Ginger Apple Galette

A galette is my go-to dessert when I’m craving pie, but don’t want to go through all of the work or be left with an entire pie begging to be eaten. Here I have taken a traditional apple galette and added ginger for a spicy spin. It is a simple and rustic dessert, but pretty enough to serve at your next dinner party. Plus, the ginger ensures it’s not “just another apple pie.”

A galette is a flat, free-form pie. Its name is derived from gale, which means flat in Norman, where this tart originates from. Normandy also happens to be the apple growing region of France. 

Galette dough needs more structure than a pie dough, but should still be buttery and flaky. Adding cornmeal, while not traditional, adds the needed structure and does not inhibit flakiness.

For the filling, use tart apples that hold their structure when baked. I used a mix of Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples. Often, apples baked in pies and tarts are undercooked and still a bit crisp, so I prefer to pre-cook the apple filling before baking. Adding cornstarch to the filling keeps the moisture in check and prevents a soggy crust or overflowing.

Crust

Ingredients:

120g flour
40g cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

115g cold butter

45g crème fraîche
80ml ice-cold water

Ginger Apple Filling

Ingredients:

700g apples

30g butter

50g sugar
2 teaspoons grated, fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare the crust:

Slice the butter into small cubes and reserve in the freezer or refrigerator.

Mix the crème fraîche and ice-cold water together in a small bowl and reserve in the freezer or refrigerator while preparing the dry ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar.

Cut in the butter with a pastry blender (or with the tips of your fingers), until the mixture resembles crumbs and the butter is cut into pea-sized pieces.

Pour in the reserved ice-water mixture one tablespoon at a time, stirring with a fork after each addition, until the dough comes together into a ball. You may not need all of the water and crème fraîche.

Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least a half hour before rolling it out. 

Meanwhile, make the ginger apple filling.

Prepare the ginger apple filling:

Peel, core and thinly slice the apples.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, grated ginger, cinnamon, cornstarch, lemon zest and salt.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the apples until slightly softened and browned at the edges, about 10-12 minutes.

Add the sugar mixture to the apples and stir until syrupy and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Take the apples off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and let cool slightly while rolling out the crust.

Assemble the galette:

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, remove the plastic, and dust both sides of the dough with flour.

Dust a work surface lightly with flour and using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 15 inch (40 cm) circle, working from the center outwards.

Carefully transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Arrange the apple filling in the center of the dough, leaving a 1-2 inch (3-5cm) border. Gently fold up the edges of the crust over the apples, overlapping every couple inches to create a decorative border.

Brush the dough with some whole milk with a pastry brush, and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake the galette:

Bake the galette for 40 – 45 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden brown.

Let the galette cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature. A scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream would not be injudicious.


Earl Grey Madeleines

These are an elegant respite to London’s cold, dark weather of late. Madeleines are buttery and spongy, miniature cakes baked in shell-shaped molds. While a traditional tea-time treat in France, they are well-suited to any warm beverage on a cold, gray day.

The batter for madeleines is very similar to a genoise cake. They are traditionally leavened by trapping air into the batter by whipping the eggs, then gently folding in the remaining ingredients, trying preserve as much air in the batter as possible. When the batter is baked, the heat causes the trapped air bubbles to expand, adding volume to the cake. While not traditional I have added baking powder for some chemical leavening. The cakes benefit from an extra bit of rise and it can help hide a bit of over-mixing.

While Genoise does not often have much fat added to the batter apart from the yolk of the eggs, madeleines are made richer with the addition of butter. More traditional madeleines may be flavored with browned butter, or beurre noisette. But here, I’ve opted to add zesty bitterness by way of Earl Grey tea, and some honey to sweeten them back up.

Madeleines are delicately structured cakes and stale quickly. Though I doubt they will last long enough to stale anyway.

Earl Grey Madeleines

Yields 12 madeleines.

Ingredients:

80g melted butter
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea

80g flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs
60g sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Infuse the butter with the tea:

Melt the butter and add the Earl Grey tea. Let it steep for 10 minutes, then strain the butter through a fine mesh sieve lined with 2 layers of damp cheesecloth. Make sure to squeeze out as much of the flavored butter as possible.

Mix the dry ingredients:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whip the eggs:

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs and slowly pour in the sugar in a steady stream. Whisk the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed until thick, pale and about tripled in volume, about 4 minutes.

To test if it is ready, let some of the mixture fall from the whisk. It should fall into the bowl in a ribbon that rests on the surface for about 10 seconds.

Whisk in the vanilla extract, honey and lemon zest.

