Breaking All the Rules

It’s my birthday (or rather, it was yesterday, now that I’m polishing this up and posting it) and I decided I was going to bake my own birthday cake.  I was working under some constraints; I had some delicious ricotta I needed to use (from Narragansett Creamery, it’s heaven in cheese form), and since I’m cooking on a budget I didn’t want to go out and purchase a lot of ingredients.  I’d been thinking about a plum cake and wanted to see if I could somehow incorporate ricotta into it, but the recipe inspiration I found online seemed to be more cheesecake consistency.  It would have been easy (and delicious) enough to make a plum fruit topping, but to me August heat doesn’t seem conducive to heavy, creamy desserts that don’t live in my freezer.

Instead, I settled on a galette; I’d layer ricotta mixed with cardamom and cinnamon in the base of the pastry and layer sliced plums on top.  I’d add some brown sugar and a bit of butter, pop it in the oven and bake away.

Except … I had all of these gorgeous baby heirloom tomatoes in my fridge.  And no plums.  And frankly, I had no desire to eat plum galette for every meal for four days so it didn’t go to waste.

baby heirlooms.

So, I decided to make a tomato-pesto galette birthday cake.  True, it’s not a cake.  It’s not even really a galette since I used a muffin tin and made little galette cups.  It’s savory, not sweet.  And I baked it myself, instead of having someone bake it for me …  so basically I’ve gone about this whole thing bass-ackwards.  Add to the fact that I’d never made a galette or even pastry dough before and I basically had no idea what I was doing …

When it comes down to it, though, I like to faff around in the kitchen, and to experiment.  My favorite part about cooking is seeing others enjoy what I make, and the semi-miraculous experience of tasting something for the first time and thinking ‘wow, this isn’t the epic disaster that it could have been.’  This particular experiment, cobbled together from various recipes, my personal preferences and sheer guesswork, turned out to be quite tasty if I may say so myself.  But since it WAS my birthday, you’re pretty much obligated to agree with me.  Massive thanks to my roomie Jill for the use of her camera, since mine is still in hiding.

Tomato-Riccotta-Pesto (TRP) Galette Cups
Inspiration courtesy of Smitten Kitchen and Everybody Likes Sandwiches
Makes 12

***

For the dough:

5 tbsp ice water

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, chilled in freezer for at least 30 minutes

3/4 tsp salt (I like Maldon)

9 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes, then chilled again

For the filling:

½ lb or thereabouts baby heirloom tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon plus a splash olive oil

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 cup ricotta cheese

grated pecorino or Parmigiano

12 tbsp pesto **

**I make my own but don’t have a set recipe.  I basically combine pecorino, olive oil, cashews, fresh garlic and fresh basil in a food processor until it tastes the way I want it to.  If using a store bought brand, choose one that is thick or strain off the excess oil with a coffee filter before using.

Dough:

Combine water and lemon juice and refrigerate until you need it.  Whisk together flour and salt.  Add in butter, and using a spoon (a potato masher or pastry knife are infinitely better choices if you have them—even a slotted metal serving spoon will work) smoosh together the flour and butter until they form small pebbles.  Add in acid/water combo bit by teeny bit until just combined.  You’ll notice the dough starting to pull together in the bowl.  Mold dough into a ball, wrap in saran/foil and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Filling:

While dough is chilling, make the filling (sorry, couldn’t resist)!  Once you’ve sliced your tomatoes, set them face down on a paper towel for about 45 minutes.  You don’t want a soggy galette.  Toss lightly with plain old olive oil when the draining process is finished.

Mix together olive oil and minced garlic in a medium bowl.  Add ricotta and pecorino, stirring until evenly combined.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line muffin tin (a relatively shallow one) with small pieces of parchment paper.  Generously flour your hands and break off golf-ball sized pieces of dough.  Press into muffin tin (they can be irregularly shaped—don’t worry about making sure it comes up evenly or completely on each side.  As long as you have some sort of pastry ‘wall’ going on, you’ll be fine).  Fill each cup with a heaping spoonful of ricotta mixture and place a dollop of pesto on top of each.  Level off the mixture with a spoon so you don’t have any empty space in your cups.  Top with oiled baby tomatoes, face down.  Bake for about 30 minutes; pastry edges will look lightly golden brown and tops of tomatoes will be slightly browned.  Turn off the oven, leave the door open a crack for about 5 minutes and then close again.  Leave cups in oven, resting, for about 40 minutes.  This last step (although weird, akin to a pastry equivalent of letting your meat rest) will help some of the excess tomato liquid evaporate from the top and will ensure that the pastry at the bottom is nice and fully cooked.  Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

red white green & gold.

As a side note, you could also make this into a straight-up galette.  Follow the assembly instructions found here, though note that you’ll need to make an egg wash glaze too.  Alternately, if tarts or mini-tarts are more your thing, this recipe will work equally well in those types of tins too, sans the aforementioned glaze.  Reference another tart/mini-tart recipe for recommended cooking times.

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