as the female equivalent of Woody Allen (only deeper). The fact that this novelist, director, and screenwriter also wrote about food makes her even more of a kindred spirit to me.
 
I made Nora’s version of Lillian’s pot roast last week and decided to revisit Lillian Hellman’s life and work a little before posting the recipe.
 
heartburncover
 
Today I won’t say I like Lillian Hellman, but I’m beginning to understand her.
 
I read her memoir An Unfinished Life in the hope that I’d find a more lovable (or at least more charming) side to her.
 
Her longtime intimate friend Dashiell Hammett said that he based the character of Nora Charles in The Thin Man on Hellman, or so Hellman claimed. It’s hard to reconcile the serious, self-centered writer of the memoir with the witty, glamorous, fun-loving Nora.
 
I also reread Pentimento, Hellman’s 1973 collection of essays that looked back on her impressions of people she had known in her youth. I first read the essays in a graduate seminar taught by Bill Stott, a skillful writer who wanted to help his students hone their own writing technique.
 
The title refers to an art-history term. “Pentimento” describes the way in which after many years oil paintings become transparent enough to reveal the painter’s first impulses (the ones that were painted over).
 
“That is all I mean about the people in this book,” wrote Hellman. “The paint has aged now and I wanted to see what was there for me once, what is there for me now.”
 
Hellman’s penchant for writing her life story was and is controversial. In 1980 novelist Mary McCarthy, a longtime rival of Hellman, appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and called Hellman “a bad writer and a dishonest writer.”
 
McCarthy infamously went on to say of Hellman, “[E]very word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’”
 
I could have warned McCarthy that Hellman was not a nice woman. She promptly sued McCarthy for defamation of character. The lawsuit wasn’t abandoned until Hellman died in 1984.
 
In the course of preparing her defense McCarthy uncovered a number of exaggerations and (yes) even lies in Hellman’s work.
 
Most controversially, McCarthy and others argued that the story “Julia” in Pentimento (which became a successful motion picture starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave) was untrue.
 
They argued that Hellman had never known the woman on whom the story was based but had appropriated the woman’s tale and woven herself into the narrative.
 
Ironically, it is Hellman’s dicey relationship with the truth in her nonfiction that has finally enabled me to identify with her. As a nonfiction writer myself I’m occasionally perplexed by the nature of truth.
 
In journalism school I was taught that one should be as accurate as possible, that although The Truth is an impossible standard to obtain it is something one should strive for.
 
Often, however, as I work on my writing (even on this blog) I wonder about the nature of truth and history. In a New York Times essay that asked both Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman to back away from the lawsuit Norman Mailer wrote:
 
No writer worthy of serious consideration is ever honest except in those rare moments—for which we keep writing—when we become, bless us, not dishonest for an instant. So of course Lillian Hellman is dishonest. So is Mary McCarthy, Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, John Updike, John Cheever, Cynthia Ozick—name 500 of us, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Henry James—we are all dishonest, we exaggerate, we distort, we use our tricks, we invent.
 
I don’t entirely I agree with Mailer. I’m certainly not dishonest all or even most of the time. The way I present myself and my own memories on this blog is sometimes not strictly accurate, however.
 
Here’s how I like to present myself: I’m smart. I’m funny. I’m a good cook and a better singer. I live in a wonderful community surrounded by supportive friends and relatives whom I in turn support. I’m cute. I’m intuitive. I’m eternally youthful.
 
Of course, I am each of these things from time to time—but not often all at the same time. I share few of the recipes that fizzle, the photos in which I look really old and fat, the moments in which my family drives me crazy or I sing off key.
 
Nevertheless, I like to think that my occasionally exaggerated presentation of myself, of my own history, and of my recipes sometimes leads to greater truths than the sheer facts might convey.
 
I can begin, therefore, to understand Hellman’s conviction that her own memories were real and truthful even when they were contradicted by history books and other people’s memories.
 
