But until I actually sat down to research the history behind angostura, it remained something of a mystery-- a curious concoction with an oversized label and exotic name. As I know now, some of that secrecy has been purposely maintained by the company. What we do know, though, is that Angostura bitters are named after the village in Venezuela where they were invented in 1824 by the German doctor Johann Siegert. They were first dubbed Dr. Siegert's Aromatic Bitters and were initially intended as an alleviative for stomach ailments and seasickness. Imported by Britain in 1830; the Royal Navy liked to mix it with gin creating the popular nautically-inclined drink "pink gin."
In 1875, Siegert's sons moved the company to Trinidad, where it still resides, and in 1904 they changed the name to Angostura. The ill-fitting label is legendarily due to the fact that the two brothers did not discuss bottle and label sizes prior to affixing one to the other, but they decided to keep it as a trademark. The recipe however, remains highly protected-- part of the reason the Angostura shortage caused such a hubbub a few years ago.
Lately, in addition to my drinks, I've been using Angostura and other bitters in my baked goods-- a trick I learned from the 4 and 20 Blackbirds Cookbook. The flavor is subtle, once baked, but it contributes a little complexity and aromatics to the filling. I added a dash of it along with some bourbon barrel-aged vanilla to this cherry galette, and gave it the "old-fashioned" name for the pairing of those with sweet cherries. Like most cherry desserts, this is perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
"Old Fashioned" Cherry Galette
For the cornmeal crust (or use Nothing in the House pie crust, halved):
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (I used this Whole Grain Kentucky Heirloom Cornmeal)
1/2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 sticks COLD unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), cut into slices
1 large beaten egg, cold
1/4 cup ice-cold water
1/2 Tablespoon cold apple cider vinegar (I keep mine in the fridge)
For the filling:
3-4 cups sweet cherries, pitted
3-4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (depending on sweetness of the fruit)
1 teaspoon angostura bitters
1 teaspoon bourbon or vanilla extract (I used vanilla aged in bourbon barrels)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar for dusting
1 large beaten egg + 1 Tablespoon whole milk for egg wash
1. For the crust: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork and knife, cut in the butter. You want to make sure butter chunks remain, as that's what makes the crust flaky.
2. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the COLD liquid ingredients (Using cold liquids ensures that your butter will not melt--another crucial detail for a flaky crust).
3. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour-butter mixture and combine using a wooden spoon. Mix until dough comes together, but is not overly mixed (it should be a little shaggy). Form into a ball, cut in half, and flatten each half into a disc. Wrap discs tightly with plastic wrap, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
4. While crust is filling, prepare filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine pitted cherries, sugar, bitters, bourbon, and lemon juice. Remove one dough disc and leave other in fridge or freezer for another use. Roll out one crust disc on a piece of parchment and transfer rolled crust and parchment to a large baking sheet.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Ladle cherry filling onto rolled crust, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of Turbinado sugar over the apricots, then fold up the pastry over the edges of the filling, leaving most of the cherries uncovered.
6. Place galette in freezer for 20-30 minutes while the oven preheats. Once chilled, remove galette from fridge and brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Bake tart in the middle rack of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and pastry is golden brown. Let the tart cool completely. Serve just warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.
Apricot Galette with Cornmeal Crust
"Old-Fashioned" Peach Blackberry Pie
Sour Cherry Pie
Sweet Cherry Pie with Cornmeal Streusel