Add the dry ingredients:

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the whipped egg mixture and very gently fold to combine. Stop as soon as it is incorporated.

Pour in the flavored butter:

Fold in the flavored butter, stopping as soon as it is incorporated.

Refrigerate the batter:

Cover the batter with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to a day. While they can be baked right away, if you have the time the texture improves if you let the batter chill.

Fill the molds and bake:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Brush the Madeleine molds with butter and sprinkle with flour. Tap out the excess flour.

Fill the molds 2/3 to 3/4 full, about a tablespoon. There should be just enough for 12 madeleines, or a little extra.

Bake the madeleines for 10 minutes, until they are golden.

Unmold the madeleines:

Tap the pan sharply on a work surface to loosen the madeleines and turn out to cool on a rack.

Enjoy them warm or at room temperature. But hurry, they do not last long.

The Viennese Cake War

After winning the Battle of Vienna in 1683, Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki pored over the spoils of the defeated Ottoman army and found the supplies to brew coffee. He opened the first café in Vienna and popularized adding milk and sugar to sweeten the bitter brew, now called a Mélange.

Or was it Johannes Theodat, who won the privilege of being the only seller of coffee for 20 years in gratitude for his services as a courier, who opened the first café in Vienna in 1685?

Whoever it was, coffee and cafés are so ubiquitously Viennese that their coffee house culture has been recognized by UNESCO. The typical Kaffeehaus is decorated with elegant architecture, and marble tables with newspapers strewn about. It is perfectly acceptable to spend hours at the café to read or chat, which with the extensive coffee options and fabulous cakes one would need the time to take it all in.

Of all the decadent cakes served in the coffee houses of Vienna, none is more famous, or controversial, than the Sachertorte. Sachertorte is a fluffy chocolate sponge cake filled with apricot jam and a thick layer of dark chocolate ganache. The tart jam contrasts perfectly the rich, bittersweet chocolate glaze. The mix of textures from spongy cake, dense ganache and sticky jam feel as sumptuous as strolling through the Innere Stadt.

The two most famous places to indulge in Sachertorte are Hotel Sacher and Demel. They are also where the controversy around the cake originates. 

Sachertorte was created by Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich to impress the prince’s dinner guests. While a success for the dinner, neither the cake nor Franz received any special attention.

Franz’s son Eduard followed his father’s footsteps and studied pastry and trained at Demel as well. During his time there, he perfected his father’s recipe into what we know it to be today. The modern version of the cake was first served to guests at Demel. Eduard later established Hotel Sacher in 1876 and continued to serve his cake.

The controversy lies in whether Demel or Hotel Sacher serve the Original Sacher Torte. Both can claim Eduard Sacher as the pastry chef who developed the cake. While Eduard established Hotel Sacher and brought the recipe with him, his son later worked for Demel when the hotel went bankrupt in 1934, bringing the rights to the recipe and distribution along with him.

When Hotel Sacher began selling “The Original Sacher Torte” under new ownership in 1938, the battle began between the hotel and Demel over the recipe and the name. It was during this clash that ingredients and characteristics such as how many layers of jam there are or the use of butter versus margarine were decided on to set the two apart.

Today, Demel serves the “Eduard-Sacher-Torte,” a cake covered with apricot marmalade and chocolate ganache. The Sacher Hotel serves “The Original Sacher Torte,” a two layer cake filled with apricot jam and covered in chocolate ganache.

So which is better?

At Hotel Sacher, the cake is served at the Café Sacher and Sacher Eck. Café Sacher is beautiful, antique and filled with chandeliers and marble top tables. Sacher Eck is new and modern and fitted with elegant, red velvet booths. I tried the cake along with an Einspänner,  espresso served with whipped cream. The cake was split in two layers, with a thin spreading of apricot jam. The layer of ganache around the cake was thick and dense and seductively rich. Atop the ganache was a round chocolate coin stamped with “Hotel Sacher Wien.”

Demel was filled with ornate woodwork and patinaed floors. Walking past the store the the café  in the back, one gets a view of the bakery and can watch the pastry chefs prepare the cakes and strudels. Here I tried the cake with a traditional Franziskaner, espresso with steamed milk and whipped cream. The cake was a single layer, topped with a thin coating of apricot marmalade and topped with a shiny ganache. The cake was adorned with a triangle of chocolate printed with “Eduard Sacher Torte.”

It was not difficult to choose. The cake at the Sacher Hotel was dry and needed the extra layer of jam and the side of whipped cream. Demel’s version was light and springy and the side of whipped cream felt more like an extra indulgence than a necessity. And in a city like Vienna, indulgence wins.