The Pear Tree of my Youth
Every Fall I make at least one pear and almond galette from the giant pear tree growing in my front yard. The galettes appearance always marks the transition in my head between the ratatouille, pastis and rosés excesses of summertime and the true beginnings of Fall, at least my Fall, and it’s well rooted in my past.
I can still remember with great fondness visiting a gregarious French relative who owned a farm in rural Southwestern France. It was early Fall and he had just foraged for cepes. I remember with surprising clarity his worn leather boots and even the musty smells of an old barn filled with fresh cut hay as he cooked a wonderful Omelette aux cèpes, à la persillade for lunch. 45 years later and I still salivate as I reminisce about tucking into it; the combination of creamy eggs contrasted by crispy bits of garlic, herbs, and mushrooms cooked in golden goose fat.
For dessert, his wife prepared a scrumptious pear and almond galette made from perfectly ripe pears picked that morning from a fruit tree in their yard. There is something timeless and perfect about the combination of almonds and pears that works on so many levels, like textural contrasts of crunchy and soft or the classic salty and sweet marriage. The memory of this day has lingered in my soul since it happened so long ago. The comfort of the warm galette with sweet pears and crunchy almonds is the true sign that Fall is here.
Food memories are more sensory than other memories in that they involve really all five senses, so when you’re that thoroughly engaged with the stimulus it has a more powerful effect, – Susan Whitborne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts from a 2017 HuffPost article.
“Food memories feel so nostalgic because there’s all this context of when you were preparing or eating this food, so the food becomes almost symbolic of other meaning,” Whitbourne says. “A lot of our memories as children, it’s not so much the apple pie, for example, but the whole experience of being a family, being nourished, and that acquires a lot of symbolism apart from the sensory quality.” It makes complete sense and helps me better understand who I am today and why I am very seasonal in my approach to the table. All the food I ever ate was so very seasonally served by my mother and went well beyond the standard Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas goose entrenched in many people’s minds.
Cook a Galette this weekend (and a bonus recipe)
All this talk about food memories and pears reminded me of my beloved grandfather Andre Colas and my affinity for pear sorbet. I used to spend summers at my grandfather’s Auberge in Perigord, France. One of the great highlights, other than the obvious of spending quality time with my grandpa or simply being in France, was spending time with his kitchen staff at the restaurant. They were a good-natured bunch who always treated me with great kindness by trying to make me feel comfortable and occasionally slipping me fat slices of pate sandwiched between toasted baguette. The pastry chef used to give me scoops of pear sorbet generously spiked with Poire William. I can close my eyes and taste the perfectly smooth sorbet melting in my mouth. The flavor of Poire William becoming more prevalent as the sorbet faded into the background.
Give the galette and sorbet a try this weekend. Tag us on Instagram so we see how your galette turned out! #PistouandPastis
Galette Dough (12")
A quick and simple galette dough.
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- pinch salt
- 4 ounces butter cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup water
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse until the butter is coarsely mixed in. It will resemble cornmeal. Add enough cold water to make the dough ball up. Turn out onto the counter and knead in any dry parts. Put in a ziplock and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
Roll out dough
Roll out chilled dough on floured surface to 12-inch round. Put onto a silpat. Chill the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
Pear and Almond Tart
A typical French pear and almond galette
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter room temperature
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 galette dough 12" see recipe above
- 6 pears
- 1/4 cup sugar
For the almond cream: Finely chop almonds and sugar in a food processor. Mix in butter, egg yolks, and almond extract.
Preheat to 400°F. Spread almond cream over center of the rolled out galette dough. Stem, peel, halve and core pears. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices and press slightly to fan slices. Use a spatula to lift pears and arrange on top of almond cream like spokes of a wheel. Sprinkle sugar over then fold the edges of the galette over to the very bottoms of the pears.
Bake galette until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool galette in pan on rack. Cut galette into wedges and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
A super simple way to use pears, or any other fruit, and enjoy them well past when you pick them.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1.5 cups pear puree
- 1 tbsp Poire William (pear brandy)
Start by making a simple syrup: Bring sugar and water to a rapid boil, then cool completely.
Peel and seed two or three super ripe pears. Put in blender with cooled syrup and puree till smooth. Add poire William and freeze according to your ice cream machine's instructions.