It’s fall in New York City, and I’m slowing down enough to do something I love—spend hours experimenting in the kitchen, this week with a simple but comforting apple galette. I’ve made it a few times using both apples and pears from the wonderful bounty of my coworker’s CSA box (he’s out of town for the month, so every Wednesday I pick up an enormous bag of fruits and vegetables to call my own).
When we moved to NYC in January, we had just wrapped up a 4-month roadtrip in a 150-square-foot RV. For the first month and a half in the city, we hopped between Airbnbs, and when we moved into our new apartment in Brooklyn, we had to go to the thrift store for plates and cups. But we are finally putting our Waco house on the market, and Ted brought up a truckload of all the belongings we decided to keep from our 3,600+ square-foot house. It’s been an emotional time, but the good news is I have my most beloved kitchen tools again, including my food processor and rolling pin (handmade by my friend Gary!).
It feels good that I’m coming back into a rhythm with cooking at this time of year. My birthday is Halloween, and I’ve always had a personal relationship to October and the spirit around the harvest season. Some of it is a little hokey—a few months ago when I realized I was with two other people with Halloween birthdays, we joked it was a “Gathering.” But if I’m being honest, I feel a personally and almost spiritually alert at this time of year in a way that goes beyond that magical buzz we get from spooky movies and Trick-or-Treat festivities. A birthday is a personal New Year, and in that sense I spend this month taking stock and making plans for the future. Working dough is a good way to occupy your body while letting your mind wander.
For many people in the world, saying it’s been a “hard year,” is an understatement. A lot happened for me on a personal level too:
We lived on the road and moved to the city (obviously, it’s all I talk about).
I started a new job (3 days after He Who Must Not Be Named took office) that challenged me professionally and personally (hello, introvert; meet open office).
I picked up guitar and singing again and have even written a few songs. Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to share them.
A class at The New School is helping me focus as a writer, and hopefully start getting bylines (please, God). I’ve always felt like a writer, but now I call myself one, and know what I like to write: personal essays and memoir, plus features and profiles of artists, books, art, and places. I want to write something like this and like this.
My husband and I put our marriage through the wringer (see: RV life, moving to NYC, work stress, and living in a tiny apartment with 3 dogs) and lived to tell the tale.
There were two deaths in my family: my grandpa, who was very old, and my aunt, who wasn’t.
An enormous hurricane flooded my hometown, and by some miracle everyone in my family was safe and (mostly) dry.
And I got to start new friendships with a handful of really good people.
With all this reflection, it probably seems like a lot went into this damn galette. Actually, it’s easy to make, and forgiving. Galette in general is the lazy cook’s pie.
I made this first with pears, and later with apples. The pear version was light with delicious flakey crust, but being a little underdone it didn’t keep well (I jumped the gun—it smelled so good). For the apple version, I added more lemon, cinnamon, and cardamom to the filling, which came out gooey and perfectly tart. But I did add too much water to the dough, which wasn’t quite as flakey. No one complained about any of these minor issues though! In the end, the apple version won by a landslide, but I’d make it with pear again, cooking it longer and adding more spices. You see the pear pictured here, but they look the same. 😉
The dough is adapted from this recipe from The Full Helping, only instead of spelt, I use only all-purpose flour. I also had to add more water every time I made this, so you’ll see that reflected in the recipe. I subbed regular sugar for coconut sugar, which gives it a caramelly chewiness (but you can use regular white sugar). The dough has vinegar in it, which some cooks say keeps the dough moist. I think the effects are negligible, but it does add a faint sour flavor that’s really nice, especially if you’re a vegan deeply longing for the sweet tang of a Starbucks cream cheese danish, like I am.
I blend in the (vegan) butter in a food processor, but you can cut it in with a pastry cutter or a few butter knives (although that last option will make you want to throw the thing across the room). Then I mix in the ice water and vinegar with a rubber spatula and form the dough into a disk. You have to wrap it up and refrigerate it for an hour. In that time, you can be leisurely about peeling and slicing up 4 small apples or pears, and mixing in more coconut sugar, plus cinnamon, a touch of cardamom, lemon juice, and flour (to keep juices in check while cooking).
I brushed the edges of the galette with a mixture of equal parts maple syrup and almond milk. If you’re not vegan, you can whisk egg and water, brush that over the crust, and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Remember, this recipe is forgiving! Try it with apples or pears, nutmeg instead of cardamom, an interesting flour mixed into the dough, etc. Try adding berries or subbing in sliced plums. You can try using coconut oil in the dough instead of vegan butter. If you do, add more salt to make up for it.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
- 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) very cold vegan butter, cut into 1-centimeter cubes
- ¼–⅓ cup ice water
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 small apples (or pears), peeled, cored, and cut in ¼-inch slices
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch cardamom (a little goes a long way)
- 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
- To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, and 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar in a food processor. Add the vegan butter and pulse until most of the pieces are the size of a pencil eraser (but it’s okay if there are a few garbanzo bean-size lumps in there—like I said, a forgiving recipe.
- Mix the ice water and the vinegar in a separate container.
- Transfer the dough into a large bowl and add the ice water and vinegar mixture a few Tablespoon at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula, just until you can make it hold together as a ball. (Err on the dryer side.) I used the full ⅓ cup, but it’s common to need only ¼ cup, so tread slowly.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, shape it into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 1–24 hours (or freeze till whenever).
- When you’re ready to cook the galette, preheat the oven to 400ºF and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- As you peel and slice the apples, toss them into a glass dish with the lemon juice (to keep them from browning). Mix the peeled and sliced apples with ¼ cup coconut sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and 1 Tablespoon flour. Set aside.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 12–14 inches, being careful it’s not sticking to the counter. Roll it up loosely on the rolling pin and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Arrange the apples in 2 rows (or just dump them all in there, like I did), leaving 2–4 inches of dough to fold over. When folding the dough over, lightly pinch along the creases to hold it together.
- Optional: combine maple syrup and almond milk and brush the crust.
- Bake for 40–50 minutes, until the apple mixture is bubbling, and the crust is golden brown. (I cooked it for 45 minutes and it was perfect.)
- Let sit for 15 minutes and enjoy hot, or cover and enjoy at room temperature.