As American As
Yes! I wrote back.
When my maternal Great Grandfather came to America from Greece he knew one word in English: apple pie. Like many immigrants, he arrived in New York City and took a job at a hotel. For a week, all he ate was apple pie because it was the only thing he could order. Years later, he moved to Chattanooga and opened several restaurants, each of which served apple pie.
By the time I had finished typing the story, I was befuddled by my own stupidity. I didn't have a recipe for apple pie. So the next day I started recipe testing.
Perhaps I'm a bad American, or dare I say it, a bad Southern lady, but after baking many, many pies, I came to the conclusion that I much prefer the French galette to the American double crusted pie. First of all, there's much less room for failure. The art of placing the second layer of dough on top of the fruit and cutting both even and decorative slits is an art that is lost even on me, and I'm a food stylist. An open faced pie lets the filling breath, meaning the fruit basically roasts instead of stewing, making the flavor richer and more concentrated and ensuring that one will never find a soupy mess at that pivotal moment when the pie is first sliced open.
Further more, the galette requires less kitchen equipment and does not presume the expectation of looking perfect. It's simple and rustic and unlike a covered pie, it allows the eater to feast her eyes on the filling itself, soft and fragrant and shiny with glaze. This particular recipe is especially visually enticing; the crust is marbled with cheese that browns beautifully in the oven.
for the crust (makes two 9" pies):
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (about 12.5 ounces)
1 and 3/4 sticks salted butter (14 Tablespoons)
1T raw cane sugar
6 ounces gruyere or sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup cold vodka (any liquor 80 proof or higher)
1/4 cup ice water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
for the filling:
3 large apples, cored and sliced (and peeled if you're fancy like that)*
2T salted butter
3T raw cane sugar
1 heaping Tablespoon honey or apricot preserves
Making pie crust is one of those things that everyone has a very staunch opinion about, from the tools used to the method of assembly. The only "special" equipment I use is a pastry scraper, which makes folding and transferring your dough (pictured above) much easier. A heavy rolling pin comes in pretty handy, but a full bottle of wine will do just as well.
1. Place flour and sugar in a large bowl. Make sure butter is very cold and chop into large chunks with a knife. Cut the butter into the flour with two forks, a potato masher or a pastry cutter. It is better to under mix at this stage than to over mix. Stop cutting when the pieces of butter are about the size of an M&M. Don't be tempted to do this step in a food processor, since the heat of the motor will affect the temperature of the butter.
2. Fold in the cheese so that it is coated with flour. Drizzle in vodka and water. If 1/4 cup water isn't enough, add more 1 Tablespoon at a time (mine took 3T extra). Working quickly, use your hands to form a ball. You should be able to see butter marbled throughout the dough. Cut into two pieces, form discs and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.
3. Preheat over to 400. On a well floured area, roll out one piece of dough until it is 1/8" thick. Use the pastry scraper to fold the sheet into thirds (pictured above) . If you have an 8" or 9" tart pan, oil it and unfold the dough (you should have about an inch or two hanging over the sides). If you don't have a tart pan, place the dough on a piece of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Use a plate or cake pan to mark an 8" or 9" circle in the center. Place Apples in the center and sprinkle with sugar. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples and dot with butter. Brush dough with butter, egg, or cream if desired.
4. Bake for 45 minutes, turning every 15. Let cool for 15 minutes. Brush the top of the apples with warmed honey (10 seconds in the microwave) or preserves to glaze. Let cool another 15 minutes before slicing.
*Most any fruit works with this recipe. Peaches are especially delicious.