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Celebrating Fall Produce with the SoNo Baking Company

October 14, 2010

Last Thursday afternoon, a little over a dozen people gathered under the farm pavilion to learn from John and Chris of SoNo Baking Company & Café how to make apple galettes. Both men were trained at the Culinary Institute of America. John is the owner and Chris the head baker. As they walked us through the steps of making the pastries, John spoke about his philosophy of food: a preference for skilled hands instead of machinery, the beauty of simplicity and rusticity, and the important link between food and community.

Galettes, in particular, strengthen this link. They are prepared and eaten together. John described watching the people of Auriac, France toting their dough to a communal oven, where a woman baked it. With that romantic image in mind, I jumped into learning how these pies were made.

Galettes, French in origin, are broad, thin cakes of bread or pastry. The dough is pâte brisée (“the mother dough,” to use John’s words)⎯which bakers will recognize as basic pie dough: 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, and 1 part water, by weight, with about ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ of sugar per pound of butter. The ingredients should be cold, the butter and flour thoroughly mixed and then the water added gradually. When the right consistency is achieved, the dough is rolled out until quite thin and cut into circles of 4-5 inches in diameter. The dough is spiked with a fork to allow for airflow in the oven, and if necessary, chilled for 5 or 10 minutes in the freezer. Then each circle is placed on the oven tray because unbaked galettes are difficult to move.

Meanwhile, the apples are peeled and sliced into thin semicircles with a mandoline, and then laid on top of the dough in spiral patterns. For a true galette, leave a half-inch of dough and fold that over to create the edge. Brush melted butter over the top, and sprinkle confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon over that. This keeps moisture in, aids in caramelization, and makes the pie taste and look great. Bring the oven to 375 degrees and bake the galettes until golden. John made whipped cream from heavy cream, vanilla, and sugar, which he served on top of the little pastries. As we devoured them, the brilliance of the autumn afternoon sunk into sunset over the Yale Farm.

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