I can even forgive her for not being Katharine Hepburn. Even Katharine Hepburn wouldn’t have been the Katharine Hepburn we Mount Holyoke girls idealized in our hearts and minds. (This is probably why she very wisely stayed away year after year.)
 
Although I still love Katharine Hepburn films, as I have matured I have begun to appreciate the archetypes embodied by other actresses of her era as well. I enjoy Joan Crawford’s ambitious working-glass heroines and Bette Davis’s often mean but always well motivated characters.
 
I suspect Hellman was more like Bette Davis than Nora Charles–a less fun but a more interesting persona.
 
And of course it would be hard to continue resenting anyone who invented this great pot roast, which serves a crowd and makes copious leftovers. Here, with apologies for my long windedness in today’s post, is the recipe.
 
lhprweb
 
Lillian Hellman’s Pot Roast
 
It is yet another tribute to the vagaries of memory and the intricacies of cooking that when I went back to the book Heartburn to look at the recipe I found that I haven’t made Lillian Hellman’s pot roast the way Nora Ephron describes it in years, if I ever did.
 
And of course who knows whether Ephron’s version was really Hellman’s. (I know, I know, this whole discussion is getting way too complicated—and POT ROAST IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE COMPLICATED.)
 
I’m going to give you Ephron’s basic recipe with my amendments. Neither her version nor mine is complicated, I promise. And they’re both tasty.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 4-pound piece of beef (“the more expensive the better” says Ephron)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope dried onion soup mix
1 large onion, chopped (I have been known to use 2)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups red wine (plus!)
2 cups water (plus!)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
(I also often add the following: 1 large can crushed tomatoes, 1 teaspoon dried and crushed chipotle peppers, 1 generous pound carrots, 7 to 8 cut up potatoes, and a handful of chopped parsley)
 
Instructions:
 
Ephron tells you to put her basic ingredients in a large “good” pot and bake them at 350 until the meat is tender, “3-1/2 hours or so.”
 
I tend to put them in a large Dutch oven on the stove top, add the tomatoes and chipotle plus a little more wine and water so that the pot roast is almost covered, and simmer them all day over low heat. I ALMOST cover the pot.
 
In the last couple of hours I add the carrots and potatoes. I add half of the parsley before the last half hour of cooking and use the rest as a garnish.
 
Serves 8. This is even better made one day and reheated the next.
 
 
The Accurate But Not Full Truth: I am not this adorable all the time. But once in a while......

The Accurate But Not Full Truth: I am not this adorable all the time. But once in a while……

 

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Have Some Hash (or, I Love Leftovers)

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

beforehashweb

 
Today’s recipe is what one might term a post facto rather than a regular post. It actually uses leftovers from a dish I made last week for which I haven’t yet posted the recipe.
 
The dish is Lillian Hellman’s Pot Roast—ideal food in chilly January. I want to think about Hellman a little more before I post the recipe so you’ll get that post in a few days.
 
In the meantime here is the simple hash I made from the leftovers. I adore leftovers, which my friend Mary Stuart likes to call “planned-overs.” Stretching a meal over several days saves time and money, two of my favorite commodities.
 
Alas, by night three my dog Truffle won’t eat pot roast–or anything else–in its original form. Turn it into hash (or soup or stroganoff), however, and she thinks she’s eating something new.
 
You may of course use regular roast beef, corned beef, or even lamb instead of pot roast if you happen to have any of those lurking in your larder.
 
Some cooks worry if their hash doesn’t completely adhere to itself. If you are one of them, make the meat and vegetable pieces a little smaller and/or scramble some eggs into your hash. I don’t mind it if my hash wanders around the plate a little as long as it’s warm and has plenty of onion!
 
I learned my best hash tip from Carolann Zaccara, the chef and co-owner of the Wagon Wheel restaurant in Gill, Massachusetts.
 
According to Carolann the secret to good hash (and she makes good hash indeed, throwing in a little cream instead of the gravy to bind the assorted ingredients together) is neglect.
 
