Peach Galette

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Summer==Peaches! Peaches are such a gorgeous symbol of summer times, don’t you think they resemble little sunshines?! I love  eating them and feeling their sweet and sticky juice dripping down my chin 🙂 I remember my summers as a kid, running wild at the garden of my grandpa who was growing plenty of fruits and vegetables. I couldn’t wait to be treated by him with ripe peaches with a mesmerizing sweet fragrance, which he just cut off from the tree and brought to the table carrying them in his shirt :-). I am not a mad fruits lover but peaches will forever be my favourite, because of their sweet yet a little sour taste and my childhood memories that I cherish. I felt like having peaches today but not only eating them over the kitchen sink ( yes, that’s what I do to avoid dripping my tops with their juice 🙂 but making something special, to celebrate this beautiful sunny day. So after I bought the peaches , I quickly glanced my cook books for inspiration but dropped them half way through as it hit me…of course I wanted a galette.

I’ve been contemplating baking a galette for some time, as it belongs to the French culinary tradition which I am fascinated with. I told you already how much I adore the French cuisine right? To me it is a celebration of food as an art form! Since I am still a novice I decided to start with a galette, which is basically an embrace of imperfection .  Do not let its rustic view to deceive you though! The flaky crust topped with juicy fruits is simply irresistible.  Imagine, a crust melting in your mouth, and this sensation followed by another one, even more delicious– sweet and sour peaches slightly caramelized during baking. Now, if you can resist this,  you must be a stoic :-)! Well, I am not 🙂

As in every recipe presented in this blog I make everything from scratch. Galette calls for making your own pie crust, which is not that difficult but requires a lot of attention and even a small deviation in the technique can mar the final result. I had some pretty devastating experience with pie crusts, mainly due to the ingredients used. The majority of butters sold here are salted and release lots of water when baking. In my view, this is not good for the crust.  In addition, I learned through trial and error that my previous generosity in using only butter in pie crusts will not create that much desired flakiness. So I felt adventurous today and decided to use a combination of butter and margarine. And it was it! I loved the result and will keep using this combination in my pastry baking.

Ingredients:

For the crust

500 g all-purpose flour

125 g unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

250 g margarine, cut into small chunks

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

15 teaspoons ice water

Peach filling:

7 ripe fresh peaches

3 tablespoons white sugar

3 tablespoons starch

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

A pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter, cut into small cubes

Place sifted flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and stir with a spoon to incorporate all the ingredients. Add the butter and margarine and pinch the fat into the mixture with your hands. It should look like coarse crumbs. You could use a food processor if you have one. I don’t ..yet.

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Add the ice water ( I had a glass filled with water to which I added 4-5 ice cubes),  one teaspoon at a time, and stir with a fork until the pastry just holds when pinched with your fingers. If necessary add more water.  Turn the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface and gather into a ball. Handle the dough gently and as little as possible, overworking will make it tough.   Flatten the dough into a disc and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.  This will chill the fat and relax the gluten in the  dough.  Having small lumps of fat in the dough are very much encouraged because while baking they will give the crust that lovely light and flaky texture. I refrigerated the dough for 2 hours because I had the oven busy.

While the dough is chilling make the peaches filling. Place the washed peaches into a large bowl and pour boiling water ( I used my tea kettle) over them to soften their skin. After 2-3 minutes, put them in a bowl filled with ice water. You will be now able to peel the peaches easily. Cut the peaches into wedges and place in a bowl, toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. Gently stir in sugar, salt and starch and mix with your hands.  Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for half an hour. This will make the peaches release their juices and dissolve the sugar.

Preheat your oven to 200 C. On a lightly floured work surface flatten the dough slightly with your hands and dust it with a little flour. Place carefully on parchment paper and start rolling the dough out with a rolling pin. Roll  at the centre of the dough and work outwards to create a circle 3-4 mm thick.

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Arrange the peach wedges in concentric circle and scatter the butter cubes on top.  Before arranging the peaches I crumbled three biscuits over the dough to ensure the fruit juices are well absorbed and avoid making the crust soggy. Fold the outer edges of the dough over the filling, pleating in an accordion fashion. The dough should only partially cover the peaches.  Lightly brush the top crust with 1-2 tablespoons of cream (you can also use milk) and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the juices have thickened. Cool the galette for at least an hour before serving.  Galettes are best served the same day.  Half of mine is already gone as I write this…and my boys and I are thinking of having another piece :-).

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So fruity and so yummy!

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Beef stew

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The weather over here continues to surprise me, there is no trace of the dry and sunny days we’ve been enjoying for the last two weeks. It is raining again, the sky is grey and it is hard to believe we are in mid-summer. I do not know about you but for me weather and food are intrinsically connected..as soon as I lack sunlight I tend to crave comfort food 🙂 Food that fills me up and makes me feel good. This  stew is comfort food at its most comforting. And despite it is a humble dish, with a few ingredients, it always does the magic for me with its sheer deliciousness.  Stews vary from cuisine to cuisine but what the majority of them have in common are the chunky pieces of meat (mainly beef) and vegetables, simmered  for several hours.

I am a big fan of one-pot meals as they provide not only for unfussy cooking but also maximum flavour. Just think of the meat, vegetables, herbs and olive oil blending beautifully and flavouring each other.  This hearty stew is Italian-inspired and is sure to satisfy.

