Eating Wild: Spruce-tip, rhubarb and ricotta galette

With great power comes great responsibility, and I’m cautioning you now, do not bake this galette unless you have a plan for how it will get eaten. Because this galette is powerful, and speaking from experience, it will be eaten, and quickly, even if it’s just you solo at home. Fair warning.

 

Spruce tips are the soft neon green buds you see on Sitka spruce trees each spring. Most folks use spruce-tips in jellies, simple syrups and beer. One of my favorite things in the world when I was growing up was the jar of spruce-tip jelly that my best friend’s parents would give me each spring — pure gold. That recipe and many others are available at Juneau’s UAF Cooperative Extension, a phenomenal resource to anyone interested in local foods. Spruce-tips are simple to pick and simple to clean — pick them from the tree and pull off the papery shell. Look for spruce tips that are between ¾ inch and 1 ¼ inch in size and still soft and pliable, too small and they’re not worth the trouble, too big and they’re probably getting a little too hard to eat.

Spruce-tips have a beautiful sweet, floral, citrus-y flavor, but their texture is a little rubbery so they’re more often used as a flavoring rather than a standalone ingredient. Last year I experimented with a rhubarb and spruce-tip simple syrup and found a combination that couldn’t be beat.

Tart rhubarb combines perfectly with the sweet citrus of the spruce-tips — baked in a crispy galette with a sweet, creamy ricotta and a hint of lemon? Heaven.

I’m terrible at baking. It’s too precise for my taste. I’m much more of a pinch-here, pinch-there kind of cook. So I’ve always avoided baked desserts because they always end up looking like epic fails. That is until I was introduced by my friend Katie to the galette. Easy, relaxed, delicious and rustically elegant, galettes are the lazy baker’s dream dessert. If a pizza and classic pie had a baby, it would be the galette.

Here’s the thing that makes galettes so dang easy - you can use just about any crust! The crust recipe I have below is a puff pastry recipe I adapted from Smitten Kitchen. But you can use your favorite pie crust recipe, you can use store-bought pie crust, you can use store-bought puff pastry. Whatever you like, it works! The trick will be to adjust the cooking time to the kind of crust that you’re using.

Spruce-tip, Rhubarb and Ricotta Galette

Crust prep: 15 minutes

Galette prep: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 35-45 minutes

Serves: 8

Crust

1 ¼ cup all purpose flour

¼ tsp salt (heaping)

1 stick butter (8 tbsp)

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup ice water

If you’re using a store-bought crust, skip down to the galette. I prepared my crust dough the night before so it had lots of time to firm up in the fridge before I baked. If you can’t mix it the night before, at least 30 minutes of fridge time will be a big help. I chilled my flour in the freezer for about 15 minutes before I made this crust. What’s the point of all this chilling? It’s the butter. Butter does something magical when it melts, but you want that magic to happen in the oven, not all over your hands. A big focus of making crusts is keeping everything as cold as possible at all times.

Cut butter into ½ inch cubes. Return to the fridge while you prep other ingredients. Whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl on the side, whisk together sour cream and ice water. Put the liquids in the fridge and grab your butter. Slowly add the butter to the flour mixture, cutting the butter in with a pastry mixer until the butter is pea sized - chunky is good. If you have a food processor, simply pulse the mixture a couple of times. Add the water/sour cream mixture and combine using your hands. Go quickly so you don’t warm the butter up too much, clumping the dough and picking up stray bits. The pastry will be crumbly, don’t over work it, you just need it to hang together as a ball. Wrap the ball tightly in Saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but overnight is better.

Galette

1 pie crust or puff pastry recipe

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup spruce-tips (save aside a couple spruce-tips for decoration)

1 cup ricotta

2 tsp lemon zest

¾ pounds cleaned rhubarb stalks - sliced in half lengthwise

Egg yolk

Finely dice spruce-tips and combine with sugar, or pulse in a food processor until mixed. Refrigerate spruce-tip sugar - overnight if possible. Whisk egg yolk and a little bit of water together to use for an egg wash and set aside. Whisk ricotta, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons spruce-tip sugar. On a floured board, and using floured hands, roll out dough until about ¼ inch thick or lay out your store-bought puff pastry or pie crust. Pour ricotta mixture into the center and spread evenly until two inches from the edge of the dough. Lay rhubarb stalks across the ricotta, trimming when needed to fit the circle. Fold up the edges of the pastry over the rhubarb. Brush the egg wash on the pastry. Using your fingers, drop the remaining spruce-tip sugar in clumps and spread it evenly over the rhubarb, don’t worry about being neat or if it gets on the pastry as well. Bake on an ungreased sheet pan or line a sheet pan with parchment paper and bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes. Pull apart the remaining spruce-tips and sprinkle over the top for a pop of neon green. Cut and serve either solo or with a scoop of delicious vanilla ice cream.


• Erin Anais Heist is a food blogger in Juneau. Readers can contact her at foodabe.com, or on Instagram or Twitter at @erinanais. “Eating Wild” recipes publish every other week.


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