Until this morning, I thought I would never turn on the oven again. Ever.
Friday actually set an all-time record high: 104°F (yeah, I know, Arizona, 104° is a chilling blast). In the Heartland, we like our summers in the low- to mid-80s. Yesterday marked the 12th day over 90°. It’s the kind of thick, humid heat that undoes the morning shower 5 minutes after stepping outside. The grass in my yard is crunchy. My heavily-furry-woodland-creature-populated back yard is absent of squirrels, chipmunks, and even birds, from noon to six. [Sigh]
And honestly, this past weekend I didn’t want to be anywhere near the grill either. Or the car. Or the deck. Or the shade. Or Target (which keeps their store on the quite-a-bit-warm side). I just wanted to huddle in my livingroom with a tall glass of well-iced iced tea and a fan blowing directly on me. In the air conditioning, with a fan blowing on me.
Dinner has been fruit and salads. Absolutely nothing requiring the oven.
I made this galette early on in the heat wave, when I was still somewhat cheery about it all. The advantage of baking on the grill is that, like the indoor oven, it can occur largely unattended, as long as you keep an eye on the temp under the grill lid (and, of course, monitor the safety of the flames within). So, no worries about having to hover over an open fire for a half hour.
The beauty of a galette is that it’s pie without all the hassle. I’m a veteran of pie-baking contests, and even though I don’t compete anymore, it’s nearly impossible for me not to go all fussbudgety on the crust — poking and crimping and pinching until I drive myself nearly mad.
With a galette, the pressure’s off. It’s supposed to look free-form and rustic. Weird folds and unexpected cracks and fissures? Perfect!
Another nice thing about galettes: you can use a buttery pâte brisée instead of a shortening-stuffed crust. Competition pies use shortening crusts, and I support that. (Butter crusts are unpredictable in the oven and often end up looking like a 5th grader’s home ec project instead of something artistic and substantial.) But gloopy shortening turns my heat-queasy stomach these days. Cutting ice cold butter into flour is a relaxing practice in bakers’ meditation.
And topping this lovely dough with fresh fruit is just the right thing to do in a July heat wave.
One final thing about the heat that I’m not particularly proud to admit: my patience runs low. Very low.
On Sunday, I was in line at the farmer’s market to buy some peaches and freshly harvested wildflower honey, waiting for the opening bell to ring and sales to start. It was 9:28am, and already incredibly uncomfortable. The vendors, sweaty and tired from booth set-up, looked like they needed a break before even starting. The people around me shifted from foot to foot, as impatient as I, ridiculously fanning ourselves with dollar bills (tip: that so doesn’t work). The person behind me, coping in her own way, I suppose, began loudly complaining about her cataracts!, and how she’s not supposed to be in the sun!, and how long the line was!, and would-the-market-people-just-ring-the-ever-lovin’-bell-already!
I can’t say I disagreed with any of her points, but hearing them vocalized so shrilly seemed to send everyone into a tense shuffle. The woman at the front of the line paced the table and snapped rudely at the vendor to just bag up those apples, promising to wait for the bell before actually handing over her fan of cash. The couple in front of me, shirts striped in sweat, started an awkward back-and-forth swaying that made me dizzy. The crone continued yammering about her cataracts (hinting, I suspect, to cut to the front of the line). 9:32am. Just ring the fucking bell.
I was never so glad to get back in my car — peaches, honey, tomatoes, and kimchi in tow — nudging all the vents to face me me me. Air conditioning: max. Fan: 3. I’m not a religious sort, but I did mumble a few words of gratitude for those amazing farmers, whose 4-hour stint under a tent in this blazing heat was probably the easiest part of their day.
Grilled cherry & blueberry galette
Grilling the fruit first caramelizes their sugars and burns off excess liquid given off by the fruit. It takes a few extra minutes, but it’s worth the effort.
I really enjoy smoky wood flavors with fruit, so I used my charcoal grill (with real lump charcoal briquettes — not the nasty lighter-fluid-coated coals). Gas grillers can add a small amount of soaked wood chips for the same effect.
1/2 pound cherries, pitted, stems removed, sliced into quarters (yields about a cup of cherries)
1/2 cup blueberries, lightly mashed (use a fork or potato masher)
1/4 cup sugar (I used raw)
2 tablespoons rum
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 Pâte Brisée recipe (below)
1/2 cup almonds
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (plus extra)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Prepare the grill for direct grilling and preheat to 375°F (if your grill does not have a built in thermometer, a cheapie oven thermometer that sits on the grate will work just fine)
Toss the cherries and blueberries in a bowl with rum, sugar and lemon juice. Line a grill basket with foil and spread out the cherries and blueberries. Grill for 5 or 6 minutes, using a long handled spatula to keep move the berries around and gently turning, until the berries have broken down and their liquids have thickened slightly. Remove from the fire (keep the grill holding a steady temperature of 350-375°F).
Remove the galette dough from refrigerator (see recipe below) and roll out into a 9 or 10″ round. Work quickly to keep the dough as chilled as possible.
Line an 8″ fire-proof pan (cast iron works great here) with the galette dough, letting the excess hang over the pan edges. Sprinkle the almonds and turbinado sugar over the bottom of the dough, then spoon the berries on top.
Fold the dough edges up and over the berries, pressing down on the folds to secure. Brush the edges with the egg wash and sprinkle turbinado sugar over the top.
Place the pan on the grill. Close the lid and open the air vents. Baking on the grill should take about 30 minutes. Check the temperature frequently and adjust the environment to keep the temperature steady (e.g., remove the lid if the fire gets too cold, or close the vents a bit if too hot). The galette is finished when the top is golden brown and the berries are lightly bubbling.
Let cool before serving.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1/4 cup ice water (plus extra, just in case)
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar and pulse to mix. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles a very coarse meal.
With the machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube. Pulse until the dough begins to clump together in the bowl. Test its readiness by squeezing a small amount of dough together: if it holds, you’re good to go; if it’s crumbly, add more ice water, 1 scant tablespoon at a time.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and and knead once or twice to bring the dough into a cohesive mass. Pat the dough with your fingers and palms to form a disc about 3/4″ thick. Wrap in plastic and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill at least 1 hour.