There is lots of fresh glorious fruit still in the markets, roadside vegetable stands, and farmer’s market even though it is September. Anyone with a backyard tree is at the place of giving away their bounty. The late summer fruit boasts lots of flavor from sweet and sharp to smooth and tangy. Beautiful ripe peaches, the first honey-sweet fall apples, the last plums, and tart berries give us a sense of the seasons as well as inspiration. When fruit is beautiful, and you are blessed with enough of it, your job in the kitchen can be a real joy.
One of the best, and easiest, ways to prepare fruit in season is to make a pie. Not just any pie, but a really simple pie––the crostada or galette. The galette is a French term for a free-form, open faced pie; crostada the Italian equivalent. I made my first crostada from a recipe called Old Fashioned Bottom Crust Apple Pie in Martha Stewart’s second book, the Quick Cook. I loved the casual style; it was really fast and easy, yet impressive and tasty. It is the perfect first recipe for a new pie maker.
To make a galette/crostada, a rich pie crust dough is rolled out into an uneven circle and transferred onto a baking sheet. You pile the fruit tossed with just a dash of sugar and lemon juice into the center; nothing fancy, just plain old-fashioned here. Then you form the galette by folding up the short sides gently over the edges of the filling. The fruit is partially exposed. As long as you don’t tear the dough you are fine, and any rustic shape is acceptable, even attractive. This style of making a pie will be a total revelation if you are not already familiar with it. It makes one big round flat galette, since no matter how high you pile the fruit, it collapses as it cooks.
For entertaining, the galette/crostada is catapulted into the superlative category when made into the individual size instead of one big one. My friend, talented creative food consultant Julia Scannell of Napa Valley, designed little baby crostadas off a restaurant recipe and it swept around my group of baking friends lightening-quick with great excitement only bakers can understand.
Individual tartlets, unless pressed into the pan, are a hassle to make since rolling out the itty bitty round of dough puts you back to your first experience in the miniature kitchen of play dough and that ever so tiny four-inch rolling pin with red handles. Julia designed the recipe to be formed by taking a tiny portion of dough and pressing it flat with a metal tortilla press, he silvery one you can pick up for a few dollars at any Latino market. It is a really fun way to make dessert and a great use for that tortilla press in the back of the cupboard that belays the fact that the tortilla industry has the most incredible array of fresh tortillas at the market these days.
That is not the only good news. The raw baby galette/crostadas can be individually frozen, then tossed into freezer bags. In a few months, you remove as many galette/crostadas as you like, place on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake off in a hot oven. Voila, as they say in France, in half an hour you have fresh baked fruit in the most tender buttery crust (freezing pastry dough makes it so). Serve warm or at room temperature, but are best served the same day they are baked. Serve with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, cold plain Greek yogurt, or some cold créme fraîche.