Tuesday, September 10, 2013

High summer at the market, in the kitchen

In the days of high summer, there are few places in Chicago I'd rather be than Green City Market. It is the real deal--small-scale midwestern farmers committed to their land, astonishingly good produce in abundance. Even early on a Wednesday morning, the market hums with quiet excitement. Rounding the corner to the next stretch of stalls, I, anyway, am always buoyed by the prospect of discovering something beautiful and unusual, something I've never seen before.
And I'm glad that Sandra Holl seems to share my feelings about the place. A few weeks ago, I was invited to tag along with her on a market trip. Sandra is chef and owner of Floriole, and I've long been an admirer of hers. Her bakery is incomparable in this city. It turns out such gorgeous stuff--canelés with custard-like centres, mahogany sourdough boules, the flakiest croissants. When I'm in the neighbourhood, I always try and stop in.
Peaches, blackberries, plums Brown butter custard Homemade puff pastry
We met that morning at Floriole's market stall--it's where the bakery got its start--and then made the rounds. Sandra had already put in orders with some of the farms (peaches and green beans from Mick Klug, arugula from Green Acres), so we visited the stalls to collect them. (If you take your eyes off all the produce for a moment and peer behind the stalls at Green City Market, you'll see tall stacks of cardboard boxes scrawled with some very familiar names--these are all the restaurant orders from around the city awaiting pick-up.) But in between pick-ups and afterwards, we also spent some time looking at what else there was available that day. If something catches her eye, Sandra explained, even if it doesn't fit in with anything she has planned, she'll take it back to the bakery for her chefs to do with it whatever happens to inspire them. On this day, it was the indigo-rose tomatoes at Growing Home that stood out--small and inky purple with just a bit of a blush to them. (Sandra tries to source as much as she can locally for Floriole. And in the days of high summer, between Green City Market, her mother's garden just outside the city, and the bakery's own rooftop setup, that isn't particularly hard. But even staples like flour, eggs, and butter at the bakery come from producers in the Midwest.)
On our way out, we picked up a flat of fat blackberries from Ellis Family Farms and chatted with the Ellises about their teenage daughter Mary, who's in charge of the farm's laying operation. They showed us a recent photo of Mary scrubbing a hen with a toothbrush in preparation for a show. It was pretty clear that over the years Sandra's developed some lasting ties to the people at this market.
Back at the bakery, I was also invited to try my hand at some pastry-making in the kitchen. It was a bit of a dream come true, being there in the midst of that bustle, even if only for half an hour. There was a lot going on around us--challah being tested, tart shells being unmoulded, gougères coming out of the oven, sourdough loaves being sliced by hand. Our plan was to make some galettes with the fruit we'd picked up. The kitchen made it simple for us. There were already rounds of house-made puff pastry  dough ready at hand. All we had to do was slice some peaches for the filling (tasting as we sliced, of course--Sandra emphasized the importance of this) and assemble the galettes. So we spread the pastry-dough rounds with a thin layer of brown-butter custard, mounded each with a big handful of sliced peaches and blackberries, crimped up the edges over the fruit, and then slid them into the oven to bake. And, of course, they were phenomenal. How couldn't they be? Impossibly flaky pastry. Caramel-edged fruit. Nothing better together.
Spreading custard Galettes assembled Galettes ready to bake
Sandra was kind enough to allow me to share these galettes with you (thanks, Sandra!). How involved you want the process to be is kind of up to you. I took this as an opportunity to make puff pastry from scratch for the very first time. And though I found the work really rewarding and totally worth the effort, I suspect that most of you won't have the time and/or inclination. It can be a two- or three-day process, just because the butter needs to be cold when you're working with it and the gluten in the dough needs a couple of hours to relax after it gets rolled out each time. Instead, you could try making Gourmet's "rough" puff pastry, which is not as demanding and has been my go-to for a long time, or you could buy good-quality ready-made puff pastry (Sandra and lots of others recommend Dufour). The brown-butter custard, as Sandra says, is also optional. It adds extra sweetness and nuttiness to the galettes and prevents the pastry from sopping up too much of the fruit's juices during baking. What's important is that you use the best fruit available to you. It matters here--these galettes are really all about the fruit. Speaking of which--in the time that it's taken me to try out these galettes at home, high summer has come and gone, which means you won't be seeing peaches and blackberries at the market for much longer. But the galettes are very adaptable--you could probably work just about any fruit into them. I made two kinds this past weekend, some peach-blackberry, some plum-rosemary. You should be able to find plums at the market for a good long while still.
The homemade galettes turned out really well. In fact, they might be the best thing I've made all year. Seriously. They were so good. Octavian and I greedily demolished the two we kept for ourselves in seconds and then almost, almost, regretted having given the others away.
Plum and rosemary galette Hanging out with Sandra
When people ask, I always tell them that the best thing about running this blog has been the people I've gotten to know through it. It's always gratifying to find people who think and care even more than I do about good food, people who are completely dedicated to what they do. I feel lucky to have met the people I have. It's affirming and inspiring. And there's always so much to learn from them. Sandra is definitely one of those people. She is serious about good pastry--I've seen it. So, walking around the market with her that morning, it was heartening to see that a good blackberry could still excite her as much as it does me.

