Gâteau Basque & the Art of War

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(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.

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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!

  • Gâteau Basque

  • serves 4
  • gateau-basque-15
    • 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!
    • For the pastry cream:
    • 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.
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  • http://www.gourmetfury.com Melody Fury

    Re-posting? I’m aghast!

    Lovely, love.

  • http://thelittleteochew.blogspot.com The Little Teochew

    Adorable! Thank you for the precious recipe. ;)

  • http://www.norecipes.com Marc @ NoRecipes

    Great idea redoing old posts. I need to start doing that too. One of these days I’m going to get you to make these for me.

  • http://kitchen-em.blogspot.com/ Kitchen M

    Oh my gosh! That’s crazy coincidence. I just posted my Kitchen M Redux series I. LOL.

  • http://fortheloveofkidsandfood.blogspot.com Miranda

    Super lovely!

  • http://www.bunkycooks.wordpress.com/ bunkycooks

    We are so lucky that you and your comrades were so clever!

  • http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.com Wandering Chopsticks

    I’ve been wanting to make this recipe forever. Definitely bookmarking your recipe.

    Coincidentally, I’m trying a Basque restaurant next weekend. So excited!

    I’ve been retaking photos for a lot of my old posts too. Gives them new life. In a lot of cases, the recipe gets tweaked a bit as I learned how to write better instructions or adjusted amounts and all that. It really shows up much I’ve improved as time goes by.

  • http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.com Wandering Chopsticks

    Oops. Meant to say it shows HOW much I’ve improved. Guess I still need an editor. :P

  • http://www.mytartelette.com Helen

    Dude!!! Re-post?!!
    Kidding!

    I know you are busy working for me….muahahhahah!!!

  • http://www.mattikaarts.com/blog matt

    WOW. incredible, really incredible food photography. Fantastic looking food too mate. So precise, with perfect detail. Just outstanding.

  • http://MyKugelhopf.ch Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf

    too funny ! love the story. but i have one question… what happens when sergeant peppone reads your blog post here ?! ;)

    as you know, i am a big fan of the pays basque (minus the casinos, resorts and war) and do love this cake too. i have a file of recipes for it, but i think yours may have to be the 1st i make, merci !!

    (and… coquin va !)

  • http://www.kalofagas.ca Peter

    Zenedine, I too have been refreshing/updating some old posts…those old photos leave a lot to be desired.

    Me thinks you should share more of your Basque/north French cuisine, n’est’ce pas?

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com Stacey Snacks

    I was just going to repost your gateau w/ jambon and olives! Ok, I guess I can now! (but with U.S. measurements!).

  • http://www.artandlemons.com art and lemons

    These little cakes are irresistible! Thanks for re-posting since I missed them the first time…

  • http://twitter.com/mandacaru Reinaldo Mandacaru

    Simple, elegant and effective!

  • http://kuriouskitteh.wordpress.com Kurious Kitteh

    Oh wow, thank you for sharing your story, and that precious recipe. It’s amazing that you got away with that!

    ~Kurious Kitteh

  • Meghan

    I just got back from a semester in Bilbao, in the Spainsh Basque Country. I’ve been looking for Basque recipes since I got back, I miss the food that much! Glad you reposted this :)

  • http://lifeslashjustine.blogspot.com justine

    the recipe sounds lovely and your photos are great, too!

  • http://www.debishawcross.com Debi (Table Talk)

    Citrus, berries, pastry, and a story involving an arrest~ definitely worth a repost!

  • http://www.mangiodasola.com Memoria

    WHAT A FANTASTIC STORY!! I feel so honored and lucky to have access to this recipe now. You all were a bad group, though LOL!!!

    This cake is absolutely stunning!!

  • http://www.jessicas-jewels.com Jessica

    Wow. I’ve never had anything like this despite my devotion to cake. I must make these immediately.

  • http://anhsfoodblog.blogspot.com Anh

    Glad you re-do the recipe. Else, I will miss out this wonderful gateau!

  • http://www.my-easy-cooking.com nina

    Your operation went well, those cakes are a delight to look at!! Love the diamond pattern on the top!!

  • http://www.youtube.com/linnlar Linn @ Swedish home cooking

    That is super lovely. Very pretty. Almost as pretty as my Swedish Cupcakes :p

  • Punch

    Grams and liters are easy to convert, but how much is in the pack of yeast you use? I have a bucket of cherry preserves that would work beautifully here.

  • Simone

    I’m glad your instructor where so well distracted!!!Luck us!!!

  • http://baconandrhubarb.blogspot.com Rachel (S[d]OC)

    Wow. That was quite a plan. Why didn’t I ever do anything so daring in school? Probably because I was a wimp! These cakes look so gorgeous and the recipe definitely looks worth stealing.

  • http://www.sugarbar.org diva@The Sugar Bar

    This looks totally awesome and WOW. Your instructor sounds like a really cool man. I say that but if i were you I’d probably have been shitting myself when I found out he was storing bombs. :)

  • GeorgieYP

    This kind of reminds me of the Gâteau Breton (with a hint of Far Breton). Lovely and I love the story!

