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Sweet or savory, galettes ideal for breakfast, dinner or dessert

Wed., Feb. 5, 2014, midnight

Free-formed and open-faced, galettes are relatively easy to prepare, slice and share.

These characteristics make the classic but unfussy – and very versatile – French tarts perfect for dinner, dessert, even breakfast.

You can top them with anything you’d put on a pizza or inside a pie.

Serve them sweet, crowned with berries or slices of apples, apricots, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines or figs – whatever’s in season.

Or, opt for savory toppings like tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, kale, spinach, cabbage, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, asparagus, artichoke hearts, butternut squash, sausage, ham or egg.

Italian cooks use the term crostata for similar open-faced meat or fruit tarts, which began appearing in Italian cookbooks in the mid- to late 1400s, during the Renaissance.

In France, the flat, round cakes date back even further, evolving from the Neolithic practice of spreading thick, cereal paste on hot stones. They take their name from the Old French words for pebble, or rounded pebble, and originated in the region of Normandy and Brittany.

Today, the Breton galette is a thin, crepe-like pancake, traditionally fashioned from buckwheat. Similar to the crusty, cake-like version we’re talking about here, the sides are typically folded up and over to contain the filling. Those rugged edges give the galette the rustic look for which it’s known.

Slice and share like pizza. Or, craft smaller, personal portions for individuals.

Whether you form the pastry dough into a rectangle, round or some shape in between doesn’t really matter. For Valentine’s Day, perhaps, a heart?

Fresh herbs and nuts add flavor and texture. So does a layer of sweetened ground almond paste, cheese – such as ricotta, chevre, feta, Gouda, Gruyère, Emmental, Stilton, brie or mascarpone – or fruit butter, curd, marmalade or jam.

It’s fun to experiment. And no matter the time of year, the options seem endless.

Here are four: two sweet, two savory.

What combinations will you come up with?

Galette Pastry

Both sweet galettes used the same pastry dough, but I added ¼ cup walnuts to the Almond-Apple Galette dough.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup of walnuts (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/3 cup ice water

In a food processor, combine flour, nuts (if using), sugar, salt and butter, processing for about 10 seconds. Sprinkle ice water over the flour mixture and process until the dough begins to come together and butter pieces are still visible, about 15 seconds. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll it out,.

Almond-Apple Galette

Adapted from legendary French chef Jacques Pépin’s Country Apple Galette recipe, published in Food & Wine magazine in October 2011

Almond paste provides an additional a layer of sweetness to this recipe, which features a rich, flaky crust and a layer of sliced apples.

The original recipe called for Golden Delicious; I used Jonagold. I also doubled the amount of cinnamon, added nutmeg and liberally drizzled honey over the top of the tart, likely more than the 1 tablespoon for which the original recipe asked.

1 pastry recipe, with optional walnuts

6 ounces almond cake and pastry filling, or about half of a 12.5-ounce can

4 Jonagold apples

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 to 2 tablespoons honey, preferably wildflower

Make dough and roll it out. Then, peel, halve and core the apples, cutting them crosswise in ¼-inch slices. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Transfer dough to a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the almond paste, then arrange apples, in slightly overlapping rows, to within 1 inch of the edge. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, dot with pieces of butter, and drizzle with honey.

Fold edge up and over the apples to create a 1-inch border, then bake for about 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and crisp and apples are tender. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the galette cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings

Pear Galette with Fig Butter

This pairing was an experiment based on what I could find in my fridge, and I was pleased with the combination.

1 pastry recipe

11 ounces fig butter

4 Bartlett or Bosc pears

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 to 2 tablespoons honey, preferably wildflower

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make dough and roll it out. Then, peel, halve and core the pears, cutting them crosswise in ¼-inch slices. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Transfer dough to a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the fig butter, then arrange pears, in slightly overlapping rows, to within 1 inch of the edge. In a small bowl, add honey, lemon juice and vanilla extract, warming the mixture in a microwave, then stirring to help combine. Sprinkle pears with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and lemon zest, dot with pieces of butter, and drizzle with warmed honey mixture.

Fold edge up and over the pears to create a 1-inch border, then bake for about 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and crisp and pears are tender. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the galette cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves: 8

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

From Smitten Kitchen, Oct. 11, 2007

“This free-form tart is … weightier than a tomato tart, lighter than a thousand mushroom quiche and absolutely glorious with a good, rich stout,” writes Deb Perelman, the writer, cook, photographer and occasional dishwasher behind and the creator of this concoction, a favorite among Spokesman-Review features editors.

For the pastry

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/4 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup ice water

For the topping

1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons

Pinch of sugar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

3/4 cup fontina cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces), grated or cut into small bits

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves

In a bowl, combine flour and salt. Place butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove bowls from freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a ½-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined (for neatness sake) sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.

While squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl.

On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 ½-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.

Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings

Cabbage and Mushroom Galette

From Eating Well, December 2013

“I love the combination of luxury fillings wrapped in that tender pastry, with its slightly ragged edges loosely folded up, casual as a fringed pashmina tossed over a silk dress,” writes Anna Thomas, the author of this recipe, featuring caramelized cabbage, earthy mushrooms and pungent feta cheese.

I was out of Marsala, the fortified wine from Sicily, so I made one substitution, instead using Goatmeal Stout from Spokane’s Iron Goat Brewing Co.

For the pastry

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup white whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons cold low-fat milk

For the topping

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 medium yellow onions, sliced

1/2 head Savoy cabbage (1 to 1 1/4 pounds), very thinly sliced

1 teaspoon salt, divided

Freshly ground pepper to taste

6 portobello mushroom caps (about 1 1/4 pounds)

3 large cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup dry sherry or Marsala

4 ounces crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese

For the dough, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it starts bubbling, cook, stirring and watching carefully so it doesn’t burn, until golden brown, 2 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a metal bowl and refrigerate until solid again, 25 to 30 minutes.

Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse once or twice to mix. Cut the butter and cream cheese into pieces; add and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add canola oil and pulse until it looks like wet sand. Add milk and pulse until small clumps form.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment paper and press into a ball, then press the ball into a disk about 8 inches wide. Wrap in the parchment and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day before rolling out.

For the topping, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onions; cook, stirring, until translucent, 4 to 6 minutes. Add cabbage and 1/2 teaspoon salt (if necessary, add half the cabbage and cook it down for a minute or two before adding the rest). Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until greatly reduced and golden, 40 to 50 minutes. Season with a dash of pepper.

Meanwhile, scrape gills from mushroom caps; cut the caps into 1-inch pieces. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in another large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, thyme and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add sherry (or Marsala); cook, stirring, until it cooks away, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms to the cabbage.

Preheat oven 400 degrees. Dust a sheet of parchment paper, and the dough, with flour. Roll the dough out into a 15-inch circle. Go slowly and if it cracks just press the pieces together. Dust with flour as needed and keep the circle as even as you can, but don’t worry about rough edges.

Spread the cabbage-mushroom mixture over the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border. Use the parchment to lift the edges of the pastry and fold loosely over the filling in 2- or 3-inch sections. It may crack as you fold it, but that’s fine. Transfer the galette, parchment and all, onto a baking sheet. Trim off overhanging parchment.

Bake the galette for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with queso fresco. Continue baking until the cheese is melted and the pastry is lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Let cool at least 15 minutes on the baking sheet. Lift parchment and galette onto a platter; slide the parchment out. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings

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