Summer Fruit Galettes
An at-home take on Floriole's sweet galettes
NOTE: While in Floriole's kitchen, we didn't do a whole lot of measuring, and afterwards, Sandra only gave me exact quantities for the brown-butter custard, so the quantities below are based on my observations while baking with Sandra and what I did at home. Floriole's galettes, I think, are in fact a bit bigger than the ones I made, but mine still make for nice individual portions. About the fruit. The galettes that I made actually had less fruit than I've called for below (I used about 225 g all in all), but I think they really could have used more. The fruit does reduce a lot during baking. Feel free, of course, to use only peaches and blackberries or only plums. About the temperature. If you have a convection oven, by all means, use the convection option. Just bake the galettes at 350 degrees F instead and for about 30 minutes. About the brown-butter custard. At Floriole, the kitchen goes through a lot of brown-butter custard. This is reflected in the quantities that Sandra gave me. For my batch of custard at home, I converted most of the measurements to grams and divided by eight. And still, I had way more custard than needed for these galettes. I put my remaining custard in the freezer for the time being. Unless you have ideas for what you might do with more than a pound of remaining custard (you could just make a ton of galettes), you might want to try scaling down the recipe more or just skipping it all together. Almond cream would also be a good substitute, if you happen to have any of that lying around. About chilling. It's really important that you chill the pastries after assembling them. This will help them keep their shape as they bake. I rushed mine a little, and they don't quite have the nice star-like shape they're supposed to.

650 g puff pastry dough, chilled
All-purpose flour, for dusting
4 tablespoons brown butter custard (optional - recipe below)

150 g blackberries and sliced peaches
150 g sliced Italian prune plums
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided

1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons heavy cream

Coarse sugar, like turbinado sugar, for finishing

Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Place the block of dough on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Gently but firmly roll it out into a 12-inch square, about 1/4 inch thick, using only as much flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Using a 6-inch cake ring or an equivalently sized plate as a guide and a sharp knife (you want the cuts to be as clean as possible, so as not to disturb the layers of butter in the dough), cut 4 6-inch circles from the dough. Place the circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Put the peaches and blackberries in one small mixing bowl, the plums and rosemary in another. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 tablespoon flour to each bowl and gently toss to combine.
Whisk together the egg yolk and heavy cream for the eggwash.
Spread 1 tablespoon brown butter custard, if using, in a thin layer over one of the 6-inch circles, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Mound a quarter of the fruit in its centre. Then crimp the pastry in the following way. Start by folding up part of the edge about 3/4 inch over the fruit, then while keeping the fold in place, take another part of the edge, an inch or so to the right, and fold it up over the fruit so that it overlaps the first folded part of the edge. Now, where the two folds overlap, press down firmly with one finger so that the folds hold--you should be able to an indent from your finger. Continue folding and pressing until the crimp goes around the entire pastry. It should take about seven folds. (You may have trouble crimping the pastry with all the fruit mounded in the centre. If that's the case, remove some to make the crimping easier and tuck it back in afterwards. It may seem like too much fruit right now, but it will reduce significantly during baking.) Repeat with the remaining pastries. Brush with eggwash and chill in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Sprinkle the pastries with coarse sugar and bake for 30-35 minutes, until puffed and deeply golden. The galettes are best eaten warm from the oven.
Makes 4 individual galettes.

