Today, the Zen-man is going back to his roots. No.. I’m not talking about root canal or root vegetables but about my first introduction to cooking. Gateau Basque is one of the first thing i learned to make. It’s a relatively simple golden cake with a filling that manage to generate an extraordinary amount of comment and argument. All useless if you ask me because… my recipe is the best.
The Basque region is sandwiched between France and Spain. It is an interesting place known for its beauty, gastronomy and car bombings. I hail from the overdeveloped Atlantic coast, home to resorts, casinos and beautiful beaches and where you hardly ever hear about the separatist movement. The country side though, is home to a rare breed of human beings – the Basque people – quiet fighters dedicated to the independence of what they consider their country.
That’s exactly where my parents, eager to get rid of me, sent me to my first cooking school – i was barely 16. All things considered and in spite of the fact the school was in a town considered a separatists stronghold, i had a great time. What could be better than to be taught by teachers well versed in the Art of War? It’s unfortunate my favorite instructor got arrested midterm during class for hiding explosives in his home basement – he was quickly and quietly replaced and we never heard of him again.
I forgot the reason why we gave his successor the name ‘Sergeant Peppone’, all i remember is that he was very round and very insecure and would keep his recipes in a locked cabinet in the kitchen. My comrades and i were well aware he had the best recipe for Gateau Basque in the whole region for having tried it during a special event. We begged him for the recipe afterward but.. no. He wasn’t willing to share it with us and only gave us the school’s recipe. Pfff..
We didn’t like that, so we put our Art of War training into action and devised a three-steps strategy to extract the Gateau Basque recipe from him. The brats rebellion had started.
Part 1./ Distraction
On the chosen day, the first team was dispatched to create a distraction by asking Sergeant Peppone the keys to the pantry claiming someone had lost his watch in there.
Part 2./ Infiltration
The infiltration team met them there, removed the cabinet’s key from the ring and went back to the kitchen to discretly give the key to the extraction team.
Part 3./ Extraction
The distraction team then called the instructor to the pantry. When the path was cleared, the extraction team got the precious recipe from the cabinet, copied it and put it back in its place. The infiltration team then returned the key the same way.
It went without a hitch.All i can say is that the cooking school i later attended in Paris wasn’t that exciting in comparison.
After so many years i think it’s time for me to make peace with the kitchen Gods – that’s why i will share the precious recipe with you my friends. You lucky brats, you!
250 grams Flour
125 grams Sugar
125 grams Butter
25 grams Almond Flour
1/4 teaspoon Almond Extract
1 Pack of Yeast
1 Lemon Zest
1/2 Orange Zest
For the pastry cream:
- 1/2 liter Milk
- 3 Egg Yolks
- 100 grams Sugar
- 50 grams Flour
- 1 Vanilla Bean
- 1 Tablespoon Rum (optional)
To make the pastry cream:
Scrap the vanilla bean and place in the milk. Bring to a boil. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale. Add the flour and whisk until incorporated. Slowly add the hot milk to the egg mixture while whisking and place the mixture back on the fire. Cook until almost boiling. Add the rum if using. Remove from the heat and cool.
To make the dough:
In a mixer with the paddle attachment add flour, sugar, butter, yeast, almond flour and lemon and orange zest. Mix until the mixture looks like sand. Add the egg and the almond extract and mix until the dough comes together. Do not overmix. It should look like this.