Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apple Galette with Buttermilk Crust

I have a strong belief that buttermilk has magic powers.  It is thick and rich, yet amazingly low in fat; and moreover, it makes anything tender.  Really - anything.  Want delicious fried chicken? Marinate the pieces in buttermilk before breading and frying.  Want a moist, delicate crumb on that chocolate cake? Use buttermilk in place of some of your liquids (I like to replace water or milk in a recipe with buttermilk - but see the next paragraph for an important note about this.)  Then, there's pie crust.  Home cooks and chefs alike strive to have buttery, meltingly tender pie crust; and while having really cold butter and liquids is one key to the equation, using buttermilk in the crust provides a little extra insurance.

Buttermilk acts as a tenderizer because of its acidic nature.  In baking, the lactic acid in the buttermilk helps to tenderize the flour, resulting in a soft, delicate crumb.  However, if you're using buttermilk in a recipe that uses baking powder, you'll need to do a little math:  For each 1/4 cup of buttermilk you add to a recipe, you'll want to use 1/2 t. less baking powder, and add a pinch (about 1/8 t.) of baking soda.  Want an even easier way to bake with buttermilk? Search the web and find recipes that already call for buttermilk.

But I digress, and it's time to talk about this recipe.  This is basically a rustic pie that is assembled directly on a baking sheet, instead of in a pie pan.  This means that you can roll the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper, assemble the ingredients in the middle of the dough, and fold up the edges... completely skipping the step of trying to transfer the dough into the pie pan.  I hate that step.  I used a combination of white whole-wheat flour and unbleached AP flour, which lends a nice boost of flavor to the crust.

The apples (Vermont-grown honeycrisps) are simply seasoned with brown sugar and a dash of apple cider vinegar, which lets their flavor really shine through.  The top is brushed with apricot preserves before baking, giving the fruit that pastry-shop sheen, and the crust is brushed with egg whites and sprinkled with sugar to finish it off.

Apple Galette with Buttermilk Crust

3/4 c. white whole-wheat flour
1/2 c. unbleached All Purpose flour
1 T. sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 t. salt
1 stick very cold butter, diced into cubes
2-3 T. buttermilk
1 egg white

Apple Filling:
1 lb. honeycrisp apples (or other good baking apple), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/8" slices
3 T. dark brown sugar
1/4 t. apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. AP flour
1/4 c. apricot preserves, stirred to loosen consistency

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Add the flours, sugar, salt, and butter into a food processor; using short pulses, combine the ingredients until the butter has been lightly incorporated into the dry ingredients (the consistency of moist sand).  Add 2 T. buttermilk, and pulse until clumps form - mixture will still be crumbly, but will combine into a ball if pressed in your hand.  If mixture is dry, add a little more buttermilk and pulse to combine.  Transfer the dough onto a piece of saran wrap and shape into a disk.  Wrap the dough with the saran wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a medium bowl, combine peeled, cored, and sliced apples with apple cider vinegar, flour and brown sugar.  Toss thoroughly to combine.

Once the dough has thoroughly chilled, transfer it to a 14"x14" piece of lightly floured parchment paper and roll out to approximately 12 inches diameter.  Transfer the parchment paper and dough to your baking sheet.  Arrange the apple mixture in the middle of the dough in a circle; leaving about 2 1/2 inches of dough on the edges.  Fold one edge of the dough up onto the apple mixture.  Continue lifting up the edge all around the apples, pleating the crust as needed to ensure a snug fit around the apples.  Once the crust has been folded up around the apple mixture, brush with a lightly beaten egg white, and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar.

Using a pastry brush, spread a thin layer of apricot preserves over any exposed apples.  Bake the galette for 30 minutes at 400 degrees; after the 30 minutes have passed, lower your oven to 350 degrees, and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until crust is golden.

Let sit for 10 minutes; then serve warm or at room temperature.

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