“There are a million reasons to be unhappy, all the time, for all of us. I mean, the world is in terrible shape. The future looks grim…one in eight children in America goes to bed hungry. If you want to be miserable, it’s not hard. But, balancing that, there are all kinds of things, little things, that can give you great pleasure in life. Different people like different things, I truly like everything that can happen in a kitchen.”
— Ruth Reichl, Burnt Toast, “Ruth Reichl Is Coming To Dinner”
I am eating a meringue cookie right now. It’s crumbly on top and little chewy on the bottom. It’s sticking to my teeth. They’re supposed to have this bi-textural thing going on though, I’m 87% sure of that. The other 13% knows that I probably just didn’t let them dry out completely. I think I like the top section more. I may have bitten off the tops of two others, but I’m not saying anything for certain.
I’m okay with little imperfections, like this batch of less-than-pâtisserie-perfect cookies. Imperfections like these are good. So are the masses of concentrated melanin that make freckles– constellations on faces that are far more interesting to look at than my own. My favorite two baking pans: Tin Man-colored, except for the black bits of caramelized sugar that no amount of scrubbing can erase are others on this list of imperfect, but lovely. An apple picked right from the tree that has a few more bruises than preferable would also be included.
But there are imperfections that are decidedly not good. The hole developing in my car’s tire after an ill-timed encounter with a pointy rock. The skin on my hands, chapped from washing them thirty times today after seeing an alert about flu season. The things I’m too self-conscious to write about– words I’ve typed and then deleted because I know that once I print them here they become real. I notice them. I’m trying to let them bother me less. This is not to say I’ve adopted anything resembling –god forbid– the Chill persona. Nor is it that I’ve achieved a new level of self-actualization and am no longer letting the “little things” bother me. I didn’t even get a cool job or anything. But I am trying to notice those not-so-good-imperfections less. It’s probably healthier, though I don’t know how long it’ll last.
Speaking of imperfections: galettes. While one can trim the dough to be an even circle, lay out each slice of fruit into a balanced twisty spiral, and painstakingly flute every two inches around said circle, I don’t recommend it. While flawless desserts are incredible to look at in an Vogue-airbrushing sort of way, I’m constantly drawn to rustic pastries. Fruit bubbles over the top and onto the sides of crust, chocolate oozes down the layers of a cake that leans slightly to the right. Some of the best food styling comes from just making the thing and placing it in a natural space.
Prune Plum Galette
1 batch pie crust
~20-30 prune plums (about 2 pounds)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
zest of 2 clementines (or one large orange)
1 tablespoons clementine or orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water or 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
a few tablespoons flour
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
Make the crust: Make and chill the crust according to these directions. Instead of the egg white, mix a whole egg with cream or milk.
Make the filling: Wash, halve, and pit the plums. Slices thinly and place in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar, zest, juice, extract, orange flower water/Grand Marnier, ginger, and 2 tablespoons flour and combine well. Set aside.
Put it all together: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the crust out onto a floured work surface and roll until you have about a 13-inch round (no need for perfection.) Carefully wrap the crust around the rolling pin and unroll onto the baking sheet. Mix 1 tablespoon of sugar and flour together and sprinkle it onto the center of the crust. Dump the fruit into the center, spreading it out evenly, but leaving an inch or two boarder. Fold the dough over the filling, fluting it every few inches to ensure no fruit leakage (brush the underside of the flute with cold water if they’re not sticking together.) Brush the crust with egg mixture and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 30-40 minutes, checking after 25. It’s done when the filling is starting to bubble and the crust is golden. If the crust starts to get too dark, tent with foil until the last 5-10 minutes.