One of the most exciting things about moving to Penn State is a change in area crops. Bear with me! I grew up in Minnesota (land of corn), interned in Nebraska (land of even more corn), and went to college in Indiana (land of corn, but soybeans too…diversity for me!). You can’t blame me for being thrilled about an area of the country that has large amounts of vineyards and apple orchards! Of course Pennsylvania has its share of cash crops, and Indiana has some successful wineries, but the amount of each differs plenty. Now that the first day of autumn has passed, (eek!) (that was a squeal of joy…by the way) apples have exploded! Since I already visited the local vineyards—duh—the orchards needed their time too.
And that was not in any way a chore. For a fall and food lover, apple season is like magic to me. Way fruit farm, just down the road from me, was the source of my apple dreams this year. Not even counting the picturesque surroundings, the produce was a thing of beauty. Walking into the building, there were apples piled everywhere. Halloween crafts and fall candles were also scattered throughout the store along with local cheeses and desserts from the surrounding Amish communities and dairies. Altogether, this girl got pretty excited. As I picked my apples out of the large piles, I tried really hard to hide my enthusiasm and look normal. Coming home from my apple escapades, I remained pretty darned eager because I knew what was waiting for me upon my return.
I have wanted to try an apple galette for a long time. All of these picture-perfect open-faced apple pies if you will. I have also wanted to officially become a part of the New England tradition of mixing sharp cheeses with apples in snacks and baked goods. I was 110% sure that I would love an apple galette with sharp cheese because my family is a big fan of cheese boards where apple slices are a happy accompaniment.
One of the questions I used to ask when I was younger was how a crust comes out the same whether apples are included or not. Apples are pretty moist (ew gross word, but effective at explaining the sticky wet nature of apples), so why doesn’t that make the pie crust more moist in turn? And wouldn’t that cause the crust to fall apart?
Often, fruit pies require you to pre-bake the bottom crust partially before adding the filling and finishing off the pie. This allows the crust to be flaky and amazing as you’d expect a perfect pie crust to be. Fruit has a lot of water in it. You’re probably thinking, well duh, and you’re about to skip to the recipe. I have a point though! Keep reading…please J. When you bite into a peach or a blueberry, it’s obviously filled with lots of water. But, when fruit is heated to temperatures used during baking, the connections (cells) inside the flesh of the fruit break down releasing more water. That’s why when you thaw fruit that has been frozen, there is a lot of water that leaks out of the fruit. The ice crystals break these cell walls down just as the high heat does.
This extra water can make crust very soggy. Hence the pre-baking process used in most pies. Galettes, in contrast to pies, require you to form the crust around the filling, so pre-baking is not possible. How do we take care of that pesky water then? I like to use instant pudding powder!
Instant pudding powder contains a starch that has been modified (not scary I promise) so that extra work is not required for it to work its magic. You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever made cook & serve pudding versus instant. This modification that is freaking a lot of you out right now is really simple and not harmful in any way. Starch gelatinizes when it is heated in the presence of some moisture. That’s part of the transformation of baked goods, if you remember, and was explained here. The modified starch starts off as normal starch. It is heated with some water (pre-gelatinized) and re-dried for your use at home.
Any liquid added will cause the starch to rehydrate and immediately begin to thicken. That’s why cold milk can be used for instant pudding. Pre-gelatinized starch is great for applications like this because it immediately starts to absorb water from the apples and create a nice, thick filling for the apples. This thickening shields the crust from the shock of so much extra water and allows it to bake into a flaky pastry!
Magic! Or is it SCIENCE?!
This recipe is really wonderful. I made smaller galettes giving you the excuse to eat a whole one for yourself. It can also be made into one large galette. Just don’t split the ingredients into four for separate galettes and combine it into one.
Apple Cheddar Galette
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes 4 “personal” (*wink wink*) galettes or 1 large galette
1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter (must be super cold)
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons full fat sour cream
¼ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (the sharper, the better)
5 medium apples (baking apples! I used a combination of Gala and McIntosh)
½ teaspoon lemon juice
Juice from ½ a lemon
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla instant pudding powder (I like vanilla, it adds some extra flavor, but instant tapioca can be used as well)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
A splash (about 1 teaspoon) water
Coarse sugar or table sugar
- In a bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and sugar together. Cut the butter into small cubes and put them in the bowl with the flour mix, or grate it into the bowl. Use your fingertips (not your palms! You’ll heat the butter too much) to incorporate the butter and flour mix until the butter only has pea-sized pieces left. If at any point the mixture gets too greasy, the butter is too warm. You need to refrigerate the mixture for an hour and pick up the “squishing” where you stopped.
- Add the sour cream and ¼ cup shredded cheese to the butter-flour mix. Stir until incorporated with a fork.
- Use your hands to gather the dough up into one large ball. Flatten the ball into a disk and wrap with plastic. Chill for about an hour, but no longer than a day before using.
- While your dough is chilling, prepare the filling of the galette. Prep a bowl with the lemon juice and fill it halfway with water. This is where you’ll put your apple slices after cutting them to keep them from browning. (A very interesting reaction here, but that can be explained later)
- Peel, remove the core, and quarter the apples one at a time, placing them in the bowl of water as you go. For each apple quarter, slice it into 3 or 4 slices, depending on the size of the apple. You want each slice to be about ¼ inch thick. Return all apple slices to the lemon water as you go.
- Drain the water from the apples, and return them to the same bowl. Add the maple syrup, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Mix the apples to coat the apples. At this time, add your pudding powder and toss to coat again.
- Preheat the oven to 400⁰F and take your chilled dough out of the fridge. Lightly flour a surface in your kitchen for rolling out your dough. Place the disk on the surface and split it into four pieces. I used a dough scraper, but a knife works just as well. Work with one portion of dough at a time while the others can be kept in the fridge.
- Roll your dough out into a circle that has a thickness of a little less than ¼ inch. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and place the dough on one of the sheets. Repeat this with each portion of dough filling the baking sheets with two portions of dough on each.
- Starting from about an inch and a half from the edge of the dough circles, arrange your apples. To make it really pretty, make a circular pattern with the apples sitting side by side and pointing toward the center of the circle. Layer a second circle on top to fill in the dough. My dough only had room for two layers. The patterning makes it easier to fit more apples in your galette. Make sure to split the apples evenly between galettes.
- Take the dough edges and fold them up over the outside of the filling. Every couple inches add a fold or pleat so that the dough fits over the apple edges. Repeat with each galette.
- Make an egg wash with the egg and water and brush it over the dough edges. Sprinkle the dough with sugar and the whole galette (primarily the filling) with the cheddar cheese. If you want your crust to remain untouched with the cheese, sprinkle the apples with cheese prior to folding the dough up over the filling.
- Bake the galettes for about 10 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Lower the temperature to 375⁰F and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the apples are soft all the way through, and the crust is browned. If you are baking all of the galettes at once, be sure to rearrange the baking sheets halfway through baking to ensure even baking. Otherwise, if you know the hot spots in your oven, keep an eye on the galettes and adjust baking time accordingly.
Enjoy your New England fall dessert! I know I did…