Wednesday, May 28, 2008
not really a day off
But we did manage to capture a deceptively restful-looking picture or two.
For a moment, though, when my brother-in-law announced "I'll take some more of that dessert please," as four of us sat around in the backyard alternately eating a Memorial Day picnic dinner and wrangling Monkey and her two-year-old cousin, I thought that this apple-ginger galette might disappear without any record of its existence at all.
And that would have been a shame, because this was a possibly miraculous dessert, that resisted numerous opportunities for ruin.
I had started out intending to make a Rhubarb Ginger Galette from Simply Recipes, which my friend x. had recommended and my friend T. had also given the thumbs-up. Except I planned to make mine with apples, because that's what we had on hand. (So much for seasonal cooking, right? Well, in my defense, or perhaps just the opposite, the apples were in season when I bought them.) So, while the Mr. cleaned up the backyard in preparation for the picnic, I set up the playpen in the kitchen and settled Monkey in with some toys and a favorite book or two. By the time I'd sliced the apples she was hungry for lunch, so I left them to soften slowly on the stove while I fed her. Then she was ready for a nap, during which I thought I'd make the pastry for the galette.
Except that after putting Monkey down in her crib I realized I was exhausted. So I folded a couple loads of laundry and then thought I'd lie down for just a few minutes. Which stretched into, well, quite a while.
Fortunately, I happened to have a library copy of Deborah Madison's Local Flavors handy, and paged through it while I was lying down. (Because what's more relaxing than lying down? Lying down and looking through a cookbook, that's what.) In that book is a recipe for a "Rustic Tart of Quinces, Apples, and Pears" made with puff pastry. And we happened to have some puff pastry in the freezer leftover from dinner a few days before:
(Asparagus and Gruyere Tart from Under the High Chair)
This was quite a happy coincidence--I'd never bought or cooked with puff pastry before last week. Brilliant, I figured, worst case scenario I'll just use puff pastry instead of a homemade crust.
Which, of course, is exactly what came to pass, because after naptime the Mr. needed to make the rest of our picnic dinner, and somebody needed to mind Monkey, who these days not only army-crawls alarmingly fast, wants to pull up on any and every vertical surface, and generally thinks that sitting around looking at books is for chumps, but also, this day, was having a particularly rough time of it. We think she's working on some teeth. At least eight of them, I should hope, for all the misery they seem to be causing her.
So to be honest, I'm not quite sure how long I ended up leaving the galette in the oven, because by the time I got it ready to bake it was time for Monkey's dinner, and I had to keep popping into the kitchen to check on the pastry in between spooning bites of carrot and yogurt into her mouth. (Yes, that's right, I sauteed the apples while feeding Monkey lunch and baked the galette while feeding her dinner. People, it took me all afternoon to make this dessert! But you should try it--it's really easy, I swear!)
I was multitasking quite impressively at this point, because along with baking dessert and feeding Monkey dinner, I was also doing a little silent fuming, along the lines of why can't I get just five uninterrupted minutes to do something in the kitchen, etc., etc. And that brings me to the rather obvious point that there is no such thing as a three-day weekend, or even really a day off, when you have an infant in the house.
I'd like to say that sitting on the picnic blanket later on and feeding Monkey little bites of apple from the pastry--her first taste of dessert--made it all worthwhile. And it did, of course, but one of the most difficult parts of parenting for me is the way that there's just not enough time for everything. There's the housework and the paid work and the childminding, and when that's done one needs to take care of oneself, and what's left over for creative work is pretty close to nil. So each time I go into the kitchen lately I find that I have to revise my plans and pare down my expectations, sometimes more than once. And to me it seems especially difficult when that happens in relation to cooking, which is not only self-expression but also a way of showing care for loved ones.
So it was nice, after Monkey went to bed for the night, to have a few minutes to check in with the Mr. and realize that he is struggling with some of the same thoughts (a point I hope I can bring myself to remember the next time I am tempted to engage in some silent fuming). And nice, then, to have a few minutes to myself and write up the notes for this recipe.
Sort-of adapted/melded from Simply Recipes and Local Flavors, with thanks to Aimee of Under the High Chair for teaching me how to use puff pastry.
2 T + 1 tsp butter, divided
2 T sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 sheet (about 7 oz.) frozen puff pastry
1 T finely chopped candied ginger
1 oz (or so) sharp cheddar, grated
Flour for work surface
Peel, core, and slice the apples. Melt 2 T of the butter in a large skillet and saute the apples over low heat until they soften a bit. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and ground ginger, and continue to cook over low heat until the apples are soft and syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool. Meanwhile, take the puff pastry out to thaw.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Stir the candied ginger and shredded cheese into the cooled apples. On a floured work surface, roll the puff pastry into a square about 12 inches on a side. Don't worry if it's messy and uneven; after all, you're making a galette precisely because you don't have time or don't want to worry about such things. Carefully fold the pastry in quarters, transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet, and unfold. Spoon the apple mixture into the center of the puff pastry. Pull the corners of the pastry toward the center (they won't touch).
Melt the remaining 1 tsp butter in the skillet in which you cooked the apples. With a pastry brush, snag the little bits of left-behind spices and mix them into the butter, then brush the butter over the top of the galette.
Bake the galette at 400 F for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for about 30 minutes more, until the pastry is puffy and golden-brown.