Sweet Galettes in Medieval Pérouges
I love medieval villages. (Murten/Morat, Gruyères, Stein am Rhein and Chur to name a few.) The more crooked the structures, the more mismatched the bricks and stones and wooden beams, the more I’m fascinated. Whether in Switzerland, France, Italy or Portugal, I roam up and down the roughly cobbled streets of these labyrinthine villages, ooh-ing and ah-ing at the imposing doors and the seemingly indestructible ironwork. I could listen for hours to my husband (or his encyclopedic father) share historical tidbits, while I gaze up at the years engraved into the buildings going back well beyond the 15th century. All I can say is, thank goodness for digital film. Every blink of the eye is a photo opportunity.
So following our annual family reunion in Lyon, I could not have been happier to learn that my mother-in-law planned a bonus day for us in Pérouges, less than an hour outside of Lyon in France’s Rhône-Alpes. Perched on a small hill, this impressively well-preserved medieval village (officially one of “les plus beaux villages de France”) is like an explosion of ancient architectural elements, practically an outdoor museum, fortress walls, gate and all. It’s no surprise that many movies, including Les Trois Mousquetaires (1961), were filmed here. And not only the Rousset family, but other more well-known names have paid a visit to the village and taken a taste of the signature Galette de Pérouges – kings, queens and presidents including Bill Clinton (during the G7 in Lyon in 1996); aviation pioneer and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; French actors, writers and musicians like Bourvil, Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour…
Lunch was in an almost 600 year old house, today the Hostellerie de Pérouges, its many dining and sitting rooms decorated with pewter objects, copper kitchenware, iron lanterns, stone fireplaces, candelabra and artwork. It seemed that every single table was being served thin triangular slices of flat sugar tarts by waitresses dressed in period attire. My eyes followed each of the oversized wooden paddles going by and their accompanying tubs of stark white cream (reminiscent of crème double de la Gruyère).
But first, lunch. It started with a neat wine list, beautiful calligraphy on vintage paper – and rather large in actual physical size, as you can see my parents-in-law holding it open with four hands to read (below left). Frogs’ legs, foie gras crême brûlée, crayfish gratin with wild mushrooms in a quenelle-like sauce and gratin dauphinois received the most raves at the table. Until the real highlight… the famous Galette Pérougienne, created by Marie Louise Thibaut in 1912, when the restaurant was restored in the then abandoned village (even threatened by demolition) and has been serving local, traditional cuisine ever since. (Recipes below in English and French)
While “galette” can refer to savory crêpes as well as free form tarts, these galettes are made from a brioche dough with yeast (and butter and sugar), that’s been completely flattened, baked in an extra hot oven and caramelized on top (with more butter and sugar). It makes for a wonderful mix of textures – very light, soft and chewy and yet with a crackly sugary top (not as hard as crême brûlée though), thin like a crêpe and with a thicker crust like pizza. You can order the galette as an individual portion for dessert or an entire one for your table, or even grab a slice to go on the street. While you get a large tupin of fresh cream and fancy silverware at the restaurant, I have to say… it tastes even better eaten with your hands. Makes for a more medieval setting too.
Hostellerie de Pérouges
Place du Tilleul
* R E C I P E S *
Galette de Pérouges
Recipe by Mark Bittman, first printed in the New York Times in 1998
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 cups flour, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Zest of 1 lemon
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
Combine yeast, flour, salt, tablespoon of sugar, cold butter, egg and lemon zest in food processor. Turn machine on, let it run for a second until mixture is blended, and then let machine run while you add 1/4 cup water through feed tube, a little at a time, until mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or 2 of water, and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)
Turn dough onto very lightly floured work surface, and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round ball. Place in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap or damp cloth, and let rise in warm, draft-free area until dough just about doubles in size, or at least 1 hour. (You can also let dough rise more slowly, in refrigerator, for as long as 6 or 8 hours.)
Preheat oven to at least 500°F (600 is better, if your oven goes that high). Knead dough lightly, and place it on a very lightly floured surface; sprinkle it with a little more flour, and cover with plastic wrap or towel. Let it rest while oven heats.
Pat or roll out dough as thinly as possible to a diameter of 12 inches, using a little more flour if necessary. The process will be easier if you allow dough to rest occasionally between rollings. If you have a pizza stone in your oven, place dough on a floured peel, or long-handled board; if you do not, lay dough on lightly buttered baking sheet.
Spread dough with softened butter, and sprinkle it with remaining sugar. Bake until crust is nicely crisp and sugar lightly caramelizes, about 10 minutes; if galette is browning unevenly, rotate it back to front about halfway through cooking time. Serve hot or at room temperature as a snack, or at room temperature with creme fraiche and cut-up ripe fruit.
Galette de Pérouges / Tarte au Sucre
Recette de l’Office du Tourisme de Pérouges
200 g de farine
150 g de beurre
1 sachet de levure de boulanger
30 g de sucre
1 pincée de sel
Mélangez l’oeuf entier dans le beurre ramolli avec le sucre et le zeste du citron.
Ajoutez la farine tamisée, le sel, la levure, pétrissez en incorporant la farine petit à petit.
Travaillez la pâte jusqu’à ce qu’elle se détache de la terrine et des mains, à la manière de la pâte à brioche (20 minutes).
Remettez-la en boule dans la terrine, couvrez d’un torchon et laissez lever pendant 1 heure et demie à 2 heures, selon la température ambiante.
Étendez-la sur la table, en lui conservant sa forme ronde, sur 4 à 5 millimètres d’épaisseur.
Posez-la sur la tôle du four graissée et farinée légèrement, relevez les bords avec les doigts humides en les torsadant en bourrelet
Saupoudrez largement de sucre semoule.
Mettez au four chaud 250°C (8 au thermostat) 8 à 10 minutes.
Lorsque les bords sont dorés, la galette est cuite.
Servez tiède avec un vin de Cerdon bien frais.