Why It Works
- Vanilla boosts the galette's aroma without overwhelming the pears.
- Cardamom adds a light, almost herbal freshness.
- Chinese five-spice powder creates a well-spiced yet delicate profile.
- Tapioca starch forms a light, clear gel that's never too thick or gloppy.
Pears require a delicate touch. In baked goods, their simple sweetness can seem one-dimensional, and their subtle flavor is easily overwhelmed—when loaded down with heavy spices, pears have a tendency to fall flat. It helps to choose firm, tart varieties that can stand up to some time in the oven (I'm fond of Bosc and Seckel), but even more important is to choose ingredients and techniques that work for, rather than against, the pears.
Where apples are crisp and bright, more than capable of holding their own against an array of bold spices and a lengthy cooking time, pears are buttery, mild, and tender, necessitating a different approach. In classic French cuisine, pears are often poached with vanilla beans in wine, and for good reason. The wine's fruit-forward acidity perks up the mellow pears, while fragrant vanilla beans amplify their floral aroma and the gentle cooking method keeps their delicate texture intact.
The short cooking time of a galette works in much the same way, softening the pears but not obliterating them. Of course, there's not much room for added liquids, so I reach for apple cider vinegar instead of wine. It gives the pears a boost in both fruitiness and acidity, but in a concentrated form that's ideal for a low-moisture dessert like this. Plus, unlike wine, apple cider vinegar has a flavor profile that feels inherently right for fall.
Besides the vanilla bean, I also season the pears with a touch of cardamom and Chinese five-spice powder. Those spices may not be a classic pear-ing (sorry/not sorry), but they've won me over with their ability to amplify and enhance the character of this mellow fruit.
Cardamom contains essential oils similar to those found in herbs like mint and fruits like lemon, a combination that adds a sense of freshness to the pears, which can often seem dull after baking. Meanwhile, Chinese five-spice powder adds a subtle but familiar warmth (cinnamon, cloves) and floral sweetness (fennel, star anise, Sichuan peppercorn) that creates complexity without getting all jazz-hands about it.
For thickening, I toss in a small amount of tapioca flour, which I like in fruit pies and tarts because it requires less cooking to gel—meaning the fruit won't overcook by the time the juices have thickened. Plus, the resulting gel is clear with tapioca, instead of cloudy, as it can be with cornstarch.
It's all wrapped up in my old-fashioned flaky pie dough, a recipe that provides some much-needed richness to the otherwise lean filling, as well as a crispy counterpoint to the tender fruit. The whole thing's baked at 400°F (200°C) until bubbling-hot and golden brown, which takes only about 35 minutes.
Because it's so thin, the galette cools quickly, so you needn't wait more than five minutes before digging in.
Served fresh from the oven, a warm pear galette is near perfect, whether served on its own or with a nip of brandy. But, if you're feeling fancy, it can be dressed up with a dollop of fruity whipped cream (cranberry, perhaps?), or even some crumbled blue cheese and a scattering of toasted pecans.
How to Make a Pear Galette
1/2 batch old-fashioned flaky pie dough
For the Filling:
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 1/4 ounces plain or toasted sugar (about 3 tablespoons; 35g)
3/4 ounce tapioca starch (about 3 tablespoons; 20g)
1/2 teaspoon (2g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
26 ounces crisp, semi-tart pears, such as Bosc or Seckel (about 3 large pears; 735g)
1/2 ounce apple cider vinegar (1 tablespoon; 15g)
For the Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 ounce heavy cream (1 tablespoon; 15g)
1/8 teaspoon (0.5g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
Prepare old-fashioned flaky pie dough according to the recipe. After rolling, folding, and dividing dough in half, roll one portion into a 14-inch round. Transfer to a parchment-lined half sheet pan, cover with plastic, and refrigerate to relax and chill dough, at least 2 hours or up to 24.
For the Filling: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 400°F (200°C). In a medium bowl, rub vanilla seeds into sugar, then whisk in tapioca starch, salt, Chinese five-spice powder, and cardamom. Reserve vanilla pod for another use.
Wash pears (no need to peel), then quarter, core, and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Measure 20 ounces of pears (about 3 heaping cups; 565g) into the bowl of spiced vanilla sugar, drizzle with apple cider vinegar, and toss until sugar has dissolved.
Arrange pears over chilled dough in a roughly 10-inch ring, tiling the slices like dominoes. Drizzle any remaining liquid from filling over fruit. With a sharp knife, cut a series of slits in the border of dough, spacing them about 5 inches apart. Fold dough over pears, tugging gently so the edge of each segment tightly overlaps the one that came before. Refrigerate galette and prepare the egg wash.
For the Egg Wash: Whisk egg, egg yolk, cream, and salt in a small bowl. Brush over chilled dough in a thin, even layer (including under each flap). This will give the crust a glossy, golden sheen and help bind the pieces together.
Bake until galette is golden brown around the edges and bubbling in the center, about 35 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then slice into wedges and serve warm, with dollops of whipped cream if desired.
Resist the temptation to spice the fruit with cinnamon, which only falls flat in this sweet and mellow galette.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 15g||20%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||28%|
|Total Carbohydrate 47g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||15%|
|Total Sugars 15g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||13%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|