On my way home from work, I pass by a little shop, a grocery where they sell fresh fruits and vegetables from a farm in Werder. The produce is seasonal, and there’s no telling what they’ll have from one day to the next. They’re always friendly, throwing in extra tomatoes when the batch is about to bruise or adding a lonely apple to your order of plums. The fruit is weighed and wrapped up in brown paper bags, and the price rounded down with a wink. It’s all very quaint, somehow, and odd in today’s Berlin landscape where the grocery store is efficiently impersonal and the weekend markets are luxuriously hip.
This ugly, un-hip nook nestled on one of Berlin’s less remarkable streets feels like a remnant of another time, when you knew your neighborhood grocers and special requests were run of the mill. It feels like an impossible venture.
A few nights ago, on our way home from work, Ellen and I picked up pumpkins we’d special-ordered. We’ve gone into a bit of a Halloween craze at work, planning a costume party, figuring out where to buy candy corn, ordering dry ice for spooky cocktails… and buying all the pumpkins, of course, to carve, cook, eat, and decorate. And while our office has been pleasantly orange-hued for some time, we hadn’t had a chance to take the Halloween home.
As we waited for the grocer to get our pumpkins from the back of the shop, I noticed a box of figs, plump and just soft, skin purplish-black and velvety. He sold them to me for a song.
Tell me a better way to spend your Saturday afternoon than sitting in the kitchen carving a pumpkin, drinking chilled prosecco, and baking a fig galette, and I will pack up my bags and move to Antarctica to eat only the slowly melting polar ice caps. Would it help to mention that there were pumpkin seed roasting in oil and salt in the oven or that the tree outside the window was putting on its best orange and gold show?
I’ve never cared much about dressing up, but what I do love about Halloween is the pumpkin-carving part, slicing garish, ghoulish faces into the orange rind and watching the flickering candle cast shadows. And even better, I love shavings of pumpkin flesh, perfect for pies and soups, spicy curries and pasta sauces.
Carving pumpkins always puts me in a homey mood. I feel like flouring up an apron or sorting through the spices. So baking a fig galette seemed like a natural extension.
Figs are truly beautiful fruit, sensual and heavy and not too sweet. They taste ancient, Medieval, biblical – as if they should only ever be sliced open on black velvet. They’re perfect fall fruit, a reminder that the height of sticky-sweet summer is gone and the time for more somber flavors has arrived.
The process of putting together a fig galette is anything but somber, however, especially when you’re simultaneously carving up some pumpkins and drinking bubbly. But it is still beautiful. The colors are vibrant, a fall palette: Ruby-toned figs and forest-green rosemary, marbled-pink prosciutto and amber honey swirled into snow-white mascarpone and goat cheese. Coming out of the oven, the galette pastry is golden, and the cheeses bubble up beneath just-wilted figs.
Dimming evening brought the hungry up our many flights of stairs. David home from his Saturday errands, my brother and his visiting friend lured by the promise of a hot fig galette.
In a way, spending your Saturday afternoon carving a pumpkin and baking is neither hip nor impersonal. A little like my grocery shop, it’s old-fashioned, traditional, comforting, brimming with nostalgia, and deeply satisfying.
Savory Fig and Rosemary Galette
Once you’ve got the galette crust recipe down, it’s incredibly easy to vary the toppings. Like pizza, anything goes.
For the crust:
2 sticks cold unsalted butter
2 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
½ cup ice water
For the topping:
½ c goat cheese + ¼ c goat cheese
½ c mascarpone
2 tsp. olive oil + extra for drizzling
1 tsp. honey
¼ tsp. salt
6 slices prosciutto
5 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt & black pepper
To make the crust:
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add butter in small chunks, working loosely into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. You can easily do this in a food processor, but if you, like me, don’t have a food processor, it’s easy enough to do by hand. The trick is to lightly rub the butter and flour between your fingertips with about as much pressure as you’d use to make the money gesture with your hands when you’re reminding someone they owe you. It takes a bit of time, but just remember to be gentle. The consistency should always be flour-like.
Add ice water and immediately mix it into the dough until you form an even, smooth ball. If you’re using a food processor, pulse until just incorporated, then remove from the food processor and shape. Work the dough as little as possible. Over-kneading is no bueno for pastry doughs.
Place the ball of dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Place another sheet of plastic wrap on top of it, then roll out the dough until it’s about ½-inch (1 ¼ cm) thick. Still wrapped in plastic, refrigerate for 45 minutes.
To make the topping:
In the meantime, prepare your toppings. Combine ½ cup goat cheese with mascarpone, 2 tsp. olive oil, honey, and salt. Set aside. Quarter 6 figs and set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 400º F (200º C).
When your dough has been refrigerated long enough, remove from the fridge and place on a baking sheet. Spread goat cheese mixture evenly over the dough and top with quartered figs. Shred prosciutto evenly over figs. Remove leaves from rosemary and scatter over the other toppings. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
Fold the edges of the galette in on themselves so that there’s about a 1-inch (2 ½ cm) border of dough. The center will be open.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until crust begins to brown. 10 minutes before removing the galette from the oven, dot with remaining goat cheese.