If you tune into the BG regularly, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot from me about cardamom over the next few weeks. I pretty much think it’s the next best thing to tossing off your bra at the end of the day.
Cardamom is so, so good! Native to India, cardamom’s unique warm and aromatic flavor works both in savory dishes such as Indian dal and Vietnamese pho, and in sweet dishes such as Sweden’s sweet rolls called kardamummabullar. And it brightens up all kinds of fruits, including bananas, pears and apricots, as well as holiday fruits and veggies, such as pumpkin, cranberry and figs. And it’s an especially delightful addition to Finger Lakes Black Currant Jam, available here at Locavore.
But today we’re going to highlight the beautiful pairing of cardamom and another fall fruit: apples. In celebration of our business partner James’s 40th birthday, I decided to make an apple galette. A galette is basically a flat pie: instead of baking the pie in a dish, you roll the dough flat and then fold the edges over the fruit. I think of a galette as the lazy baker’s pie, since you don’t have to fuss with trimming or shaping the crust around the pie dish. I’ll totally cop to being lazy, so the galette works for me.
At any rate, I based my recipe on this apple-pear galette from the New York Times, but took some liberties with the spice mix for my apples, since I wanted to foreground the cardamom as well as Locavore’s grains of paradise, a West African spice that belongs to the ginger family. During the spice trade along the historic Silk Road, grains of paradise were often substituted for black pepper because black pepper was more expensive, and grains of paradise provides a similar peppery heat to dishes. But strangely, the grains, which have a woodsy, bergamot-like flavor prior to their heat, pair remarkably well with fruit, including apples, and with cardamom. So I decided that I’d experiment with these spices in my galette.
I first prepared the dough, using a mixture of white and wheat flour and a quantity of butter that would make Julia Child proud. I was excited to season it with Syracuse Salt Company’s lovely Lavender Sea Salt. This salt imparts a delicate hint of lavender that’s lovely in pastries and baked goods, and I wanted to see if it might lighten the heaviness of the wheat flour. Once the dough was mixed in the food processor, I formed it into a ball and chilled it in the fridge for an hour or two.
I then turned to the fruit. The original recipe calls for apples and pears, but I omitted the pears and opted to try several varieties of apples instead. I chose four kinds: Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Honey Crisp, and Empire (not pictured here because I sliced it before remembering to take a photo!). I really liked the combination of flavors this mixture offered. The sweeter varieties balanced out the tartness of the Granny Smith.
I peeled the apples and tossed them with fresh lemon juice. I then sliced them thinly and as uniformly as possible, so that they would cook evenly and look nice on the galette.
I was then ready to experiment with my spices. I was unsure of the ratio of cardamom and grains of paradise to cinnamon and nutmeg. Cardamom is delightful, but too much of it can make a dish unpleasant. And some eaters might not appreciate the heat from the grains of paradise. So I grated half a stick of Saigon cinnamon and some fresh nutmeg.
And I decided that I would try a test bowl of apple slices, sprinkled with a tiny pinch of nutmeg, cardamom, and grains of paradise to a larger pinch of cinnamon.
It was very tasty. The cardamom complimented the other spices without overpowering them, and the grains of paradise did not add any noticeable heat, but did seem to make the flavors more complex. Ultimately, I used a teaspoon of cinnamon to about 1/8 teaspoon each of nutmeg, cardamom, and grains of paradise, plus about one-third cup of dark brown sugar.
Satisfied with the blend of spices and apples, I was then ready to roll out the dough. I could still see big specks of butter in the dough, and I was a little worried that it would crumble apart instead of sticking properly. But I floured a sheet of parchment paper along with my rolling pin, and began rolling away!
The edges cracked more than I wanted, but the dough was reasonably easy to work with. I rolled it to about a twelve-inch circle, probably 3/8 of an inch thick.
Next, I arranged the apple slices in a concentric pattern, being sure to leave an inch or inch and a half border around the edge. Once the apples were in place, I used the parchment paper to lift up the edges of the dough to fold over the apples like so:
I brushed the crust with an egg wash, sprinkled a little turbinado sugar over the edges, and then added a couple more dashes of grains of paradise to the apples. I baked the galette at 425 degrees, though I used my oven’s convection feature (which I should write about one of these days), and I think it took about 50 minutes to bake to golden-brown perfection:
We took the galette to James’s party at the Cracker Factory, and it was devoured in short order. The spices were nice, though obviously not a traditional flavoring for an apple pie. The grains of paradise did not taste weird or hot, and the overall flavor of the spices was complex. I did not notice a significant hint of lavender from the salt in the crust; it also was understated and nice. All in all, this galette was a winner. Here’s my recipe (a PDF is also downloadable below):
Cardamom Apple Galette
1 c. flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 T. sugar
1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 t. Syracuse Salt Company Lavender Sea Salt
4. T. ice water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 t. turbinado sugar or sanding sugar
4 mixed apples, peeled and thinly sliced (Empire, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, & Honeycrisp worked very nicely together)
2 T. freshly juiced lemon
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/8 t. freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 t. ground cardamom
1/8 t. freshly ground grains of paradise
1 T. cornstarch (I used cornstarch but didn’t notice an obvious thickening of the juices)
1/3 c. dark brown sugar, packed
2 T. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Step 1: Make the dough.
Place the flours, sugar and lavender salt into the bowl of a food processor and combine. Add the butter and pulse until mixture is sand-like in texture and appearance. Add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, and pulse until combined. Turn mixture onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and form into a ball, using the plastic to do so. Chill for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
Step 2: Make the filling.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, blend the sliced apples with the spices, brown sugar, and cornstarch. Set aside.
Step 3: Assemble the galette.
Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and turn onto a large sheet of parchment paper that’s been lightly dusted with flour. Dust your rolling pin with flour, then roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, with the dough about 1/4 or 3/8 of an inch thick. The dough may crack around the edges, but it will be okay because you’ll be folding the edge up around the fruit.
Leaving a one-and-one-half inch border at the edge of the galette, begin arranging the apple slices on the pastry. Begin at the outer edge, and work your way toward the center, so that the last slices form a peak in the center. After you lay the outer circle of apples down, you can fill in the center as needed with apple slices, since it won’t show in the end. Then lay the next layer of apples over the first, and so on, until you reach the center.
Once the apples are in place, use the parchment paper to lift the edges of the dough and fold over the apple slices. Brush the exposed edge of the galette with the beaten egg, then sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the dough. Using the parchment paper, gently lift the galette onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until galette is golden brown and the apples are cooked. Serve warm by itself or with cinnamon ice cream.