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com Manggy

    Hey, that was two years ago!? How time flies!! I remember this story well, and if I recall clearly, my comment too :) I did like the pic from before, though, I didn’t think it was bad – in fact quite the opposite. But I like this one too.

  • http://colloquialcooking.com Colloquial Cook

    Very nice, but I was wondering, could you use those flavours in a cupcake?

    [nananananèèère]

  • http://weareneverfull.com Jonny

    Sun Zhu has nothing on the nefarious tactics of the French culinary student! Evidently, your espionage was worth it and you made good use of the stolen recipe. I made a large one of these for christmas a couple of years back and put walnut spread over the custard (underneath it would have been a better idea, in hindsight) but it was a huge success and I’ve hardly made a dessert since in order to keep my record intact. Yours not only have the advantage of an ill-gotten recipe, but they look awesome too. Mine had all the good looks of a teenager’s zitty chin.

  • http://simplerecipes.me Juliana

    Wow, what a nice and unique dessert…love the idea of using almond and almond extract in the dough, must taste so good!

  • http://www.6bittersweets.com Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets

    How could we not make this after a story like that? I also enjoyed learning a little about the Basque region. Certainly sounds like an exciting place to be :) .

  • http://www.flavorcapture.com Sha

    I love this French recipe. I would tend to make double quantity because it disappears so quickly!!

  • John

    The Gateau Basque recipe is how I originally found your blog. I love it!

  • http://girlcookinparis.blogspot.com girlcookinparis

    Hi – your photos look great & I love the story! I have a question about the yeast…it’s the first time I’m seeing yeast in a gateau basque recipe. Is this something your family does? I’ve seen a lot of recipes with “levure chimique”, ie, baking soda, so I’m wondering what happens when you use bread yeast instead? Hope you can clarify that for me before I make it! Thanks; glad to see the repost.

  • http://www.canadamodel.ca/en/ nude model

    great pitures ! thanks ! :D

  • http://www.sugareverythingnice.blogspot.com jo

    Absolutely gorgeous and delicious. Love tarts such as this. Great pictures as well.

  • http://lemonsandanchovies.wordpress.com/ Jean

    Your “bad” photos are still much better than my best ones. :-) Besides your fab recipes, your photos also keep me coming back.

  • http://www.notes-inside-my-head.blogspot.com Sparx

    My husband is a Biarrot and we frequently visit (here now as a matter of fact). He loves Gateau Basque and misses it when we’re away. I found your recipe a year or so ago and have since tried it on the locals and your recipe wins hands down as the best they’ve had – plus they all love your story. A late comment but a heart-felt thanks, not least for surprising the hell out of a homesick Frenchman who never in a million years believed I could actually make a Gateau Basque.

  • http://www.notes-inside-my-head.blogspot.com Sparx

    PS, in case you read this, you’ve left out the yeast from this version, is that on purpose?

  • Anonymous

    PASTRIES & Fresh Morning War Java !  What a world…

  • Sue Darwin

    Cannot wait to try your recipe. Having just returned from travelling through France for the third year on a run and stuffing myself with Gateau Basque whilst in the south west.I am going to bake my own. This is the third recipe for the cake I have looked up on the net and I was glad to say yours has almonds in which the others didn’t and as I have eaten so many I knew that it should have almonds in. My mother went on holiday to Biarritz in the early 70′s and talked endlessly of Gateaux Basque. She’d tried different combinations to try to achieve this cake. Unfortunately she died in 2003 but I am sure she would be very pleased to know I now have the recipe. Thank you.
    Sue D.

  • Anonymous

    And this is the best recipe you’ll ever come across. :) Thank you for the comment and please let me know how it comes out for you. 

  • Rebecca

    dude, you DID change the recipe from last post…you subbed baking powder for yeast (yet left “yeast” in the directions)…now I’m confused. Sticking with yeast cuz that’s how I’ve been making it for years now…wondering why the switch?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Rebecca! Thank you for your comments and sorry if I didn’t update the old recipe. What we refer to as “packets of yeast” in France is actually baking powder in the US. I realized that only recently unfortunately, although the recipe seems to work both ways. Try it with baking powder and let me know what you think. 

  • Mike Samuel

    In case you’re interested in adding imperial measurements,

    250 grams Flour < 2 cups Flour125 grams Sugar = 2/3 cups Sugar125 grams Butter = 1/2 cup Butter25 grams Almond Flour = 1/4 cup Almond Flour100 grams Sugar = 1/2 cup Sugar50 grams Flour = 1/3 cup Flour

  • http://peachesplease.com/ Morgan

    Hi Stephane, I made your basque gateaux yesterday and they taste divine. The only issue I keep having (I made it twice) is that the tops keep cracking open. Any ideas as to what I’m doing wrong? Thanks for the great recipe!