But it really doesn't matter
If the skies are gray.
Long as I can be with you, it's a lovely day.
- Irving Berlin
Ooooh middle of July and I feel as if I am in a dream – a bad dream. The rain once again spatters against the windowpanes and the chill wind whips our hair around our faces as we push our way down the street. Our brief affair with summer has quickly turned sour and we are back to the drawing board. It feels like autumn and a lousy one at that. We pull on a jacket over our sweater, socks and boots, grab the umbrella and head out to run errands: the bookstore and the Mac store, Bat Pile for batteries and a swing through the market for provisions. Our salad diet has gone bust as it certainly works best in hot weather. We have sunk back into bad habits, cooking meals best adapted to cooler weather: tagines, stews, veal chops in creamy sauces, couscous, Asian soups, all those wonderful rich dishes that fill and warm from the inside out. And the waistline threatens to expand back to winter proportions, as we are tempted to return to that comforting seasonal hibernation. Where has summer gone to?
I sit back and watch the rain and memories rush through my mind. Sunny Italy, gorgeous weather, yet when the rain fell in Milan it fell hard like so many thousands and millions of cats and dogs, rushing down upon us with a fury long and deep. The streets would begin to fill with water at an astonishing pace. If we were ever so lucky to be inside and able to prepare, we would slip on the rubber boots, but more often than not we would be caught unawares and find ourselves, one mother and two young sons, sloshing knee deep home from school. Yet I had lived through Florida’s torrential storms, year after year, summer after summer, so, like it or not, I was prepared for the worst and faced it all with a certain resigned determination. I had learned to read the skies, listen for the low, faint rumble off in the distance, moving closer, menacing. I learned to sense the change in the air, ever so tenuous, the slight shift in temperature and how the wind felt on my cheek. I became versed in reading the signs, understanding when to retreat into the safety of my home, my bedroom before the sky turned that astonishing and unnatural shade of black, before the first loud * crack * of lightening whistled in the space around my body, and the * boom * of thunder reverberated, the vibrations rushing up through every muscle. Unlike the driving misery of the Italian rain, a Florida downpour was quick and sharp, arriving precisely at three every afternoon and leaving just as quickly, rushing off impatiently, sweeping across the state’s great empty swathes of land. One left you damp and chilly inside and out, clothes clinging, leaving behind her a wretched discomfort. There was something electrifying and enthralling about the other, the rain of my childhood. The enveloping darkness and the sizzle in the air was almost galvanizing, and although expected every single summer day it still startled and astonished, leaving me in awe at the force of nature.
And then it was over, the sun pushing through the blackness, her fingers licking at the sidewalks, the wet melting into an angry hiss, curls of steam rising from the pavement and the black tar of the road, the air thick and heavy against the skin. It was an oppressive mugginess that reigned for a brief time, yet the summer Florida sun was too strong and in a matter of minutes all was back to normal. We burst out of our hiding places as only children can, running back into the street to pick up our games where we had left off.
Yet this rain we have been having lately is cold and damp, seeping in under the windows, reaching us no matter where we hide. Rain, incessant, interminable, never-ending rain. No warm summer shower this; we stare dismally out at the iron sky, the drab, joyless city and the sheets of water pelting down mercilessly, endlessly, day after day. Oh, summer teases; the occasional beautiful day arrives, a shiver of sunlight and a soft warm breeze surprise us as the gloom of the morning lifts and our hopes rise. We dress and hurry outside knowing by now that it won’t last long. So we take advantage of the nice weather when we can: a long romp in the woods with Marty or a dash around the hippodrome, a stroll through the city, pausing at an outdoor terrace for a cup of coffee. Before it starts all over again.
But I really love the rain. Safely inside, snug in our little love nest, surrounded by our books, our dog (albeit depressed for lack of sun and warmth with which to recharge his Boston batteries) and our work, we take refuge, a cozy, safe haven. I love the time that it affords me to read or bake to my heart’s content. And truth be told, it is my husband who is doing all of the cooking these days, pleased to spend an hour or so a day letting his imagination and creative urges run wild. He is happy to shop, though wearing his gray-weather-induced misery like an ill-fitting raincoat. Grabbing umbrella and me by the arm he heads out no matter the weather, a mission to fulfill. He happily chops, blends, stirs and seasons, letting each movement take him one step further away from the desolation beating at the walls of the building. I am thrilled when he takes over the kitchen, knowing that with absolutely no effort whatsoever, I will have a delicious meal set on the table before me. But I do it for him, knowing that the occupation releases him from the stress and depression this weather induces in someone as sensitive as he.
