persimmon galette and an intern’s memories of cubed butter
i will forever hold my first memory of witnessing a galette being made very near to my heart. it was was life-changing in that i never saw butter the same way ever again. so, i guess i can say that that day changed my life for the butter ..heeeeh.
while i was a wee sophomore in college, i interned for alice waters’ chez panisse foundation, the edible schoolyard. around the back of the foundation was the edible schoolyard kitchen, a marvelous bungalow with kitchen stations for middle schoolers to gather around and learn about food history, cultivation, sustainability, cooking techniques, and most importantly, how to eat.
unpaid internships come with some or many perks. and this one had a lot, like meeting the queen herself and having lunch with the chez panisse restaurant chefs. but my absolute favorite was being able to observe the magic of how the kitchen team intuitively worked together to prepare lunch for the rest of the staff and volunteers with literally zero fret or pre-planning. it was second nature to the kitchen staff to throw things together based on what was on hand and voila! chicken salad sandwiches with fresh mayonnaise! roasted curried squash! polenta cakes with soaked raisins and thyme from the garden! i think i said “this is the best thing i ever ate” every single day.
on one particular morning, i watched the kitchen director, esther cook, carefully unwrap a few cold packs of butter, stack the wax paper wrappers aside, and begin neatly cutting the sticks into perfect little cubes. i’m pretty sure butter cutting was an act of meditation for her because that knife cutting into the butter and softly hitting the wooden cutting board beneath gave so much satisfaction to my soul.
the rest of the story is that she tossed the butter cubes into a large mixing bowl of flour and water to form out dough for delicious apple galettes we made with the students later in the afternoon. but the memory i remember most distinctly from that internship were those silky butter cubes.
even to this day, a million years later, every time i cut butter into cubes, i think of that single memory in the edible schoolyard kitchen, and i’m just realizing why that that memory is so distinct to me. it’s because growing up, all i really knew butter to be was those little individual foil or plastic packets to spread on bread at restaurants or on mcdonalds pancakes. and at home, the closest thing we had to real butter in our korean american home was…tubs of you better believe it’s not butter (margarine). we never had or used sticks of butter that came wrapped in wax paper or in paper carton boxes. to me, that was just a symbol serving as a reminder of how non-white-american my family was.
seeing real cubes of creamy shiny butter transform into a flaky galette IRl was something so bizarre and yet, profound. butter was now no longer that intimidating white americana fattening ingredient to avoid, but rather something that was now more accessible and common. being in paris for some time now, butter is now regarded as a close friend.
this is what (i think) alice waters’ goal was with the edible schoolyard project; sending an invitation to join an environment that helps develop a new sense and understanding for real food vs. holding onto the limited notions of what you knew of food and culture from your upbringing..that butter intro has brought me real far :’)
2.5 cups all purpose flour
125 grams (1/2 cup, 1 stick) salted butter
125 grams (1/2 cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup ice cold water
2 firm-ish persimmons sliced
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup apricot jam
to brush and dust
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoons cane sugar
alice waters’ galette dough
measure out flour in a large mixing bowl and ice cold water in a separate small bowl
dice cold butter into rough cubes and toss into mixing bowl with flour. begin breaking up the butter down with your fingers and pressing it into the flour. continue until the dough begins to clump up loosely with a squeeze in your palms. (make sure the butter is kept cold. if it no longer feels cold in your hands, place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes and begin working at it again)
once you have your loose clumps formed, spoon in ice cold water in tablespoon increments until the dough can form into a ball. try to use as little water as possible - just enough until the dough is able to form into a ball and it’s okay if it’s a little crumbly!
separate dough in halves, form each into a ball, press down gently to flatten into a disk shape. wrap separately and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
preheat the oven to 400 degrees. line a baking tray with parchment paper
take sliced persimmons and toss in cinnamon in a medium bowl, set aside. fruit should be firmer as ripe persimmons will turn your galette into a soggy soupy mess.
remove one dough disk (save/freeze the other) and begin rolling out on a floured surface using a rolling pin. roll out into the best circle shape as you can. dough should be between 1/3 to 1/2 of a centimeter thick.
transfer the dough to your lined baking tray (easiest way to do this is to roll the dough up on your rolling pin and rolling it back out). trim the dough edges that seem uneven, extra crumbly, or unsightly
spread a layer of apricot jam over the dough and don’t do this precariously! be more generous than not here! leaving a 1.5 inch edge, place persimmons in a rosette or whatever pattern your heart desires
fold dough edges over the persimmons to make a crust. brush milk on the top of the crust and sprinkle cane sugar atop. bake for 20 minutes (watch it!) or until the crust is golden. enjoy!