Ingredients:

500 g boneless beef chuck cut into cubes

4 medium onions chopped coarsely

5 medium sized carrots, peeled and halved

5 cloves garlic, halved

500 g canned tomatoes, chopped

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 water cup dry red wine.  I always use wine that I like to drink on its own in my cooking.

3 cups water

2 sprigs fresh thyme

A handful of fresh chopped oregano. If using dry oregano-a teaspoon.

A handful of fresh chopped parsley

3 cups water

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons plain flour

Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a pot (if you have a Dutch oven, even better) over medium-high heat. Season the beef chunks with salt and pepper then dredge in flour. Brown them well on all sides in the heated olive oil. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the additional olive oil to the pot and sauté the chopped onion, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stirring constantly sauté for half a minute. Remove from the pot. Pour the wine, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and simmer until reduced, about 2 minutes. Return the meat and onions to the pot, add tomatoes, carrots, thyme and chopped oregano. Stir in salt and black pepper to taste, add water and cover with the lid.

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Simmer for 2 hours over low heat until the beef is very tender. After that uncover the pot and cook for additional 1/2 hour. Before serving discard the thyme sprig and stir in the chopped parsley.

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I served the stew on a bed of rice pilaf but it is also delicious with mashed potatoes, polenta or pasta.

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Crème brûlée

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This crunchy and custardy crème is my all time favorite dessert! I loved it for a very long time but I also dreaded making it, thinking it would be impossible to replicate its creamy tender texture topped with delicious caramel served in restaurants. What a waste of time that fear was! For all of you thinking this a complicated fancy-schmancy thing- it really is a very simple dessert to make. If I can do it, anyone can do it. And of course crème brĂ»lĂ©e can be made at home even without having a kitchen torch, as in my case. This is my very first try and I am beyond happy that it was successful.  I know now that next time I’ll double the ingredients to make a more generous amount because…well..I have a generous appetite for crème brĂ»lĂ©e! Of all the recipes presented in this blog, this was the hardest waiting for to set and eat 🙂 . It was torturous actually! But it was definitely worth the wait. To me crème brĂ»lĂ©e would be the perfect treat for a special occasion, all you need is to follow the recipe strictly and make the crème a day before the occasion and leave in the refrigerator over night. It helps setting the crème beautifully. Of course if you are in a hurry cooling it for 4-5 hours will also do. Another yummy detail is using a vanilla pod instead of the artificial extracts. Nothing beats a creme infused with real, sweet and addictive vanilla flavour. This is why, as seen in the top picture, I preferred to leave the vanilla seeds in the custard instead of straining them.

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A word about caramelizing the sugar on top of the crème brĂ»lĂ©e. Do not worry if you don’t have a kitchen torch, if you have grill  (broiler) function in your oven, it will be all you need. I was worried that returning the crème in the hot oven will change the custard texture, worse- it will turn it into a wobbly mess. Not at all! I preheated the grill at maximum temperature and let the ramekins in the oven for about 5 minutes to get that gorgeous caramel. Then I cooled them a bit and left them in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour. Crème brĂ»lĂ©e caramelized in the oven gets that fine rustic view that I am favouring so much….see the edges beautifully blackened by burnt sugar. To me this burn balances out perfectly the rich and sweet custard. Do I need to tell you that scraping and savouring the edges  gave me enormous pleasure 🙂

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The recipe is adapted from BBC Good Food. Ingredients for 6 ramekins:

500 ml double cream

150 ml full fat milk

6 large egg yolks

50  g  white sugar, plus extra for the topping

1 vanilla pod

Preheat the oven to 150 C. Pour the double cream and milk into a medium pan. If you are using a vanilla pod, slice it lengthways, split it open  and scrape out all the tiny seeds into the cream mixture.  Drop the vanilla pod in as well, you will take it out later. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium-low heat.  As soon as you see bubbles appear round the edge, take the pan off the heat.You do not want it to boil, otherwise when added to the eggs it will scramble them. You just need to get the cream warm and simmering gently. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar for a 2-3 minutes to get them paler in colour and fluffy.  I did it by hand but you can use a hand mixer, if so whisk for a minute. Strain the cream mixture and remove the vanilla pod. I did remove that but left the seeds. I could not help and tasted it, the flavour was out of this world! Slowly add a cup of the warm cream into the eggs while stirring continuously. This is called eggs tempering. Continue adding the rest of the cream and stirring. Pour the mixture into the ramekins and place them in a roasting tin. Stick in the oven and pour boiling water into the roasting tin, allowing it to come about 1.5 cm up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the custard is softly set. To check, sway gently the tin and if ready the crème brûlées will wobble a bit. That is what you are looking for. Take the ramekins out of the tin and let them cool for a few minutes on the kitchen counter. After that leave in the fridge to cool completely at least for 4-5 hours. I kept them in the fridge overnight.

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To make the caramel crust, sprinkle a fine layer of sugar over the tops of your ramekins. Shake them back and forth gently to distribute the sugar evenly. Move the rack in your oven up as high as possible and turn the grill (broiler) function on. Grill (broiler) for about 5-6 minutes or until golden brown and bulbing. Let cool a bit and place the ramekins back in the fridge for half an hour. Serve and enjoy, I certainly did :-)!

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 Have an yummy Sunday!