The funny part about living in Paris (and New York, too,) is that you will find that sometimes, you won’t be charmed. You might even, for a time, arrive at maddening dislike. Paris is the place that everyone is supposed to love (and as the tightly held expectation will have it: where everyone thinks they are supposed to find and fall in, on, between, over, hopelessly, through love).
But, sometimes, somewhere in your momentarily complacent heart: you are fumbling in the dark to regain grasp of Paris’ hand, hugged with history, his palms old and trickled like the Seine.. and you hope it’s fleeting because indecisiveness about place never made anyone happy. It is at once almost impossible to perpetually appreciate the beauty of Paris, antiquated, while walking along the rue Dauphine and yet blindingly and numbingly difficult to ignore its grace in the solemn cool of its evenings.
Perhaps your complacence owes itself to an afternoon where you’ve been rushing around. Somehow suddenly unhinged by bureaucracy: you’ve tried to get Internet set up in your new apartment for over three weeks to no avail, your landlord won’t fix your shower pipe… or your friends dappled like an apple all over the United States are booking tickets for a get-together in the biggest of apples, the most fast and furious of apples, New York City, at a time you’re no longer there. Nostalgia behaves as memory, but functions mostly as doubt about the currency of your current coordinates and where you’re going, because all of these things are uncertain when you are young.
But then suddenly, and without warning, you and Paris are hot again – you’re a cheap thrill when you’ve got your baguette warm under your armpit. You find it difficult to avoid little flour traces like ghost fingertips across the lapel of your jacket, but you don’t care. These things you can brush away quietly. There’s no scene to wear Paris more comfortably than the bakery that comes to know you in the way that your landlord refuses. Long after you come home and have written emails with new eyes to friends that ask of New York, it is la tradition (a sort of baguette) that you will find most difficult to replace; when your way to work no longer entails a detour to fresh bread, fresh pastry.
As a little girl, my parents always bought canned pears. They were halved and we would spoon them out in their syrup. My sister loved them even more than I did, but the best thing about them for both of us was their simplicity; pear soaked in its own juices. This petite galette, is that kind of indulgence, the one that curls you up and tucks you in: the delicate sweetness of pears dredged with warm vanilla and cinnamon and then wrapped in a rustic crust flecked with fresh citrus.
You and your city, ‘burb, are hot again.
What’s even better? Free-form tarts, like this one, are entirely forgiving to slighly lumpy shapes and unintended indentations in their crust. These blemishes write the signature for handmade.
For the crust:
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cold
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4-5 tablespoons ice water
- 1 egg (for wash)
- 2 teaspoons raw turbinado sugar (optional)
For the filling:
- 2 large pears, peeled
- 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2-3 tablespoons apricot jam
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine flour, sugar, orange zest and salt in a large bowl. Chop butter into ½” pieces and scatter throughout bowl of dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, mix butter into dry flour mixture. If butter sticks to pastry blender, be sure to use a knife to clean it and begin again “cutting” and rubbing butter into flour until small pea-sized pieces of flour and butter are formed. Mixture should appear dry, not pasty, greasy or wet. Slowly add a few tablespoons of ice water and gently stir into mixture. Using the back of a rubber spatula or your hands, begin to press flour-butter mixture together. You have added enough water when flour and butter begin to cohere. Form a rough ball in your hands, avoiding overworking the mixture, and then flatten slightly to create a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
In a separate bowl, combine sugar and remaining orange zest. Rub orange zest into sugar with your fingers to coat sugar with scented citrus oils. Add cinnamon, vanilla and lemon juice. Peel pears and slice lengthwise. Remove seeds and stems and then cut pears lengthwise again to form ¼” slices. Add pears to sugar mixture and toss gently to coat pears in juices.
On a clean floured surface, roll out pastry dough evenly, turning as needed to achieve a circular shape about 8-10” wide. Use a bit of cool water and flour to repair any cracks in dough. Transfer to baking sheet. Brush crust with apricot jam and begin to lay pear slices in a concentric circle, with tips facing inward, leaving a ½” border at the edge. Crimp and fold crust to hug pear ends securely. Whisk egg and brush onto crust. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on crust edges.
Bake galette for 15-20 minutes at 425°F, then reducing heat to 400°F, rotate for even browning and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden and pears are tender when tested with a wooden skewer.
Move galette to cooling rack and brush pear topping with additional apricot jam if desired. Serve warm.