“You just pretty much have to leave it alone,” she says.
 
If you’re ever in the area, the Wagon Wheel is worth a visit. Carolann and her husband Jon Miller have recreated an old-fashioned drive-in restaurant and bill their menu as “the way road food should be.”
 
The decor suits the couple’s homage to the drive-in. A small room has paint-by-number pictures on its walls. The larger room’s walls feature commemorative state plates, kitschy collectible clocks, and tins and pots from the 1950s and 1960s.
 
Carolann calls the decorations “cozy and corny at the same time.”
 
If you can’t get to the Wagon Wheel be sure to serve this hash on any commemorative plates you happen to have around.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or (for the fearless!) bacon fat
salt and pepper to taste
4 slices cooked beef, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large potatoes, cooked (but not too soft!) and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 carrots, cooked (again, not too soft) and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1/2 cup meat gravy
several dashes of Worcestershire sauce
chopped parsley for garnish
 
Instructions:
 
Sauté the onion and garlic in the fat until they soften. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
 
In a bowl combine the beef, potatoes, carrots, and sautéed vegetables. Stir in the thyme, gravy, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well.
 
In a 10-inch frying pan heat the hash over medium-high heat until it is crispy. You may add a TINY bit more fat if you need to, but don’t overdo it.
 
When the first side is crispy you may flip the hash if you like. Do not despair if it doesn’t completely hold together. It will taste great anyway. The hash should cook somewhere between five and ten minutes.
 
Dish up and sprinkle parsley on top. Serves 4.
 
afterhashweb

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What Fannie Farmer Means to Me

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Fannie Farmer around 1900 (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library)

Fannie Farmer around 1900 (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library)

 
Like many American home cooks I own more cookbooks than I can use. Over the years hand-me-downs from family members, birthday gifts, and impulse purchases have brought more than 100 volumes to my kitchen shelves.
 
Whenever I decide to try preparing a dish I’ve heard about but never made, I rummage through those shelves energetically, comparing versions in various culinary tomes and searching for the recipe that appeals to me most.
 
Nine times out of ten at the end of this ritual quest I end up holding the same book in my hands: The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
 
This basic cookbook, the use of which I inherited from my mother and her mother, celebrated its 114th birthday a few days ago.
 
The original 1896 edition was the product of the original Fannie Farmer, a zealous but engaging businesswoman.
 
Fannie Merritt Farmer was born in Boston in 1857, one of four daughters of a printer and his conscientious homemaker wife. The Farmers were not wealthy, but they did place a high value on education.
 
Redheaded Fannie, the brightest of the lot, was originally destined for college. Her education was derailed when as a high-school student she became ill with what scholars believe was probably polio. It took her years to learn to walk again.
 
She would not find her true calling until she reached 31, when her family and the woman for whom she had been working as a mother’s helper encouraged her to enroll in the Boston Cooking School.
 
The school, which specialized in training teachers and cooks, was part of a late-19th-century movement toward scientific cookery.
 
Farmer succeeded so well in her studies that at her graduation she was asked to serve as assistant to the school’s director, Carrie M. Dearborn. When Dearborn died a couple of years later Farmer was viewed as the obvious choice to take over the school.
 
She increased its enrollment by broadening its appeal, recruiting as students young women training to be homemakers rather than cooks. In 1901 she split off from the Boston Cooking School to start her own highly successful culinary academy, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery.
 
Before that departure, however, in 1896, Farmer took charge of revising and expanding the school’s main textbook, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. She approached the Boston publisher Little, Brown about putting out a trade edition, arguing that it would sell well to the general public.
 
(Courtesy of Michigan State University)

(Courtesy of Michigan State University)

 
With shortsightedness they must have rued long afterward, Little, Brown’s representatives refused to take on the project. They did allow themselves to be persuaded by the self-confident Fannie Farmer to serve as her printers and distributors for the book.
 
Farmer paid the costs of publication and consequently took home the lioness’s share of the profits when the book enjoyed the success she had anticipated. The 3000 copies of the original printing sold out quickly, and the book saw yearly reprintings and frequent revisions until Farmer’s death in 1915, when it was taken on by other authors and editors.
 
Now known simply as The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, the book is in its 13th edition.
 
Three major factors accounted for Farmer’s popularity as a teacher and as a writer. First, she had faith in herself and in her profession. “Progress in civilization,” she wrote in the first chapter of her cookbook, “has been accompanied by progress in cookery.”
 
Second, she enjoyed her work and expected her students and readers to enjoy preparing and eating food as well.
 
Laura Shapiro, who devoted a chapter of her book Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century to Farmer’s accomplishments, explained, “While other cooks always insisted that their own preferences in food were simple and austere, Fannie Farmer liked to eat and didn’t mind saying so.”
 
Her enthusiasm for food—plain and fancy, sweet and savory—communicated itself to those around her.
 
Finally, in an era in which cooking was still to a great extent an inexact science, Farmer streamlined its practice. She was known as “The Mother of Level Measurements.”
 
Shapiro recounted what she acknowledged as the probably apocryphal tale of a Boston Cooking School student who was confronted with recipes calling for pinches of salt and pats of butter the size of an egg. The student supposedly asked Farmer how big those pinches and eggs were supposed to be.
 
Perhaps in response to this sort of query, Farmer applied herself to the task of defining and reinforcing exact measurements. “Correct measurements are absolutely necessary to insure the best results,” she asserted in a section of her book titled “How to Measure.”
 
“A cupful is measured level … A tablespoon is measured level. A teaspoon is measured level.”  
 
This 1899 advertisement illustrates Fannie Farmer's authority as a food expert.

This 1899 advertisement illustrates Fannie Farmer’s authority as a food expert.

 
My maternal grandmother, Clara Engel Hallett, studied under Fannie Farmer. The adopted child of well to do Vermont farmers, my grandmother was sent by her foster parents to take a course at Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery around 1910 in order to prepare for the culinary obligations of marriage to my grandfather.
 
My grandmother is now dead, and I never had the sense to ask her while she lived exactly what she learned at Fannie Farmer’s school.
 
From my many years of observing her in the kitchen—and my perusal of Farmer’s first edition—I would guess that my grandmother learned to respect the basic food groups. Even when dining alone she never served dinner without a salad course and some kind of bread.
 
I also surmise that her sweet tooth was reinforced by her months at the school. She clearly agreed with Farmer’s dictum that “pastry cannot easily be excluded from the menu of the New Englander.”
 
She took pride in her food’s appearance as well as its taste and always wore a frilly apron when she dished up a meal. And she passed on her love of basic cookery to my mother, who passed it on to me.
 
As well as valuing its inherent usefulness, then, I cherish my Fannie Farmer Cookbook (actually cookbooks; I have four editions and hope to collect more) for the ways in which it connects me to other people. Something about this substantial volume of substantial foods brings my grandmother into the kitchen with me.
 
It also brings in my mother, who is a darn fine cook but who would be lost nevertheless without her 1965 edition of the cookbook.
 
It keeps me in conversation with my friend Pat Leuchtman, who favors the 1959 version. “I like it because it was my first cookbook—and because I never go away empty handed when I turn to it with a question,” she explains.
 
And of course it gives me the benefit of the wisdom of more than a century of experts on, and lovers of, cookery, from Fannie Farmer herself down to the current author, Marion Cunningham.
 
“Today, more than ever,” Cunningham wrote in the 1990 edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, “I sense a hankering for home cooking, for a personal connection to our food.”
 
To me Fannie Farmer helps provide that connection.
 
ffnowweb
 
Fannie Farmer’s Pseufflé
 
This egg dish isn’t in the current edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, but it definitely appeared in the one with which I grew up. I think it was called American Cheese Fondue.
 
I have made it without the Creole seasoning (it wasn’t in the original recipe), but I like the little zing it adds to the recipe.
 
With or without extra zing the dish is what food writer and editor Judith Jones calls “nursery fare”: tasty comfort food that is easy to eat and digest. It uses ingredients that are almost always in the house, and it can be thrown together into a simple, satisfying supper very quickly.
 
It doesn’t puff up like a true soufflé–but it doesn’t deflate like one, either!
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup soft bread crumbs (I usually just crumble up bread)
1 cup small pieces of store (Cheddar) cheese
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning or 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, beaten until they are thick
3 egg whites, beaten until they are stiff
 
Directions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.
 
In a saucepan combine the milk, bread crumbs, cheese, butter, and seasoning. Cook, stirring, over low heat until the cheese and butter have melted and the mixture is relatively smooth. Remove from the heat.
 
Stir in the egg yolks; then gently fold in the egg whites. Don’t worry if some egg white remains visible.
 
Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Bake until much of the top turns a warm brown; this should take between 20 and 30 minutes. Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetite.
 
souffleweb

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Galette des Rois à la Nouvelle Angleterre

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

galetteweb

 
In my last post I shared Chef Marty Yaffee’s delicious recipe for Three Kings Cake (Galette des Rois), along with photos of Marty at work on his creation.
 
The French eat the Galette des Rois not just on Three Kings Day (Epiphany) but throughout the month of January. So naturally I was determined to make the Galette myself this month!
 
I was also determined not to ingest all of its calories myself. My mother and I invited friends and neighbors to dinner so that all could partake. Because I am naturally indolent the guests helped construct the Galette as well.
 
My Galette differed from Marty’s in a couple of ways. First, I just don’t have a light hand with pastry. (Here’s a photo of my not very graceful first puff-pastry fold.)
 
foldingweb
 
I used Marty’s Blitz puff-pastry recipe so my pastry rose less than his classic puff pastry; it resembled an extra puffy butter pie crust. Someday I’ll try the real thing, but this time around I was comfortable making the simpler crust—and for me cooking is all about comfort!
 
I also didn’t have enough almonds on hand to make the classic almond cream filling. So I made what I like to call a Galette des Rois à la Nouvelle Angleterre (New England Three Kings Cake) by using local apples in my filling.
 
It was DELICIOUS. It felt and tasted like a warm, cream-filled apple turnover. My gala apples from Apex Orchards held their shape and texture in the oven and gave the Galette a warm crunch that contrasted nicely with the goopy cream and the melt-in-your-mouth pastry.
 
As we munched around the table we discussed the meaning of the word “Galette.” According to Merriam-Webster it is a flat, round French cake, usually combining pastry and fruit. It comes from an old French word, “galet,” which signified “rounded pebble.”
 
My guests also decided that a Galette might be a cake made by a petite gal (like me).
 
Now this little gal will walk you through the process of making it.
 
Galette des Rois à la Tinky
 
Nothing in this recipe is difficult, but you do need to allow most of a day to make it. The labor won’t take all day (I happily wrote and did other chores in between brief spurts of Galette), but there are lots of resting times involved.
 
I started the pastry, then made the pastry cream and chilled it. I actually rolled out the crusts a couple of hours in advance (I’m a messy roller) and chilled them in their shapes, but you may roll them at the last minute as well.
 
We cut and sugared the apples just before putting them into the Galette so we wouldn’t have to worry about discoloration.
 
Ingredients:
 
for Marty’s Blitz Puff Pastry:
 
1-3/4 cups flour
2-1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water (maybe a tiny bit more)
 
for the Pastry Cream:
 
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 pinch salt
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
 
for the Apples:
 
2 firm medium apples
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch salt
 
for Assembly and Presentation:
 
1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
1 nut for the prize (whoever finds it in the pastry is king or queen for the day!)
a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar for final dazzle
 
Instructions:
 
First begin the puff pastry. Put the flour in a medium bowl, and make a well in the center.
 
