My Dad loved peaches. Whether it was Mom’s crumb-topped fresh peach pie or a Tastykake lunchbox pie, if it was peach he never complained. He was especially fond of peach ice cream and, if it was on the list of flavors available at any road-side ice cream drive-in we encountered on our Sunday afternoon drives through The Coal Region, it was guaranteed that is what he ordered.
Luscious, juicy peaches were plentiful in Schuylkill County with stands at farmers’ markets and alongside country back roads brimming with them in baskets of all sizes. Needless to say, we ate a lot of peaches in my household with Mom making several peach pies every season.
I shared Pop’s love of peaches and was spoiled with the ability to enjoy them at will during peach season in The Coal Region. I was in for a huge let-down in the years my husband James and I spent in New Hampshire. Our neck of the woods was not known for the availability of good peaches. Quite often, the ability to get any of the fruit was limited to some that would show up in local grocery stores. Inevitably, these would be rock hard, rot inside before ripening enough to eat, or be dry and mealy. But once in a blue moon, i got lucky.
During a shopping expedition to a warehouse store one summer, i came across a display of peaches. Nestled in large, flat boxes, the fruit was picture perfect. I leaned in and inhaled the sweet, intense scent of ripe peaches. Still thinking, “I’ve been disappointed so many times here…”, I glanced up at the price tag. That sealed the deal, the price was so reasonable, I decided to take a chance. I loaded the box in my cart. Tucked safely in the trunk of my car, the entire vehicle smelled like a peach orchard on a sultry summer day as I arrived home.
Later that evening, as I bit into one of the peaches, it became immediately apparent I’d hit the jackpot. Quickly grabbing a sheet of paper towel, I swiped at the juices that ran down my wrist. The flesh of the fruit was perfection, the sweetness was like honey. And because my husband, James, did not care for peaches, I’d have these lovelies all to myself!
Then right at that very moment it hit me — every peach in that big box was at peak ripeness. I could hold them a little while in the refrigerator while I tried to work my way through them, but the reality was “use them or lose them”. As I pondered the situation, my memories took me back to Mom in our cramped Coal Region home’s kitchen, rolling out pie dough on the chrome and Formica kitchen table while Nana stood at the sink peeling peaches.
Of course! A fresh peach pie would be the perfect way to put the excess peaches to good use. Now, many years back, I realized that, while I had inherited my Pop’s love for anything “peach”, I did not inherit my Mom’s ability to whip up the world’s ,most amazing from-scratch pie crust. Making pie crusts is my Achilles heel and I looked at the task as something to be done only when absolutely necessary. Because of that, I had given myself permission to use refrigerated pie crusts and bear no stigma about it. James loved sweets and baked goods, so I kept some of the refrigerated crusts around all the time for spur of the moment baking. Peach pie it would be.
I pulled a crust from the fridge, sat it on the counter to warm up, reached into the pantry cabinet to get my one and only pie plate — a beautiful ceramic one I’d had for years — and promptly dropped it. I watched horrified as it somersaulted from the height of the top shelf onto the floor where it hit with a resounding crack and smashed into a dozen pieces.
Deciding it was a good time to take a break, I plopped down in the recliner and flicked on the TV. Frustrated at the day’s turn of events, my attention was not on the show flickering on the screen until I just happened to look up and something caught my eye. The cook was making a galette. A free-form “pie”, it consisted of a circle of pastry on a baking sheet on which she piled fresh fruit, turned up the outer edges of the dough, and slipped it into the oven to bake. “Oh, my goodness”, I thought. “Where has this been all my life?”
It was then the galette became a part of my repertoire in my Coalcracker Kitchen. The first was this peach galette with those stellar peaches I stumbled upon, but over the years I’ve made all kinds of varieties, including savory versions topped with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and caramelized onions.
Turns out a galette, by definition, is a French classic pastry that is simply a flat, round cake made of pastry dough or bread. Although the pastry often takes the form of a sweet, open-faced tart laden with fruit or chocolate, there are endless savory combinations that can turn a galette into a main course.
Use whatever pie crust you want, whether your favorite from scratch recipe, a boxed crust mix, or a refrigerated ready-to-use version. If making your own crust, an all-butter version is delicious in a galette. Galettes are tasty made with a wide variety of fresh fruits. These days, with my severe limitations from Rheumatoid Arthritis, I truly appreciate the rustic simplicity and ease of preparation of the classic galette.
Peach GaletteCourse: DessertCuisine: General, FrenchDifficulty: Easy
Single crust pastry, refrigerated or your favorite recipe (all butter crust works well)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour or tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 to 8 fully ripe peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/4 -inch-thick wedges
- Egg wash
1 egg well beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
Several pinches granulated or turbinado sugar
- If using refrigerated crust, allow to come to room temperature before unrolling. If using your favorite pie crust recipe, chill dough thoroughly before rolling.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, the flour, and the cinnamon, mixing well. Place the peaches in a bowl, sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top, and toss gently. If the peaches are tart, you may need to add more sugar.
- Lay a large sheet of parchment paper on a work surface and dust the parchment with flour. Place the dough or refrigerated crust on the floured parchment and roll it into a round about 11 inches in diameter. Slide the pastry along with the parchment to a shallow-sided baking sheet large enough to hold the pastry round flat.
- Starting 1 to 1 1/2 inches from the edge of the round, arrange the peach wedges in a single layer in concentric circles, continuing until you reach the center. Fold the outer edges of the pastry up over the peaches, fold in pleats as you work around the edge. If the peaches are very juicy, leave extra juice in the bowl to prevent overflow when baking. Brush the pastry border with the egg wash then sprinkle lightly with sugar.
- Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. If browning too quickly, lay a piece of aluminum foil lightly over the top to help cover edges.
- Let the galette cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack. Cut into wedges to serve.