Pie must have been born from early autumn, dough kneaded and rolled in the budding morning, before the sun’s capricious whimsy sends the cool air into hiding. The moment the humidity dissipates, I envision languidly unwrapping apples, peels dangling perilously from their fleshy cores. Apple slices on the countertop, fanned out, anxious to be baked into buttery crusts.
Pie is the purest incarnation of fall, a tradition in many households. Its continuity makes it so appealing; recipes descending generation to generation. Pie is iconic, pie is consistent. Pie is a heady stalwart, an American classic, synonymous with autumn’s foliage.
A galette is a free-form pie, or tart, with an open face that reveals its personality. Rustic dough is rolled out, topped with fruits or vegetables or a mixture of both; the dough is then folded around the edges of the filling, haphazardly framing its center. Galettes are entirely more forgiving then their pie and tart counterparts and lauded for their beautiful messiness, clumsily crumbly and weeping with sweet or savory juices.
For my galette, blood red beets are roasted until sizzling and tender, shallots and fennel braised until silken and aromatic. Flaky pastry crust, studded with fennel seeds and sumac, envelops the vegetables, aged goat cheese and flaky sea salt. I finish the tart with crumbled pistachios and local honey, to balance the earthy savoriness of the tart.
Beet and Fennel Galette, Rye Crust with Sumac and Fennel Seed Crust
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat four or rye flour
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried sumac
1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed, roughly crushed in a spice grinder
1-2 tablespoon ice water
5 small beets or 4 medium beets
1 small head fennel
1 medium shallot
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for beets and drizzling
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 1/2 ounces aged goat cheese, such as Satori, grated
1 tablespoon chopped unsalted pistachios
Pinch fancy sea salt
1 egg yolk plus 1/2 teaspoon water
1. In a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse together flours and salt. Add butter to flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture resembles course sand. Do not over process. Add sumac and crushed fennel seeds, vinegar and water, one tablespoon at a time. Process until the dough just forms a ball.
2. Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours and up to 1 day.
3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice off the beet tops and scrub the beets thoroughly to remove any dirt. Place them in foil and coat lightly in salt and olive oil. Wrap loosely in foil packets and roast until tender, about 45-60 minutes, depending on their size. Let the beets cool and remove the skins. Slice into thin rounds and set aside until ready to use.
4. Meanwhile, cut off and discard fennel stalks. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise and into 1/4-inch slices. Cut the shallot in half lengthwise and slice thinly. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and fennel. Sauté for about 7-8 minutes, stirring regularly until slightly golden. Lower heat to medium-low, add 2 tablespoons water, salt and pepper to taste and cover pan. Braise for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Lower heat if vegetables begin to burn. When the fennel is soft, remove cover from pan, add lemon juice and cook over medium heat until liquid evaporates. Add more salt if necessary. Remove from heat and let cool.
5. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured counter until the dough is about 1/4 inch thick. The dough doesn’t have to be a perfect circle and it is ok if the edges are rustic looking. Flour the top of the dough if it sticks to the rolling pin. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
6. Mix the fennel mixture with the grated cheese and pile into the middle of the dough. Spread evenly with the sliced beets and fold the dough edges over the filling. Brush the crust with the egg wash, drizzle the center with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle with pistachios. Return to the oven to finish.
7. Cool galette and drizzle with honey. If necessary, sprinkle with more sea salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.