3: The Little Paris Kitchen — Galettes
It’s round 3 and I refuse to bake… but I haven’t quite sworn off my stovetop, so let’s tango.
Now before we start, let’s clear something up about galettes. In recent years, the term galette has come to describe a rustic pie made on a baking sheet. That’s not what I’m talking about. (BECAUSE THAT WOULD REQUIRE THE OVEN.) I’m talking about buckwheat crêpes: crêpes de blé noir, crêpes de sarrasin, galettes Bretonnes.
The Assignment: Galettes from The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple but Classic French Recipes by Rachel Khoo
Rachel Khoo is an adorable British cook, writer, and TV personality who wrote this book while apparently living my best francophile life in Paris. These days, it appears she’s posted up in Stockholm, and accordingly is releasing a new book, The Little Swedish Kitchen, which appears to be set for a September release in the US.
I don’t have a ton of familiarity with her work, but I know that this book caught my attention for a) its appeal to my aforementioned francophilia, b) the fact that the recipes are smart and aspirational while still being totally attainable, and c) her whole aesthetic is total Dana catnip. This is the kind of professional I look at and pine “Now why can’t I just do that? Be arty and creative and go to culinary school and host TV shows and be fun and skillful and gorgeous and–” *looks around her grubby San Fernando Valley apartment where she’s writing in bed, drinking cold brew concentrate in her underwear* “… Ah, that’s why.”
The Recipe (directly from the book, which you should buy):
I swore to myself that I would keep it simple, and so I did. I went with galettes over crêpes because I’ve made crêpes before, though not in years, and I’ve never worked with buckwheat flour. And considering an ever-increasing fraction of my friend group is going gluten-free, getting comfy with buckwheat flour wasn’t a bad idea. (What can I say? I’m a feeder.)
The other fun thing about choosing a recipe like this is that I get to improvise a bit with the toppings. Since there are no set instructions to top the things, just a list of suggestions on the next page, I got to mess around and do whatever the hell I want, i.e. the way I usually cook.
I decided to make both savory and sweet options. Traditionally, galettes are mostly done with savory toppers, but it’s it’s my party, I can do what I want, this is my house, these are my rules and oh my god I can’t stop.
Sweet: My favorite thing to put on crêpes is a simple combo of lemon juice and powdered sugar. It’s just kind of perfect. If I didn’t try it with these, I’d be thinking about it and wishing I had.
Savory: Here’s where I got a little wilder. Smoked salmon and goat cheese were the items I knew I needed, and from there, I added cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and capers. Very yum.
I snagged the Pastrami Smoked Salmon from Trader Joe’s, by the way, and DAMN, I’m glad I did. Not only is it one of the less expensive smoked salmon options there, but the flavor is pretty spectacular. I love me some flavorful deli meat, so this was singing the song of my taste buds pretty loudly.
I also had Nutella on hand, in case everything went to shit and I needed to cover my sins in sweet choco-hazelnut comfort. It ended up being essential for dipping the busted pieces of my first few messed-up galettes as I continued to make prettier and prettier attempts.
I also tried my hand at taking nice pictures of my food. And while it’s a work in progress, my biggest takeaway is “Dude, quit fucking around and just go where the natural lighting is.”
Things to Note About the Recipe:
Any time a recipe is leery about a direction, I tend to get over-cautious. For example, the cupcake recipe I made in Post 1 warned not to overmix, and I ended up with some dry bits that didn’t break up completely. (Also, Dana, get a sifter already.) This recipe warned not only to overmix BUT also to only add as much water as needed to get the batter to the consistency of heavy cream.
As if I had heavy cream on had to reference in this moment!
I tried to see heavy cream in my mind palace, how it moves, and what consistency I needed… and I think I gave it too much thickness credit (which makes no real sense, but you know what the hell I mean), and stopped shy of adding as much water as I may have needed. As a result, the galettes turned out a bit thicker than they probably should have, but for a first attempt, it wasn’t too shabby.
So my big recommendation here is to be ready to tweak things on the fly. The recipe says that the first one always comes out a little wrong (AND IT DOES), but really, the first few you make, if you’ve never played with this batter before, are gonna be your lab rats. (Gross, wait, don’t think of galettes as rats.) Pay attention to how they’re cooking up; if they take a long time and aren’t getting the lacy dimples on the underside, then chances are your heat is a bit too low. If the batter just isn’t spreading easily in the pan, add a bit more water to the bowl until it loosens a bit more. (I should have done this, but hindsight, 20/20, blah blah blah.) If you taste your busted test galettes and they could use a bit more salt, don’t be shy — fucking add it. (Another thing I wish I’d done.) THAT’S YOUR FOOD. Make sure it tastes good to you.
Also, this batter is a nearly unlovable shade of concrete mud grey-brown, and you just kind of have to come to terms with it.
Also also, I tried flipping crêpes with some of the screwed-up initial galettes, a.k.a. the Island of Bullshit Crêpes. It went… not bad!
How did they taste? Plain? I mean, they tasted like buckwheat flour; that’s mostly what they are. But galettes are more about texture and being a base and blank slate for other items, in in that regard, this recipe was totally successful. I have some playing around to do in order to really get the feel for it, but this was a heartening first attempt (unlike some my previous adventure).
Would I make this again? Hell yes. HELL yes. I love crêpes, but I also love sneaking a bit of nutrition into the foods I love, and this is a terrific and simple way to do that. Plus, the fact that literally all you need are buckwheat flour, water, salt, and time to make the batter is pretty rad. Looking forward to perfecting this one.
Do I recommend this cookbook? Totally. It’s lovely, logical, and makes me want to step up my life without also making me feel like a total dumdum.
What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book? Probably the gougères (a.k.a. cheese puffs); I’ve been wanting to attempt gougères for years, and maybe I’ll finally get it together and make them. You know, once me and my oven are on speaking terms again.
And that’s another one down! I just enjoyed some of my leftovers as I waited for photos to upload (why is my wifi the worst?) and though I stored them really stupidly (learning curve!), it all still tasted great.
The book’s been flipped; another one done. And lest you think I’m making really speedy progress, there’s a whole other shelf unpictured with unflipped books, so I have plenty left to go.
Having taken and easy week, I may be ready to get a bit more ambitious again next time round. But I also am feeling the need to make something more substantial, like an actual damn meal. Hmmmm, we’ll see. Until then…