Nearly five years ago (before I even knew how to white balance a camera apparently) I tried my hand at a freeform tart and let’s just say that it didn’t go well. Over the years though, I’ve seen these made correctly and even tried it again once or twice.
Recently, I finally felt like I had a good enough version to write about again. Now that I have the hang of it, I really think these freeform tarts (or galettes if you’re fancy) are the way to go. You don’t need a special pan or anything and can fill them with almost any fresh fruit and get really great results.
1) For the crust, stir together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add in butter and use fingers to work it into the flour until it is in pea-sized chunks. Add ice water and stir until just combined.
2) Turn crust out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Then roll dough into a roughly 14-inch diameter circle. Place dough on a baking sheet and stick in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
3) For filling, chop plums in half and remove pits from each plum. Then slice plums into segments. Add plums to a colander and stir with other filling ingredients. Let drain for 15-20 minutes so extra liquid drains out.
4) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove dough from fridge.
5) Using a floured rolling pin and counter, roll out almond paste until it's in a thin sheet and transfer sheet to the dough. Leave a few inches around the outer part of the dough so you can fold it over. It's okay if the almond paste isn't perfectly covered. This will just help the crust from getting soggy.
6) Add filling to the top of the almond paste and carefully fold edges of crust up and over filling.Try to not crack the crust.
7) Bake galette a 400 degrees F. for 50-60 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is glazed and slightly set.
Remove galette from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream optionally.
Recipe roughly adapted from a Food and Wine recipe.
The Galette Dough
The dough that you want to use for a galette is a classic French pie crust dough called pate brisee. There is a lot of butter involved. It’s actually a 2-1 flour to butter ratio which is pretty darn high. The end result is a rich and flaky crust though.
To start the dough, just stir together the flour and salt and then mix in your butter using your fingers. Some people like to pulse this in a food processor but I’ve always done it by hand after over-processing the dough a few times. I find it easier to control the size of the butter cubes if you use your hands. You are shooting for pea-sized pieces of butter mixed in with the flour.
Next, add your ice water and the dough should pull together in a ball that isn’t sticky at all. It should almost flake apart but just barely hold together.
Once your dough is together in a ball, roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it’s in a rough circle about 14-inches in diameter. Part of the fun of making these galettes is you don’t have to worry too much about the shape of your crust. If it isn’t perfectly shaped or exactly the right size it isn’t a big deal at all.
This was my finished, very rustic, dough.
Once the dough is rolled out, transfer it to a baking sheet and stick it in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes to chill out while you make the filling.
To be honest, plums are not essential for this recipe. I would use the freshest and most ripe fruit you can find. I happened to find some ripe plums so that’s what I used. You’ll need about 2-2.5 pounds of fruit if you are using a stone fruit.
Assuming you are using plums though, just remove the pits from the center and slice the plums into segments.
Stir the plums with the other filling ingredients and let them sit in a colander for about 30 minutes. This will pull out a lot of extra liquid from the plums and ensure that your filling isn’t really watery. This was one of my biggest mistakes in my last version of a freeform tart.
Getting out the extra liquid in the fruit is one of the most important parts to making sure your filling is the right consistency.
The Almond Paste
I cannot remember where I saw this next tip, but it’s a good one. In most baking sections these days you can find these little tubes of almond paste and if you roll them out into a thin sheet, they make a barrier between the filling the pastry dough. This extra layer helps ensure that your pastry stays really flakey and also gives the tart a subtle almond flavor.
Ideally you should be able to roll out the almond paste on a floured surface into an even circle, but I sort of screwed mine up. The important part though is just to layer it on your crust roughly where your filling will go. You want to leave a few inches around the edges to fold up.
Then add in your filling. I tried to make a pretty design with the plums because I had the time. You could just toss them in there though.
Then fold the dough up and over the filling and try to patch up any rips in the dough. If you’re good, you should be able to do this without any tears in the dough.
Baking and Serving
Once your tart is folded up, bake the tar at 400 degrees F. for 50-60 minutes. Hopefully, your filling won’t bubble over too much and the crust will get golden brown and really flaky.
This was my finished tart which turned out better than expected!
Let the galette cool for at least 10-15 minutes so the sugars can thicken a bit. Then you can just slice it up and serve it.
I like it with a good dollop of whipped cream.
I think I finally redeemed myself in the galette universe.