(In an effort to update this blog little by little i’m re-posting this article from 2 years ago. While the recipe remains the same, i couldn’t stand the horrendous food photography anymore. I hope you don’t mind the little facelift.)
Gâteau Basque is one of the first thing i learned to make. It’s a relatively simple golden cake with a cream or cherry preserve filling that manage to generate an extraordinary amount of comment and argument. All useless if you ask me because… my recipe is the best. [giggle]
The Basque region is sandwiched between France and Spain. It’s a fascinating place known for its beauty, gastronomy, traditions and car bombings. I hail from Biarritz on the 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 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 cooking by teachers well versed in the Art of War? It’s unfortunate my first 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 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 Gâteau Basque in the whole region for having tried it during at a special event. We begged for the recipe afterward, but to no avail. The school recipe is all he was willing to share.
Umm.. He also had no idea who he was dealing with.
We put our Art of War training into action and devised a three-steps strategy to extract the Gâteau Basque recipe from him. The revolution 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 basement 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. The distraction team proceeded to create a spill on the pantry’s floor.
Part 3./ Extraction
The distraction team then called the instructor to the pantry to notify him of the spill. When the path was clear, the extraction team got the precious Gâteau Basque recipe from the cabinet, copied it quickly and put it back in its place. The infiltration team then returned the key to the distraction team. The keys were then returned to Sergeant Peppone like if nothing happened.
It went without a hitch. 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!
- serves 4
Gâteau Basque dough:
- 250 grams Flour
- 125 grams Sugar
- 125 grams Butter
- 25 grams Almond Flour
- 1/4 teaspoon Almond Extract
- 1 Egg
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 Lemon Zest
- 1/2 Orange Zest
For the pastry cream filling (or use cherry preserve):
- 1/2 liter Milk
- 3 Egg Yolks
- 100 grams Sugar
- 50 grams Flour
- 1 Vanilla Bean
- 1 Tablespoon Rum (optional)
For the Gâteau Basque dough:
- In a mixer with the paddle attachment add flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, 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.
- The dough will be a bit sticky and should be pressed into the pan rather than rolled with a rolling pin. Use a 8 inches cake pan or four 3-inches individual pans.
- Fill with either pastry cream or cherry preserve (or a mixture of the two, as i sometimes do).
- Cover with a round of dough and press the edges to seal. Make a steam vent in the center and a criss-cross pattern. Brush with an egg yolk diluted in a tablespoon of water.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 375′F or until golden brown. Let cool completely before eating. Enjoy!
- Scrap the vanilla bean into 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 the mixture starts boiling while whisking vigorously. Add the rum if using. Remove from the heat, cool and chill until ready to use.
For the pastry cream: