Though I only bake cakes, tarts and pies a handful of times in any given year, the perfectionist in me inevitably takes over the minute the oven is warming up. So each Thanksgiving, never quite satisfied with the previous year’s results, I up the ante and vow to try something new.
From a culinary standpoint, the best thing to emerge from my Thanksgiving efforts this year is knowing how to make graham crackers from scratch. This is a fun trick to add to the repertoire. Turns out, homemade graham crackers are remarkably easy and taste far better from scratch then store-bought. But the reason for the graham cracker experiment in the first place? I’ve had problems the past few years with homemade pie crusts. Despite following strict directions provided by reliable sources like Smitten Kitchen and David Lebovitz, I seem to have no luck with the the hand-blended, all-butter crusts they favor, which leave melty, buttery oven messes and crunchy, crackly pastry. Far from perfection.
Luckily, a few days after the holiday, I decided to make this apple marzipan galette (which I haven’t been able to get out of my head since eating it at a friend’s house over a year ago) using a slightly adapted version of Ina Garten’s pastry crust. Remember that saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, that couldn’t be more apt in this case. I used this pastry crust recipe for years with great success but the combo of shortening and food processor seemed passe and a bit fussy compared to the all-butter version. The galette turned out gorgeous and delicious, with a wonderfully flaky crust. I will never stray again! Even if I will have more tools to clean up.
Incidentally, pumpkin pie might just be out next year, in favor of this incredibly easy version of apple “pie.” Unless one of you has a favorite recipe you might be willing to send my way?
Favorite Flaky, Just a Bit Sweet, Pie Crust
Yields 1 large shell or 4 small ones;
Prep time: 5 minutes, minus chilling time
- 1 ¼ cups of unbleached white flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 6 tbsp. cold butter, diced
- 2 tbsp. trans-fat free shortening (or lard)
- ¼ cup ice water
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl and freeze for about 30 minutes. Place the diced butter and shortening in the fridge also for about 30 minutes. Ensuring that all ingredients are COLD will make a huge difference in the outcome! Once your are ready, transfer the dry ingredients, butter and shortening to a food processor. Using a dough blade if accessible, pulse about 20 times, until the butter is the size of small peas. Slowly add ice water and process until the dough just comes together. I found that this doesn’t mean it becomes a ball. The dough will remain in separate pieces but when you gently knead them, they will stick. Transfer this to a bowl and press together into a disk. Wrap disk with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour or preferably overnight.
Apple Marzipan Galette
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert
Prep time: 15-20 minutes; Baking time: 1 hour
For the marzipan (aka frangipane):
- 4 ounces almond paste
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon rum, Kirsch or Calvados (optional)
For the filling:
- 5 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1-2 tablespoons turbinado, Demerara or other coarse-crystal sugar
When you are ready to bake the galette, preheat the oven to 375º. Generously flour a large surface, sprinkle flour on the rolling pin and dough, and roll out the disk, making regular quarter turns to ensure an even crust and something resembling a circle. Once the diameter is about 13.5 inches, you are done. Carefully transfer the dough to a parchment/Silpat-lined baking pan (the crust edges should hang loosely over the pan) and place it back into the refrigerator to cool while you are peeling apples, making the marzipan, etc. The paste can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated but bring it to room temperature when you are ready to assemble the galette.
To make the marzipan paste, place the almond paste, sugar, flour and almond extract in the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer. Mix until the almond paste is in fine, uniform pieces. Add the butter and mix until very well-blended, then add the egg and the liqueur, if using. Mix until the paste is smooth (there may be a few tiny unmixed pieces of almond paste, and that’s fine–they’ll disappear during baking).
Bring the rolled dough out of the fridge. Working quickly, spread the marzipan paste in an even layer over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Arrange the apples over the frangipane, either scattering them in an even layer, or arranging them in concentric circles. Fold the edge of the dough over the apples, folding as needed. Brush the crust and filling with the melted butter. Scatter half the sugar over the crust and the rest over the apples. Bake until the apples are tender and the crust has browned, about 1 hour. Slide the galette (still on the parchment) onto a wire rack to cool a bit. Serve warm or at room temperature, ideally the day it’s baked.