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French pastry is as easy as apple pie. In fact, the French version of American pie is easier and tastier than the original. It is easier because there’s only one pastry layer and no constricting pie pan. Tastier because French pie pastry is made with butter rather than shortening. This French take on an American classic, called a galette, provides a delicious way to showcase your favorite summer fruits.

The term galette is a good example of the many references a French word can possess (much to the frustration of language students). The unappetizing dictionary definition for it is: a flat, round cake. In real life, a galette can be anything from a Breton buckwheat crepe to a yeast-risen Mardi Gras King cake. To ask the meaning of a food word in French is like asking an Eskimo to define snow.

The galette has found its way onto menus in the past two decades with the rise of casual dining. Its rustic, you might say, slightly unkempt look is part of its appeal. If some juices are seeping out and the crust is uneven, so much the better.

The recipe below comes from Jacques Pepin Celebrates (2001). Jacques Pepin has lived in the States for sixty years, first as a super-star French chef, then as an exacting teacher to home cooks. I admire the ways in which, over the years, he has adapted his formidable technique to the modern American taste for simplicity.

One note of caution when you make this galette: The all-butter crust will soften rapidly even in an air-conditioned kitchen. Work quickly, and place the filled galette in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking to insure that the pastry rim stays folded in place. For easier handling, use the crust ingredients for the Turkey Pot Pie in which some of the butter is replaced by shortening. Either crust will complement the fruit filling beautifully.   


Ingredients for 8 servings
Pâte Brisée Dough:

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces

1/3 cup ice cold water


1 pound rhubarb, rinsed, ends trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 pound strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved

1/3 cup sugar

Bottom layer:

3 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons ground almonds or almond flour

1/4 cup sugar

Glaze: 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam or red currant jam, melted

Dough: Pulse the flour salt and butter pieces in with work bowl of a food processor for 5 seconds or work by hand with a pastry blender until the butter is coated with flour and the consistency of coarse sand. Add 3 tablespoons of the water and process another 5 seconds until the dough is just coming together and pieces of butter are still visible. Do the same if working by hand. Add more water by the tablespoon until the begins to form. Remove the dough from the bowl,  Quickly flatten the dough, dust with flour on both sides and roll it out between layers of parchment to a 8" x12" rectangle.  Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes while preparing the filling. 

Filling and Baking: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Assemble the dry ingredients.  Toss the strawberry and rhubarb pieces with 1/3 cup sugar in a mixing bowl.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Roll it out into an oval 16" long, 14" wide and 1/8" thick.  Spread the dry mix over the rolled dough to within 2" of the edge. Pile the strawberry rhubarb mixture on top. Draw up the sides of the dough around the fruit pieces holding them in place until they soften enough to form a crust.  Slide the galette onto a bake sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the crust browns. Loosen the galette on the bake sheet if juices have escaped during baking so it won't stick when cooled. 

Spread on the glaze over the galette while it is still warm. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream if desired.