This leaves me the time to bake. And this rain certainly inspires me to do just that. The kitchen warm from the heat of the oven, the scent of cinnamon, the sweetness of fresh fruit, the gentle, soothing movements of kneading pure pleasure. Yesterday Mathilde came once again to spend the day in the kitchen with me. Like mother and daughter or like girlfriends catching up on the latest news, we chattered away all morning and well into the afternoon as we measured, stirred, tasted and photographed. We each selected a recipe from a favorite cookbook. I had recently purchased The Weekend Baker by my darling and talented friend Abby Dodge. I’ve been reading the cookbook for weeks now, caressing the pages, oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing over every single fabulous recipe. I want to make everything, cake, bread, cookie, pie and sweet treat, each one is better than the next. This is the ideal cookbook for someone who loves to bake as much as I do (and a great beginner’s cookbook for a passionate novice such as Mathilde): great desserts and snacks, recipes for every level and attention span (oh, some days I want to bake and am ready for something long, involved and complicated, yet other days I want something so simple and easy it is in the oven and on the plate in no time at all). I landed on this fruit Galette – no matter how lousy the weather, summer’s stone fruits are at their sweetest and their best and I can’t get enough of them. I sent JP to the market and he brought home a paper bag full of gorgeous, sweet, sugary Reine Claude plums and this is what we made.
I am sharing this with Sukaina of Sips and Spoonsfuls who is hosting the July Monthly Mingle for Meeta. Her theme is Stone Fruit and I love it! I already baked and sent my Nectarine Jalousie and now a Greengage Plum Galette.
GREENGAGE (REINE CLAUDE) GALETTE
For the Sweet Dough:
2 cups (255 g) flour
3 Tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
¼ tsp salt
10 Tbs (5 oz/145 g) cold unsalted butter, cubed
¼ cup (60 ml) + 2 Tbs very cold water
2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the Fruit Filling:
½ cup (113 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
3 Tbs flour
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt
1 pound (500 g) stone fruit – I used Reine Claude plums (Greengage plums), washed, pitted and cut into wedges 3/4 –inch (2 cm) thick **
2 tsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbs heavy cream or milk
Granulated brown sugar and slivered almonds to decorate
** Ooops! We made a slight mistake using only 500 grams of fruit. Abby calls for a total of 1 kilo (2 pounds) fruit: half apricots/half plums. Ours came out fabulously delicious but next time I will indeed double the fruit!
Prepare the Dough:
Place the flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt in a large bowl. Add the cubes of butter and toss to coat with the dry ingredients. Using only the tips of your fingers, quickly rub the flour and butter together until it resembles damp sand and there are no more large lumps of butter left. Using a fork, quickly stir in the water combined with the lemon juice until a shaggy dough forms. Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface and using the heel of one hand, smear the dough little by little away from you in quick, hard strokes in order to make sure that all of the butter is blended in well. Scrape it together once again and knead briefly and quickly, adding more flour if the dough is wet and sticky, until the dough is smooth, homogeneous and soft but no longer sticky. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about 30 minutes until it is firm enough to roll out without sticking to the rolling pin. The dough can also be prepared in advance.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough, place it on a lightly floured and roll it into a large round disc, about 15 inches (38 cm) in diameter. Lift and rotate the dough, a quarter turn each time, as you roll, flouring underneath it to prevent sticking. Trim the excess dough around the edges to make a 14-inch (35 cm) round. Carefully and lightly roll the disc of dough around the rolling pin and transfer it to the parchment-line baking sheet (don’t worry if the dough hangs over the edges at this point), cover with plastic and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
Place the prepared fruit and the lemon juice in a large mixing bowl. Blend the brown sugar, flour, lemon zest, dash of cinnamon and the salt in a small bowl to combine. Pour it over the fruit and toss – I use my hands – until the fruit is evenly coated with the dry ingredients. Remove the galette crust from the refrigerate, remove the plastic wrap, and pile the prepared fruit in the center of the disc. Push the fruit around until it is evenly distributed, leaving a 3-inch (7.75 cm) border all around it. Fold the dough edges up and over the dough, pleating the dough as you go. The fruit should be uncovered and showing in the center. Using your finger, dab a little water under each pleat and gently press the pleats to seal.
Brush the dough with the cream or milk. Dust both the fruit showing in the center and the dough with granulated brown sugar and slivered almonds.
Bake the Plum Galette for about 40 minutes until the dough is a deep golden brown, the fruit is tender and the juices beginning to bubble. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before sliding the parchment paper with the Galette onto a cooling rack.
Serve the Plum Galette warm or at room temperature, as is or topped with ice cream or freshly whipped cream.