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How-To

Free-Form Rustic Tarts

Whether sweet or savory, a galette is less fussy than a traditional tart and offers more crisp crust

Fine Cooking Issue 40


“I like the look of a galette better than a picture-perfect traditional tart,” says author David Lebovitz.

In a visit to France many years ago, I noticed that just about every bistro and café featured some sort of free-form fruit tart. Much less formal than the classic heavily glazed, precisely fluted French fruit tart, these charming desserts consisted of a thin layer of fruit—often sliced and of a single variety—baked on top of a buttery, crisp crust. Instead of the straight, rigid sides you get from a tart pan, the edges of these tarts were just folded over onto the fruit. I was captivated by their simplicity.

To the delight of my friends and family—as well as the patrons of Chez Panisse, where I made desserts for many years—I began creating my own galettes, savory ones as well as sweet. Many galettes later, I’m still a fan of this rustic style of tart.

Keep the butter big for flaky dough

My galette dough is a wonder. Easy to mix and roll, it bakes up sturdy yet flaky. I usually make my dough in a stand mixer, but you can use a food processor or cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter, two knives, or even your fingers if they’re not so warm that they’ll melt the butter. For the best results, don’t cut the butter too small. Leave it in big, visible chunks—sugar-cube size is fine. You’ll see streaks of butter when you gather the dough into a disk, but don’t be alarmed. In the oven, those streaks of butter help to create light, flaky, buttery layers.

Chunky butter makes light pastry. Here the author uses a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour, but a stand mixer works well, too.

Protect the crust and add flavor with additional fillings

I love frangipane, so I frequently create desserts that satisfy my craving for this sweet, rich almond filling. My pineapple galette uses a layer of frangipane as a foil for the tangy, ripe fruit, but the frangipane serves another purpose as well; it absorbs some of the juices from the pineapple, keeping the crust from getting soggy and making the tart easier to slice. The crushed cookies in the plum tart do the same. There’s no barrier for my savory tart because its ingredients aren’t as moist and because the cornmeal crust holds up better.

 A sprinkling of crushed cookies keeps the crust crisp by absorbing some of the fruits’ juices. A layer of frangipane works well, too.

Fold up the crust to keep the filling in

The advantage of a galette is that it’s meant to be rustic so there’s no need to worry about creating picture-perfect edges of a perfectly even thickness. But you can play around with the look of your tart by varying the way you pleat the edges as you fold them in over the filling (see “Playing with pleating,” below). You can also create more or less crust by folding the edge in a little or a lot. A little means that most of what you see is the pretty fruit, but I’ve also seen some galettes that leave just the tiniest of openings for the fruit to peek out. I generally opt for folding the edge over by about two inches, which gives me a nice ratio of crust to the open face.

Galette assembly is best done on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The parchment makes it easier to slide the baked tart onto a cooling rack.
Spend some time on the special effects. You can simply pile the fruit on in an even layer or fan it out for a more finished look.

Playing with pleating

Because you’re folding a wide edge of dough onto a smaller part of the circle, the dough will pleat naturally. If you pay no mind to the following suggestions, chances are you will still wind up with a charming looking tart. But I thought I’d show you a few ways of folding just for fun.

Fold large sections for straight sides and a geometric look. The quickest way to give your galette an edge is by folding up large sections of the edge of the dough circle, overlapping them slightly. What you end up with, however, is not a circle but a hexagon or a heptagon.
Pleat in one direction for a uniform look. For a perfectly round tart, fold the dough onto itself in regularly spaced pleats.
Or crimp the excess for a pulled-purse look. As you fold the dough over, pinch the excess up away from the filling.

Serve your galette warm

Usually when I make a galette, I’ll make an extra disk of dough to store in the freezer (it will keep for up to two months if wrapped well) since it’s just as easy to make two as one. (Defrost frozen dough in the refrigerator for a day before using.) Once the galette is baked, however, I absolutely insist on serving it almost immediately, since the buttery flavor and aroma of the dough is most appealing when the galette is warm out of the oven. This can be trickier with dessert galettes: you don’t want to spend all of dinnertime making it. But, if you have your dough rolled out and your other components ready to go, all you have to do is assemble the galette—remembering that it doesn’t have to look perfect—and bake it. If you do make your galette ahead, reheat it before serving.

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