It’s never too late to learn to love a new food. It took years of my wife’s gentle cajoling to get me to bond with rhubarb, and now I eagerly wait for its red stalks to shoot up in our garden. Cool spring weather is the kind rhubarb loves. I pulled the tender strawberry-red stalks from our rhubarb plants just the other day and used them in this galette, which is one of my favorite ways of enjoying rhubarb.
Strawberries and rhubarb are natural partners, and I was happy to find locally grown berries at our farmers markets. So in they went into the galette.
I’ve written about peach and Italian prune plum galettes, but a rhubarb galette requires much more sugar than other galettes because rhubarb is very acidic. When using rhubarb, I do not skimp on sugar, but I also try to avoid overwhelming its natural taste. Vanilla, for example, adds a sweetness of its own, which allows me to use less sugar. And orange zest and juice complement rhubarb’s tang. I also add diced crystallized ginger for a bit of zip.
Even though rhubarb is technically a vegetable, a New York court decided in 1947 that it be considered a fruit because of its predominant use in sweet preparations such as pies, tarts, jams and preserves. In the 19th century, a common name for rhubarb was “pie plant.” Whether you’re a rhubarb lover or not, this galette should eliminate all possibilites of a rhubarb at your house.
Rhubarb’s tang and strawberry’s sweetness merge magically in this rustic tart. I like a combination of granulated white sugar and light brown sugar to sweeten the fruit, but I’ve also found that organic granulated cane sugar works very well. Orange, vanilla and crystallized ginger complement the fruit beautifully. You can make the pastry hours or even a day or two ahead and refrigerate it. It must be cold when you roll it out. If you have a baking stone, this is a good time to use it. You’ll need a 14-inch pizza pan or large rimmed baking sheet for baking the galette.
For the pastry:
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
5 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed
For the rhubarb-strawberry filling:
1 pound trimmed rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice (4 cups)
1/2 pound strawberries, stems removed, cut into
1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1/4 cup finely diced crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 tablespoons granulated organic cane sugar or regular granulated sugar to sprinkle on crust
To make the pastry, either weigh the flour or measure it by dipping a dry measuring cup into the flour container, filling it to overflowing and sweeping off the excess with a straight edge. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Slice the cold butter and add to the bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into smaller pieces, about 1/2 inch or so. Then reach into the bowl, and with your fingertips, rapidly press and flatten the butter pieces into flakes. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t soften and don’t be concerned about flattening every piece of butter. Add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, and stir and toss with a fork to combine. Stir just until the dough comes together in one mass. If the dough seems dry, add only enough additional water to make it cohere. Shape the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick disc – you’ll see large flakes of butter in the dough – and enclose with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm the dough.
If you have a baking stone, set it on the center shelf of your oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you don’t have a baking stone, just preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
For the filling, prepare the rhubarb and strawberries and set them aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, orange zest and ginger.
To shape the galette, roll the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface into a very thin, roughly shaped circle, 16 inches in diameter. If the dough is very firm, let it sit at room temperature about 10 minutes or tap the pastry all over with the rolling pin to flatten it a bit, then roll it out. If the dough feels too soft, fold it in half, transfer it to the pizza pan or rimmed baking sheet, unfold it, and refrigerate a few minutes. Do not be concerned about rough edges of dough or if your circle is perfect. This is rustic. What’s important is that the dough is thin. The butter flakes melt during baking and the pockets of air that are formed make the pastry flaky.
Transfer the dough to the pizza pan or rimmed baking sheet, letting the excess drape over the edges.
Add the rhubarb and strawberries to the sugar, flour and spices, and sprinkle the orange juice and vanilla over them. Fold gently until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened, coating the fruit evenly. Spread evenly on the center of the dough to make a circle of filling about 11 inches in diameter and about 1 inch thick. Dot filling with bits of butter. Bring up edges of the pastry to cover the outer edges of the filling and press gently to adhere. Brush the pastry edge with water and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons sugar.
Put the galette into the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or maybe even longer, until the juices bubble thickly, like a syrup, and the pastry is well-browned with random darker spots. The sugar must be well caramelized.
Cool the galette on its pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer with a wide metal spatula to a wire cooling rack. Sometimes juices leak onto the pan during baking causing the galette to stick, so loosen the galette carefully to avoid tearing the pastry.
Cool completely. The galette is best when very fresh. Serve it plain or with whipped cream or ice cream.
Note: I’ve successfully reheated leftover galette the next morning in a preheated 400-degree oven for 5 minutes.
• Makes 8 servings.
Greg Patent’s new cookbook is “Soufflés,” published by Gibbs Smith. He is a regular columnist for the Missoulian and Missoula Magazine.