Place the cubes of butter in the well, and sprinkle the salt over everything.
 
Using knives or a pastry blender work the butter cubes into the flour until the mixture starts to look grainy but still shows small flakes of butter. Add the water, a little at a time, until the dough just comes together.
 
On a lightly floured board roll the dough into an 8-inch square. Fold it over itself in thirds (as though you were folding a letter to go into an envelope). Turn the dough 90 degrees (so that the horizontal part of the dough becomes vertical) and roll it out again. Fold the dough into thirds again and refrigerate it, wrapped in waxed paper, for at least 30 minutes.
 
Repeat this process twice more. (The dough will become easier to roll as you go along!) After the third double folding, cut the dough into 2 pieces so that it will be easier to roll out into top and bottom crusts. Refrigerate those pieces for 30 minutes more.
 
Somewhere in the middle of those steps make the pastry cream (I used Fannie Farmer‘s basic formula for this, but you may use any pastry cream of your choice; you’ll need about a cup and a half.)
 
For the pastry cream heat the milk in a heavy saucepan until it is very hot (don’t let it come to the boil, however). Remove from heat.
 
In a small bowl combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk them into the hot milk and blend completely.
 
Put the pan back on the stove over low heat and cook, whisking, until the sauce is thick and smooth (somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat again.
 
Whisk a little bit of the milk mixture into the egg yolks. Whisk in a little more, then a little more. You want to get the yolks used to the heat of the milk without curdling them.
 
When the egg yolk mixture has been well heated by adding bits of the sauce, stir the egg yolk mixture into the other ingredients in the saucepan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes over low heat, whisking.
 
Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool to room temperature, whisking from time to time (this took about 1/2 hour in my kitchen). Stir in the vanilla, and put the sauce in a bowl.
 
Cover the sauce with plastic wrap (making sure it adheres to the top of the sauce to keep the sauce from forming a film) and chill it until you’re ready to assemble your Galette.
 
When you are almost ready to bake the Galette, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
 
Look around in your kitchen for two round objects (plates or bowls or one of each!) that are between 8 and 10 inches in diameter. One should be about an inch wider than the other.
 
Roll out one of the pastry halves so that it is a little larger than the smaller object. Place the object on top of the rolled pastry and cut around its outline so that you have a round of pastry that is as wide as object.
 
cuttingweb
 
Repeat with the other pastry half. (You’ll have a little extra pastry at the end, which you may bake with cheese for cheese straws if you like.)
 
Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat and place the smaller pastry round on it.
 
Quickly core and slice the apples. (You won’t need to peel them.) In a bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon, and salt for the apples, and toss the apple slices into the mixture.
 
Return to the first pastry round. Using a spoon or brush dab a little egg wash on the outer edge of the round; it should go in about 3/4 inch from the edge.
 
Spoon about half of the pastry cream inside the egg wash; that is, don’t go to the edges of the pastry. Place the apple slices on top of the cream. Place the nut somewhere on the apple slices. Top with the remaining pastry cream.
 
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Take the other half of the pastry and lay it on top of the fruit and cream. Use a fork to press the two layers of dough together; then score the top surface of the crust with a sunray design.
 
My sunrays were plain old rays instead of Marty’s artistic swirls, and I actually did them BEFORE I put the top crust onto the Galette in order to avoid making more of a mess.
 
Dab a little more egg wash on the top.
 
Place the Galette in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes; then reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the Galette springs back a little when you touch it and looks done.
 
Remove the Galette from the oven and increase the oven heat to 475 degrees.
 
Use a sieve to dust confectioner’s sugar onto the Galette; then return it to the oven to cook again quickly.
 
Marty’s confectioner’s sugar made a lovely glaze; I used a little too much so the smoke alarm went off (and I removed the Galette from the oven!) before a glaze formed. It was still quite pretty (if not his work of art), as well as warm and delicious.
 
Serves 6. Leftovers make a terrific breakfast.
 
pieceofgalweb

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