Ethno·Gastronomy

Cooking food & culture.

Fig & Honey Cream Galette

Fig & Honey Cream Galette
Fig & Honey Cream Galette

California, where figs grow wild early in the summer and I find myself with two baskets of calimyrna figs. Golden yellow and slightly larger than black mission figs. The ‘custard’ in calimyrnas slightly more set than that in other varieties -with crunchy, nutty seeds. The watermelon of figs.

Cory Schreiber, Wildwood founder and James Beard winner was my culinary mentor and taught me how to make this tart. He was the instructor of my very first class in culinary school. From cleaning squid, to making pasta by hand and dressing salad properly with my hands.

He taught me to trust myself. He gave me the job of cooking Hors d’oeuvre that represented him as the Best Chef Pacific Northwest, at the James Beard Awards Ceremony.

House Spirits Aquavit Oregon Smoked Salmon, Caraway Cracker, Caramelized Walla Walla, Crème Fraîche.

One day after class, he gave me his most recent cookbook: Rustic Fruit Desserts. Following the recipes and reading the instructions in almost-dialogue-style, was just like cooking by his side. A step back to the basic simplicity of food and eating. His approach to food and cooking is familiar and common, no numbers or bullet points, because food isn’t supposed to be exact. Because you know the figs you got from the neighbors’ tree are at the prime of the season and that’s what you need to know.

I used Oregon’s Boyco Foods Buckwheat Honey in the Pastry Cream to add more of a robust flavor to the calimyrna figs, but you can also let them shine -and embrace California- with a light honey.

Fig & Honey Cream Galette 
Recipe from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson.

Serves 6 to 8 / Baking time: 50 to 60 minutes

Ingredients

1 Recipe Galette Dough
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter
3 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Honey Pastry Cream
Seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
3/4 cup half-and-half
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 to 10 large figs, stemmed and quartered
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Creme fraiche, for serving.

            – Galette Crust (makes one 10-inch)

Put the flour, sugar, and slat into a bowl, stir to combine, then put the bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes, until super cold.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, then add it to the flour mixture and toss until each cube of butter is coated with the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender, food processor, electric mixer, or your hands, just until the ingredients become coarse and crumbly and the butter is slightly smaller than a pea.

Stir the water and lemon juice together, then drizzle over the dough, tossing with a fork to distribute the liquid. The pastry will be shaggy but should hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand; if not, add an additional teaspoon or two of ice water.

Dump the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface and press down on the dough, folding it over on itself a few times until it holds together. Try not to handle it too much or it will get warm and may become over developed. Flatten the pastry out into a disk approximately 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

[Storage: If wrapped well, the disk will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator, or up to 3 months in the freezer. Defrost the frozen dough in the refrigerator over night.]

          – Honey Pastry Cream –

To make the pastry cream, put the vanilla bean seeds into a sauce pan. Add the half-and-half and vanilla bean pod and cook over medium heat until hot, but not boiling. Separately, whisk the egg yolks, honey, sugar, and salt together in a bowl and continue whisking until slightly thickened and lighter in color. Add the cornstarch and whisk until combined. Slowly pour half of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, stirring constantly until well blended. Pour the yolk mixture back into the sauce pan and cook over medium heat, until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, then whisk in the butter. Discard the vanilla bean pod. Stir occasionally until cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease it generously with cooking spray. Roll the dough into a 13-to 14-inch circle, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. It should overhang the sheet a bit.

Spread the cooled pastry cream over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge. Arrange the fig quarters in a circular pattern, skin side down and stem end facing into the center, again leaving a 2-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle the sugar over the figs. Fold the outer edge of the dough over the outermost figs, pleating the dough as necessary. Put the galette in the refrigerator for 1 hour to chill and relax the dough.

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake the galette in the bottom third of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes before serving, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Storage: Covered with a tea towel, this galette will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Fig & Honey Cream Galette
Photos by Javier Cabral theglutster.com

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Finding roots in L.A.

