Recently, Kingston and I threw a little party for a couple of preschool friends that he's stayed in touch with and seen often this summer.
Everyone needs friends, but before I had a child, and a boy no less, I didn't spend much time thinking about how children actually develop relationships with one another. It's been fascinating, though, to watch Kingston -- and his often rough-and-tumble guy buddies -- create relationships filled with a lot of visible tenderness.
It's been an important reminder to me of how real, sustained connection with others allows us to truly thrive. To kick your feet and swing together toward the sky, laughing and calling out to each another with joy. Or, to hold hands just because you're happy to see each other. Does it get any better than that?
The day of our party, the boys came over with their moms and we quickly got going. I had set up three stations on our dining room table where we could work together. Mamas paired up with their boys to roll out dough that I had made ahead of time. Sure, there was some manhandling involved. Dough was squished with warm hands and much enthusiasm. But, it was all okay.
We filled our rolled-out dough with different types of fruit: blueberries we'd picked together a few days earlier at a farm in Ferndale, pears that one smart mama had preserved with a dash of brandy last summer. Then, we made a couple of galettes with nectarines from Eastern Washington.
Which brings me to the nectarine. Why is it that I've never heard anyone gush about eating the "perfect" nectarine? Usually, that sort of praise is reserved for summer peaches and jewel-toned plums. I mean, listen to Mark Bittman in his book, How to Cook Everything. He writes, "The peach is not only delicious. It can be downright erotic. Nectarines, good as they are, are not in the same league."
But the nectarine! Let's not forget about its virtues. I get woozy from their sweet aroma as they sit nonchalantly on the kitchen counter. The smooth-skinned fruit doesn't have to be peeled like its fuzzier relative. When I eat a juicy nectarine out of hand, I don't wince when I eat the skin, like I do with many types of plums. In my mind, it is equal to any peach.
But back to the dough squishing.
I have to admit that I was very surprised once I pulled our first tray of goodies out of the oven. The "well-handled" dough had become transformed into golden, flakey crust. What a surprise!
To me, this proved a couple of important things. First, that anyone can bake a beautiful free form galette or tart. And second, that if you are going to let anyone, including a bunch of preschoolers make pastries, this is a good dough recipe to use.
Even if you are only four years old, baking and creating together offers a lot of positives that go beyond pleasing the palate and the belly. Our activity that afternoon let both kids and grownups work and learn together in a joyful, fun and tactile way. It also gave us a chance to strengthen connections and deepen friendships.
After everyone ate, helped clean up and then went home, I found another round of dough in the fridge, along with extra nectarines. I rolled out the dough, sliced the fruit and tipped in a bit of Kentucky bourbon. As I put my own grown-up galette into the oven, I felt content. Full of the sweetness of fruit, buttery crust and the tender kindness of friendship.
Nectarine Bourbon Galette
Here's my ode to the nectarine. Since I was going for quickly making a lot of dough for the party, I used my food processor. You can use the food processor method here or also make this by hand. If you want to make a larger quantity of dough to throw your own party, simply multiply the amounts. In my 14-cup food processor, I am able to make up to four times the amount of the dough below.
Makes one large galette.
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup spelt flour (or use all-purpose)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup ice water
5 cup nectarine slices, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely minced
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/4 cup natural cane sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup natural brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 c almonds, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, pulse together flour(s) and salt. Add butter, pulse for no longer than 10 seconds. The mixture will look like coarse cornmeal. Turn processor on then add water in a steady stream. It will become incorporated within 15 to 20 seconds and you'll see the dough come together. Don't process it longer, or your dough may become tough. Remove dough from bowl of processor and onto a lightly floured board or counter top. Form into a flat round, about 1 1/4-inch thick. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator while preparing the filling.
In a large bowl, toss together nectarine slices, bourbon, sugars and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together ground almonds, flour and sugar. Set aside.
On a work surface lightly dusted with flour, roll out chilled dough. Use light pressure, rolling from the middle toward but not all the way to the edge. Give the dough quarter turns as you go. When the dough is about 10 inches in diameter, dust lightly with flour then flip over. Continue rolling your circle of dough until it is 12 inches in diameter. Fold dough into quarters and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Spoon almond mixture onto the middle and spread into a thin, circular layer. Spread nectarine mixture on top, leaving a 3-inch edge of uncovered dough. Fold edges of dough over the filling, leaving the center part exposed, and forming a more or less circular shape.
Beat together egg white and water. Brush egg wash all over the dough. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Place on center rack of preheated oven. After 20 minutes, rotate the galette and bake an additional 25 minutes, or until crust is golden to golden-brown and juices are bubbling.
Serve warm or at room temperature.