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Cheery cherries: Galettes put in-season fruit into delicious individual pies

Cherry galettes are loosely formed by hand and seasoned with cinnamon basil. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 4
Cherry galettes are loosely formed by hand and seasoned with cinnamon basil. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service2 / 4
Cherry galettes are loosely formed by hand and seasoned with cinnamon basil. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service3 / 4
Cherry galettes are loosely formed by hand and seasoned with cinnamon basil. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service4 / 4

"As I wend my way to heaven, I'll be full of cherry pie." So wrote Edgar A. Guest, a popular American poet from the first half of the 20th century, in the final line of his aptly titled poem, "Cherry Pie."

In it, Mr. Guest waxes lyrical about his loyalty to cherry pie, defiantly proclaiming, "There's no diet list I'll follow that would rule out cherry pie."

Last week, inspired by the abundance of beautiful, fresh cherries that have arrived at our local grocery stores, I set out to see if I could make my husband, Tony, as passionate about cherry pie as Mr. Guest with my newest recipe, Cherry Basil Galettes.

A galette is an individual free-form pie made with pie crust that is folded around a filling (either sweet or savory) to resemble a beggar's purse. With a bounty of fresh cherries at my fingertips, I pulled out my cherry pitter and got to work removing the pits.

Once pitted, I cut the cherries into halves. You could use them whole, but this extra step helps to ensure that all parts of the pit have been removed. To create the filling, I mixed the halved cherries with brown sugar (either light or dark), freshly squeezed lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a bit of flour or cornstarch to thicken the juices.

I could have stopped there, but I decided to add some fresh cinnamon basil from our garden just to make it more interesting. Any variety of basil will work, and this extra touch gave the filling just the boost it needed to take it from ordinary to amazing.

I love to make shortcrust pastry dough, or pâte brisée in French, which is the standard for making pie crust. Shortcrust dough uses a combination of two parts flour to one part fat (butter, shortening or lard), which results in an ultra-flaky crust that is so simple to make even novice bakers can achieve success on their first try.

In this recipe, the butter and flour are bound together with water. Cold is king when making pie dough, and I place my butter and water in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before making the crust. This helps keep the fat from breaking down as the dough is formed and works to create those pockets of steam during baking that are essential to a flaky crust.

You can mix the dough with your fingertips, a fork or a pastry cutter, but I prefer to use my food processor as it works quickly and prevents my body heat from warming up the butter.

Before baking, I give the galettes an added touch of cold by placing the tray in the freezer for about 15 to 30 minutes, or even longer. They freeze beautifully for several months, either baked or unbaked, and can go straight from the freezer to the oven.

Tony is a very healthy eater and it isn't often that he'll swoon over a baked good, much less write a poem about it. But he gobbled up my galettes and even sent me several texts thanking me for making them. May we all be full of cherry pie as we wend our way to heaven.

Cherry Basil Galettes

Makes: 8 galettes

For the filling:

4 cups cherries, pitted and halved (about 1.5 pounds)

2 teaspoons fresh basil, finely chopped (save ½ teaspoon to garnish pastry crust)

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons flour or cornstarch

Directions:

In a medium bowl, add all ingredients (saving ½ teaspoon basil for garnish) and stir until combined.

For the crust:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt (I prefer finely ground sea salt for better flavor)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled

¼ to ½ cup ice water

Egg wash:

In a small bowl, beat together:

1 egg

1 to 2 tablespoons water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chill cut butter in freezer for 15 to 20 minutes.

In a food processor, mix the flour, sugar and salt together until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the butter and pulse 15-20 times until the mixture appears coarsely ground. Add the water slowly through the feed tube, starting with ¼ cup, and then by the tablespoon, until the dough just holds together when pinched between 2 fingers.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and form into a ball. Divide the ball in half and form each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 2 days, before using. Dough may be frozen for up to 2 months.

To form the galettes:

Divide each disk of dough into quarters, gently patting each into rounds. Lightly flour your work surface and roll each small disk out to a circle approximately 6-7 inches in diameter, then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Spoon a heaping portion of the cherry filling (about 1/3 cup) onto the center of each pastry round, leaving a 2-inch border.

Gently fold the sides of the pastry up and inward, pinching together accordion-style. Brush the crust of each galette with the egg wash and sprinkle with more sugar if desired, then add a light sprinkling of the chopped basil. Refrigerate galettes for 20 minutes before baking for best results.

Bake in a 425-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is golden brown and cherry juice is just starting to bubble. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack until ready to serve. Serve with a dollop of ice cream, or as a breakfast pastry.

To store:

Store galettes wrapped tightly in tin foil or in a metal/tin container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in refrigerator the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To freeze galettes:

Place baking sheet with unbaked galettes in freezer for an hour; then, individually wrap each galette in plastic, transfer to a freezer bag or airtight container, label with date and freeze for up to 1 month. For even baking, thaw slightly (about 15 minutes) and increase baking time by 3 to 5 minutes if needed.

To freeze pastry dough:

Wrap each pastry disk in plastic, transfer to a freezer bag, label with date and freeze for up to 2 months.

Sarah's Tips:

• To achieve the best crust, use very cold butter and water and avoid mixing or handling the dough too much.

• Galettes are best stored in a metal tin or aluminum foil, as plastic will soften the pastry crust.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 13-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

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