When I first began baking for Thanksgiving I looked to expand my dessert repertoire by diving into food publications, searching for show-stopping recipes that would dazzle our family and friends. Over the years I crafted desserts ranging from wildly zesty cranberry tarts to pumpkin-spiced trifles.
I learned much on the culinary front, but most importantly I observed which desserts my guests left room for as the Thanksgiving feast came to a close. Overwhelming they chose homemade pies. So much for all my fancy extravaganzas, thank you very much!
Yet few desserts bring on the culinary jitters like homemade pies with from-scratch crusts. But don't reach for the pre-made dough just yet. An old-fashioned recipe offers novice bakers a chance to get into the Thanksgiving dessert game.
Long before Pyrex and designer pie plates came on the scene, bakers crafted a rustic dessert known as the "galette." This free-form pastry blends the best characteristics of double- and open-faced crust pies into a fragrant and eye-popping dessert. And best of all, it looks harder to make than it actually is.
The crust causes the most anxiety with bakers worrying whether the ingredients will come together for a smooth, workable dough. This galette begins by mixing butter and shortening. In this combination, cold butter brings the dominant flavor, while the small amount of shortening softens the dough for easy rolling. Quick spins in a food processor evenly distribute the fats into flour and prevents the butter from over heating.
Six tablespoons cold water along with an acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, easily moisten the dry ingredients so they form a cohesive ball. The acid prevents gluten development, chief cause of the rubber band effect when rolling the dough.
Rolling dough to the correct diameter and transferring both top and bottom crusts to a pie plate -- all without tearing the dough -- creates another set of challenges for pie makers. The galette calls for a single roll of the dough. Roll the dough on lightly floured parchment paper for even thickness and to prevent stickiness.
In this version sliced apples fill the center of the dough and folding in the edges creates a rustic top crust that still showcases the baked fruit. The secret to success lies in sealing any small holes or tears by pinching or patching the dough along the folds to prevent the juices from leaking during baking.
To achieve multidimensional flavors in the crust, bake the galette until golden nut brown. Brush egg wash on the crust before baking to ensure even color.
This Thanksgiving when guests ask what's for dessert, proudly offer a slice of rustic Apple Galette. It's our secret that it's easier than pie.
• Annie Overboe, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lives in Villa Park. Write her at email@example.com.