Brown Butter Custard
From Floriole Cafe and Bakery

170 g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Juice of a medium lemon
3 eggs
220 g sugar
1/2 tablespoon brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Kosher salt, a big pinch
33 g all-purpose flour
45 g heavy cream

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, bring it to a boil, still over medium heat and whisking constantly to prevent it from separating. Continue cooking the butter, whisking occasionally to prevent milk solids from sticking to the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. The butter is ready when it is the colour of caramel. Check its colour by lifting some up in a spoon. Pour into a heatproof container, preferably something with a spout. Add the lemon juice and let cool.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium, until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Gradually incorporate the browned butter. Then add the brandy, salt, flour, cream, and vanilla and mix just until combined. If the custard starts to look grainy at any point, that's fine. Use immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Makes about 585 g.


  1. How fun! I've always wanted to make puff pastry. In fact, that they might be the best thing you've made all year is even more of a nudge. (You were the one who got me into baking bread using starter, and I thank you for that.) P.s. they look really, really impressive Katie.

    1. Thanks, Emily! Making the puff pastry dough was not as harrowing as I thought it might be (making croissants a couple of winters ago did not go as smoothly). I think you really just need to keep a cool head. My dough definitely did tear as I was making turns, and some butter definitely leaked out, so it was by no means perfect, but I didn't freak out. I just threw down more flour and proceeded with a gentler and more deliberate hand (when working with dough that needs to stay cold, I think my tendency is to try to work too quickly). And proper puff pastry warm from the oven! It's worth it.

  2. Ah this is so cool. Blogs do come in handy in terms of connecting us to a lot of like-minded people. You deserve this type of a goldmine-opportunity though - I think you most churn out the most professional sweets from non-professional oven in Chicago-Midwest- maybe even the USA! Haha.

    I agree with Emily, saying these were the best things you've baked all year really made me stop for a second. I just can't believe that you only saved two for yourself and Octavian. You're a good friend.

    1. Aw, thanks, Amy. I don't think that could possibly be true (the pastry thing, I mean)...but I'll take it!

  3. This is really amazing; I've been wanting to try my hand at puff pastry for a long time, but somehow it hasn't happened yet. However, this might be the thing that finally pushes me over the edge! How great that you got to work with Sandra; I haven't been to Chicago for years now, but when I make it there again (and, given a job opportunity my boyfriend has been offered, it might be sooner rather than later!), I definitely plan on stopping by Floriole.

    Also, I'm intrigued by this brown butter custard. I recently tried Brown Butter Ice Cream at a shop in SF and I imagine that custard would be just as good--maybe even better, especially encased in a buttery shell with fruit.

    1. Let me know if you'd like some other eating recommendations! I don't do that much eating out these days, but I've got a few favourites that I like to direct people to.

      The brown-butter custard plays a supporting role in the galettes, but on its own (I tasted a spoonful of it raw, which is probably not advisable, given the raw eggs), it's nutty and sweet with a bit of a zing from the lemon juice. I'm not sure how else to put it use yet...

  4. katie - those are the most beautiful tarts I've ever seen. I am so impressed that you took the time to make the pastry by hand, and although I don't know if I could swing it, I can imagine how satisfying it felt to roll out your own handmade puff pastry. Quite a feat! These tarts sing of summer, which sadly already feels long gone here in Zurich, but not to worry I'm continuing to stuff my face with all the summer fruit before that's gone too. Oh, and you're photos are wonderful.

    1. Thanks, Talley. (Nice to hear from you, by the way!)

      I'm quite proud of the handmade puff. I would do it again in a heartbeat. But luckily, I don't have to anytime soon. I still have half the dough stashed away in the freezer. I wasn't sure originally that I wanted to commit to making 2 1/2 lbs of it, but the scale makes sense to me now.

  5. Katie these are just gorgeous. I think I might have to try the easier version, since a multi-day puff pastry affair probably isn't realistic at least until my kids are school-aged! But in the meantime I can look at your photos and dream ... and turn out something similar, if not nearly as professional! Thanks so much for sharing your notes and some of what you learned through this experience - fun to live vicariously. :)

  6. These are so beautiful. I am going to riff of this recipe this evening. BUT: I leaned away from plums because I was worried they might go sour when I baked them. Is this the case with all plums, or are italian prune plums somehow different? I can't seem to find a definitive answer on the interwebs. Did they go sour when you baked them?

    1. Hm, I don't have much experience baking with other plums. Italian prune plumbs are a bit tart to begin with, but that is why people like to bake with them--they have better flavour than other plums when baked. In fact, they taste better that way than just eating them out of hand.