When I first started cooking and baking in 2011, I had a galette phase. There's just something about these rustic, free-form tarts that are so captivating — especially at a time where the dining trend in Singapore leaned towards intricate techniques, entremets, and big Michelin-starred restaurants.
I didn't have a lot of kitchen equipments then. My mum's a traditional Chinese cook who does your regular 三菜一汤 meals, opting to remove our then 50L built-in oven for more cupboard space. So armed with a tiny 20L oven, wooden spoons, and some metal bowls, there wasn't a lot I could do.
That's when I discovered galettes. I like this sort of food; one that isn’t easily defined, or surrounded by rigid rules or methods. The process too, is far more forgiving than traditional tart-making: simply roll out your pastry, pop your filling on top leaving a border, then fold over the edges to form a rustic-looking crust.
Even better, I don't need any particular equipment or bakeware (bye tart moulds!). Most recipes would ask for you to place all your pastry dough ingredients in a food processor and give it a quick blitz. This wonderfully combines the ingredients without overworking the butter, which has to remain cold. But you can easily achieve the same results with a fork, a large bowl, and some elbow grease.
The first time I made a galette was in April 2011. I'm not gonna sugarcoat anything, it looked terrible — both the galette and my photography. See for yourself. It was tasty though, and I was convinced I could make it work with a lot more practice. So the next day I made this, and another the following day, then another; I made galettes every day for 2 weeks. By then I got it right, and was so tired of eating galettes I never made it again.
Until today, that is. I'm pleased to announce I didn't disappoint my 18 year-old self and managed to make a fabulously delicious strawberry galette on my first attempt. In fact I was so happy I proceeded to eat all of them (if only you could hear my sheepish laugh).
In my attempt to share the guilt and fatten you all up as well, I'll share my tips for making a good galette that actually tastes as good as it looks.
1. Cold butter, and cold pastry dough
Your pastry is arguably the most important thing here. Yes the filling must taste good, but you're gonna be getting that pastry in every bite and if it's tough/dry/limp/soggy you're not gonna like it at all. First off your butter has to be really cold to start with, and even when you're working it into the dough it has to remain cold. This is crucial because cold butter will get you that flaky pastry. If the butter melts inside the dough before baking, you lose the flakiness. Warm fats will lend a hard, crunchy, greasy crust instead of a tender flaky crust.
2. Don't overwork your pastry
When you're combining the ingredients for the dough, you want to just gently bring everything together and not overwork it. You don't want to encourage gluten formation, so it's a big no to kneading. What I do is just use my fork to bring all the ingredients to the edge of the bowl, till it looks like a little mound. That's as far as I go.
3. Don't get too greedy with your filling
I tend to think that more filling's always good, even though I should know better. If you pile too much filling on your dough, the crust won't be able to hold it in. Remember you need time for that pastry to set, so if you've got too much filling in there it won't be able to hold its shape that well. You'll notice my crust kinda just flattening out in certain areas — that's what'll happen when you're as greedy as I am
4. Leave enough of a border on your pastry
A 1-inch border at least please. You need enough pastry along the edges to hold in your filling, so while you'd not want a crazy amount of pastry it's good to have a little more to be on the safe side. When crimping the pastry, make sure there aren't any cracks. Seal up any with excess pastry dough, pinching them to make sure everything is well-sealed.
You're pretty much on the way to making a good galette if you follow the tips above! This pastry is actually extremely versatile and forgiving. If you find it starting to get a little too soft to handle (ie butter risks the possibility of melting), just chuck it in the freezer for a good 10 minutes before continuing to roll it out. Want to make a savoury galette instead? Omit the sugar and you're good to go.
I had tons of strawberries on the verge of going bad, so that pretty much decided my filling. You can use blueberries, raspberries, or a mix of berries — any berry will work here. Stone fruits would be amazing too, as would apples. The general guideline is you wanna make sure the filling isn't too wet. Just toss your fruits in some sugar, squeeze a little lemon juice, and you're set. I used Kondo Honey Factory Honey Salt for my strawberries, and if you wanna use honey as well just be sure strain out the excess liquid before baking.
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Honey Strawberry Galette (4 mini galettes/1 big galette)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (113g) salted butter, cut into small cubes*
1/4 cup cold water
450g strawberries, sliced**
1/2 cup Kondo Honey Factory Honey Salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
Sugar, to sprinkle
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour and sugar until well mixed. Add the butter and pulse until everything is evenly incorporated and resembles coarse meal. It's ok to have pea-sized lumps. The steps are the same if you're doing this by hand. Add in the cubed butter, and using a fork start pressing and blending it into the flour. I'm often quite impatient and I'll use my fingers instead, pressing the flour and sugar mix through the butter.
2. With the processor running, drizzle in the water 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should not be too wet, so observe and stop when everything starts to come together (it still should be a little crumbly at this point). Form the dough into an even, flat disk. Wrap it with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days here, or frozen.
3. Once the dough has chilled thoroughly, preheat the oven to 210C. Line the baking pan with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine the sliced strawberries with the honey, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt. Mix well and let it sit for about 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolk and milk for your egg wash. Set aside.
5. Take out your dough from the fridge. Use a rolling pin to gently roll the dough out onto a floured surface. You want it to be around 3-4cm thick. Piece back together any cracks that may form. Carefully transfer the dough onto your pan by rolling the dough onto the rolling pin, and gently lifting the dough.
6. Strain the strawberries, reserving all of the honey mixture. Mound the strawberries in the center of the dough, spreading them out evenly and leaving a 1" border all around. Fold the dough over the strawberries around the edge, layering and crimping to seal. Press any cracks together as needed.
7. Brush the egg wash onto the dough around the edges, and sprinkle the edges with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, then drizzle half of the reserved honey mixture over the strawberries. Return it to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the edges are crisp and golden.
8. Let the galette cool for 10 minutes in the pan before serving. Drizzle more of the honey mixture over to serve.
*I'm a firm believer that salt does wonders for sweet baked goods, so I genuinely prefer using salted butter. Unsalted butter would definitely work too, just add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Make sure to cut your butter into small cubes, especially if you're working the dough by hand to make combining everything easier. If your butter starts to soften when you're cutting it, put it in the freezer for 10 minutes before proceeding.
**With strawberries, it's important to know how sweet or sour they are on their own especially when we don't have good seasonal produce in Singapore. Taste your strawberries first, and if they are discernibly sour you may want to add 2 tablespoons of sugar when mixing it with the honey.