What you see here is our Father’s Day dessert from the other week. My dad has always been a “pie guy,” and cherry pie just might be his favorite dessert in all the world. It is not an unusual occurrence for us all to be sitting around the living room after dinner when my dad moans out that he “neeeds pie.” Since nine times out of ten he’s the one who jumps up and out the door the minute anyone mentions a needed grocery item, oil change, package mailed, etc., we all try to satisfy his pie cravings now and then.
Of course, a sudden “neeeed” for pie doesn’t leave
a lot of any time for homemade pie, so we often have to resort to Marie Callender or those horrid plastic-containered grocery store pies found in the bakery section. Since I’m the only one in my family who bakes, my year away from home resulted in far too many of those pre-packaged pies making their way into our refrigerator. Like many bakers, it pierces my heart to see someone eat a slice of that scary-bright-red cherry “pie” with glee and complete ignorance of what they’re missing. Not that people shouldn’t be satisfied with anything other than homemade, but….they’re just different species, store-bought pie and pie from scratch. Not only is the list of ingredients on the back of those packages far too long and scary-sounding for my liking, but the taste of real buttery crust and fresh fruit just can’t compare. No offense if you happen to love pre-made pies (I’ve certainly eaten my fair share), but my heart will always belong to homemade.
Anyway, it saddened me to think that that my poor father had forgotten what real pie tastes like. So for Father’s Day, there was no doubt in my mind that homemade cherry pie (or in this case, galette) would be gracing our table.
This cherry galette is made with sweet, fresh bing cherries rather than jarred or frozen sour cherries, so it has a rather different taste than “regular” cherry pie. I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse; it’s like comparing apples and oranges. While sour cherry pies have that distinct tart flavor and a syrupy filling, this sweet cherry galette is more mild and fresh-tasting. I love both, but I’m partial to fresh, sweet cherries in the spring and summer, so I bought a bag of beautiful bing cherries and got to work. Naturally, as I was in the middle of pitting the cherries (using a hard plastic straw as a makeshift cherry-pitter) I looked down and realized I was wearing a white shirt. I swear, every.single.time I pit cherries I happen to be wearing white. It’s ridiculous, I tell you!
The crust of this galette is tender and flaky, and the secret addition of cornmeal adds a little somethin’-somethin’ to the texture and the flavor. However, in my mind the real star of the show is the cherries, which are combined with minimal ingredients to really let their flavor shine through. I topped the galette with a generous sprinkle of almond streusel, and the almond flavor marries perfectly with the cherry. Each bite of buttery crust, juicy cherries, and crumbly topping will leave you wanting another…and another. I added a scoop of vanilla bean gelato to each piece as well, which only made it more swoon-worthy. The entire galette was eaten up in less than 48 hours (by 4 people, I might add–and I only had a sliver)!
Being a fruit girl (as opposed to a crust girl), one of the reasons I love galettes is for their greater ratio of filling-to-crust, since a galette is basically an open-faced pie. Another reason I make them more often than pies is for their simplicity: they’re supposed to look rustic (read: messy), and you don’t have to worry about perfectly crimped edges or smooth tops. All you do is roll out a single crust, plop the fruit filling in the center, and fold up the extra crust toward the center. In this case, folds and creases are what you’re going for, which is a total dream-come-true for anyone who tends to avoid making finicky pie crust. Not that I have any personal experience with fears of pie crust, but you know…
Yet another beauty of galettes is their adaptability–you can substitute the cherries for virtually any fruit, and the streusel can be played with as well. You can use all butter instead of the almond paste, use a different type of nut, or leave out the almonds all together and sub in some oats. Still, I must say that we certainly loved this combination of cherries and almond streusel, and it made for one very happy father on his special day!
Sweet Cherry Galette with Almond Streusel
For the crust:
1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup very cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup cold buttermilk*
For the fruit filling:
1.5 pounds (about 3.5 cups) fresh bing cherries, pitted and halved
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
For the streusel:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon almond paste (you can substitute with butter)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sliced or slivered almonds
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon warm water
Extra sugar, for sprinkling
*You can make your own buttermilk by putting 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice into a 1/3 cup measure, and then filling the cup with regular milk. Let sit for 5 minutes or so, until the milk curdles, then proceed to use.
For the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, cornmeal, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the cold butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Slowly pour in the buttermilk, tossing with a fork until the dough holds together. Then pat it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 45 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes, then turn out onto a floured surface and roll it into a 14-inch round. Carefully transfer the crust onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat, then place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
While the oven is preheating and the crust is chilling, make the cherry filling. In a large bowl toss together the pitted cherries, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, salt, vanilla, and almond extract. In a smaller bowl, use a fork (or your fingers) to combine the streusel ingredients until they clump together.
Remove the crust dough from the refrigerator and pile the cherries into the center, leaving a 1.5-2 inch border around the edges. Fold the excess dough toward the center, smoothing down the creases where the dough overlaps. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the cherries. Brush the egg mixture onto the crust and sprinkle the crust with granulated sugar.
Bake the galette for 45-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly. Place the cookie sheet on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then slide the galette directly onto the rack to cool completely.
Slice and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.