Portland waterfront seagull
A seagull overlooking the waterfront in Portland, ORE

Los Angeles. The air is dry, I am greeted by the warmth of the sun that is a landmark here. The perfect weather that takes time to get used to. I’m from Puerto Vallarta, México, so you’d think I’d be used to the easiness of the 80-degree life. But having lived in Portland, ORE for the past four and a half years, in the city where it rains nine months out of the year, the city that holds a steady temperature of 55 degrees and gray skies as landmarks, taught me different.

Portland weather sucks. You need four coats to step outside your house, rain boots, or even worse: the hideous hiking boots. You need the guts to resist carrying an umbrella, because it will make you look like a tourist and because it will flip backwards anyway, but it’s just so wet and windy you can’t help it. Warmth is neither found at a closed-space nor found wearing a Patagonia raincoat. One of those water-repellant, goose feather ones that weigh more than your winter blues.

In Portland, the warmth is in the frigid, wet and windy. The unique life that the city and its people slowly lure you into. You know, the community of the apparel designer who is an aerial dancer and shows you how to stretch every bit of you during math tutoring. The chef that brings you fresh goat’s milk from his next door neighbor. The girl that knits socks made out of local woven wool. The new yorker who suddenly became friendly since moving to Portland. The man at the farmers market that sells twenty-something varieties of raw honey, from bees that he knows better than his children.
Raw honey
Boyco Foods honey at Portland Farmers Market

Portland was home.

But I knew, that if I didn’t move now I’d never leave, and I’d be stuck forever with, sigh… my lovely friends, the awesome food carts, the fareless square that saved me money for kitchen knives, the farmers market that I attended religiously, the awesome food research job, etc.
Taste test, sensory testing, Paola Briseño
Hamachi sashimi taste test at Food Innovation Center

So, I moved to Los Angeles in January. With dreams of finding a fulfilling career, hoping that the barista making my espresso in this city doesn’t have more credentials than me or wants the same job I want (this is a true case). A city where I can use my Design research skills in the very tiny niche of cultural and food research studies. A city where I don’t have to spell my name 13 times a day. All of that brought me here, along with the yearning for cultural diversity that the “whitest” state in the country (that being, Oregon) couldn’t offer. I wanted to be in a city where Sundubu jjigae is as widely available as bacon-smothered-whatever is in Portland. And yes, there was a bit of heart involved, when this issue of Saveur that came with my first subscription to the magazine arrived in the mailbox of my downtown apartment, the writer stole my heart with each one of his crafted heart-stealing 1,300 words.

The transition from Portland to L.A. has been one of culture shock as much as weather shock and DRIVING shock. L.A. is so spread out, for someone used to 15-minute distances this city can be intimidating. I seriously doubted that there would be a community out there where people shared some of my same values and principles. But, just when I thought that Los Angeles and I had little or nothing in common: I found my roots through food.

The beautiful salmon shabu shabu at Shaab in Pasadena. The Indian buffet where customers are greeted with garlic flat bread still rising hot from the oven. The Jalisco-style, shrimp crispy tacos in East L.A. smothered with a bright tomato salsa, topped with avocado slices and handfuls of coleslaw. The local cafe Market on Holly that brews Portland’s own Stumptown coffee, a place that actually has power outlets for you to work, unlike many others places that provide a product, but that lack an experience and a service. The green grocer, Cookbook that showcases handpicked local foods from a 200-mile radius. The Pasadena Food Swap I attended, where my handmade food was as valuable as dollars and credit cards, and where people traveled from the other side of the city to trade their honey-ricotta cheese for homemade conched, tempered chocolate.

These people want to make a living following their passion, without compromising their values. Others like me, hoping to find a community to share the love for food, for handcrafted artifacts and homemade foodstuffs that create emotional connections between people, that create community. Even if it means starting a blog, writing in what is my second language, gracias. All for the quest of identity in a city that I might have more in common than what I originally thought.

Salmon shabu shabu
Salmon shabu shabu, miso paste at Shaab in Pasadena, CA