The food: small iced cakes
My French-Canadian grandmother Alice lived with – and baked for – my family in Toronto during my tween and teen years, when my favourite after-school treat were the small, iced, cookie-shaped cakes she called galettes.
Oddly – or perhaps not, considering the complicated relationships, ties and connections between the English and French, especially when it comes to baking – the only place I ever found a cake similar to Alice’s galettes was in a small post office/shop in the English village of North Cave, in Yorkshire. During the summer of 1975, I spent a week or two there, working on a rescue excavation of a small archeological site – a sojourn I fictionalized and gave as back story to the main character in my novel The Restoration of Emily. A real-life detail I didn’t include in the novel was that the postmistress/shop proprietor baked a few galette-like cakes every morning, so every morning my two dig mates and I stopped in to buy (and eat) some, which meant enduring her questions about how the three of us were related to each other, exactly, and what our sleeping arrangements were in the tent we shared.
Years later, long after my grandmother had died, I tried and failed to find a recipe in books and online for her galettes, until I thought to check for French-Canadian recipes, written in French, and came across a site called Recettes de Quebec.
A search of the word ‘galettes’ at Recettes de Quebec yielded 109 results, mainly for cookies, including oatmeal, chocolate chip and pumpkin (pumpkin?). Nothing in the photos accompanying the recipes looked similar to my grandmother’s galettes except for the one that came with a recipe called Galettes à la crème sure submitted by one Claude Guertin.
I didn’t remember my grandmother using sour cream but the galettes in M. Guertin’s photo looked right (though they were not iced) so I translated the recipe, baked up a batch, iced them with a simple lemon vanilla glaze, and as Alice used to say, Voyons! – I had me some delicious, light, white, and moist galettes that might taste even better than the ones I once loved.
Lemon Iced Galettes, adapted from a recipe by Claude Guertin
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. baking powder
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar, egg, vanilla and sour cream. Mix.
3. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and baking soda.
4. Mix dry mixture with wet mixture. (Mixture will be sticky.)
5. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, leaving room between each for the galettes to spread.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until a fork inserted in cakes comes up with no crumbs attached.
7. Let cool.
8. Ice with an icing made by mixing together 2 c. icing sugar, 4 – 5 T. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla and the zest of one lemon (or orange).
9. Serve with berries or cut-up orange sections.