I have talked about this before but I admire people who love baking. I personally find baking quite scary. The idea of putting the effort into assembling all the ingredients, placing it in the oven, and relinquishing all control of how it cooks scares me. Its as though I don’t trust the oven to the job well. As though, I could do it better. Its kind of similar to being a manager at a job and finding the balance between letting others do the work you could do and breathing down their neck to the point that you’re doing the work for them. Or in a relationship, where things are in autopilot. We know the feelings we have for each other and because we know, we fail to acknowledge and begin to assume. We trust that the other knows what we expect and hope that the trust remains intact. Baking is trusting the oven to do the work for you and this bothers me a lot.
Knowing fully well of my apprehensions, I stepped forward into the world of baking and made a galette this weekend. I even chose a dish that is rustic enough that if I make a mistake, it looks part of the imperfect aesthetic than a blatant mistake. Galettes are very easy and a great way to learn how to make pies. While pies require a lot more steps, measurements, and accuracy; a galette shines at being a lot more forgiving while providing the same great texture and taste. While these freeform tarts are usually a summer dish, I wanted to bake something to commemorate the introduction to a new seasonal fruit: the strawberry. As a kid, I could survive on strawberries and grapes. I remember eating so many grapes once that I threw up and all one could see were green outer shells of the fruit. Before Baskin Robins came to India, every kid in Delhi knew of only one ice cream parlor: Nirulas. A one stop fast food restaurant, which served everything from burgers and Indian food to ice cream floats straight out an Archie’s Comics. What they were famous for was their ice cream. Fat and sugar blended so well sans ice crystals, with authentic flavors, and far less synthetic food coloring than any other ice cream shop made it the quintessential Delhi place to be.
My love affair with strawberries began after having a scoop of their strawberry ice cream. Velvet soft yet dense with actual texture from the seeds that bejewel the fruit placed on a cheap almost plastic like cone that alone tasted like cardboard but after the ice cream drizzled its sweet myrrh all over it, tasted as resistible as the thing that it tried to keep afloat. As I grew up, so did my tastes. Soon the strawberry flavor became too sweet, I moved to butterscotch which had the same sugary outcome. This is when I was introduced to deeper, richer flavors of chocolate & coffee: things that please my buds to date. Its this change that has reduced my visits to the now ever unpopular ice cream chain. However, a dish like this galette brings back the same flavors, joy, and energy as eight year old Archit had who wanted a treat after acing his english class dictation. This dessert was therefore an ode to those times. A realization that no matter how old you get, your childhood lives on within you.
If you loved Nirulas as much as I do, comment below and tell me what your favorite flavors were!
For the crust
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
150 grams unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup cold water
60 ml vodka
For the filling
2 cups strawberries thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 large egg
1 tablespoon whole milk or cream
Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl.
Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula.
With a blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend).
Combine the water and vodka into a large measuring cup or small bowl.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated.
Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands (or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.
Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.
Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow.
Wrapped tightly, and let it sit for a minimum of 2 hours. Overnight is ideal
Set oven to 350F/ 177 Celsius. In a bowl, add all your filling ingredients and mix well
Flour your work top well and roll out the dough making a fairly even 9 inch circle.
Place all the filling in the center and bring the dough inwards, loosely making pleats
Whip one large egg and brush over the crust. Sprinkle with sugar and bake until the filling begins to bubble and the crust turns golden. About 30 minutes.