In my dreams Gâteau Basque.Is it a cake or is it a biscuit?

Ah but whats inside? read on

For some time now I have been having vivid dreams, something I had put down to the anxiety of life in a pandemic. Many of these dreams have taken me travelling. A magic carpet ride to a whole new world of fantastic points of view and through a window of learning about interesting places and very often the food that emanates from them.One of my recent dreams woke me up  in the Basque Country, I have never been to Pays Basque, so the prospect of having Ossau-Iraty, a sheep’s cheese with butter and Irouléguy wine at its source offered potential. Even better, chocolate enriched with the sweet and hot chilli from Espelette. When I was fully awake I needed to continue the research my dream had begun. It led me to a  museum, can you believe this, a museum dedicated to a cake, The Basque Cake Museum. That there is a museum dedicated to a cake instantly made me love the region .What it houses is even more of a surprise. As you would expect from a museum of this kind there are a wealth of historic cooking utensils, but it also offers hands on pastry workshops led by its founder, pastry chef  Bixente Marichular, who says this pastry is part of Basque patrimony. Every family has a recipe, and every family thinks theirs is the best. You can learn how to make this iconic cake of the region.
With fresh new season cherries spilling off market stalls this is the perfect summer indulgence. I thought I´d give it a go. Gâteau Basque is a cross between a cake, a biscuit, and a pie. There are two versions, the Basque version with a cherry filling and the French version with pastry cream. This Basque "cake" is made from two discs of rolled dough and has a baked filling, either custard or jam, if jam it is usually local black cherry. Another plus for me was that the pastry is dead easy to make and can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept chilled in the fridge.This had to be the cake of my dreams

I had some sour black Amarena cherries in syrup that needed using up and I used these to make my own cherry jam but a good quality commercial brand like  Bonne Mamman or St Dalfour would be perfect.
Because there is baking powder in the dough, the texture is more airy than you might imagine, but also a bit crumbly because it contains egg, it is softer than you would expect from a dough. It has a bit of crunch and a bit of chewiness, like a thick cookie. it is caramelized on the edges, where it browns a little more. It has a satisfying purity – the prime attraction of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs – which becomes irresistible after a few bites. The two traditional finishes for pastry are a hatch pattern, which is often a sign that the cake is filled with custard, or a Basque cross – an elongated S cut in half by a side S – shaped from the dough, this that might make you switch to a jam filling. Apparently there are no rules on decorating, so I went to do a hatch on my cake filled with jam. Once baked, the texture of the “cake” is a heavenly mix of crumbly, tender and chewy. Since gâteau Basque is a casual treat, eating it with your fingers is allowed.

An authentic Gateau Basque
2 cups/256 grams all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/142 grams unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
¼ cup/55 grams light brown sugar
¼ cup/50 grams granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ to 1 cup/180 to 240 grams thick cherry jam
1 egg, beaten with a splash of cold water, for glazing 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Working with a mixer (use a paddle attachment if you have one), beat together the butter and both sugars on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, and beat for another 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla; the mixture should be smooth. Add the flour mixture all at once, then pulse the mixer to begin incorporating it. Mix on low until blended.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather into a ball, then divide in half.
Shape each piece into a disk — the dough will be sticky — and put each between sheets of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece into a round just a smidge wider than 8 inches. Keeping the dough sandwiched between the parchment, refrigerate for at least 3 hours (or for up to 3 days).
When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven, and heat to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8-inch-by-2-inch round cake pan. Remove the dough from the fridge, and leave on the counter until pliable, about 10 minutes. Peel away the paper.
Fit one round into the pan; if it breaks, just press the pieces together. Either fold the extra dough over and onto the base or trim it; don’t fuss about precision here. Spread about 3/4 cup of the jam over the base, leaving a 1-inch border bare and adding more jam, if needed.
Top with the second piece of dough, lightly pressing down around the edges and, if you can, tucking the dough under a bit. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect; the dough is soft, and as if by magic, the layers fuse in the oven.
Brush the top with the egg wash, and use the tines of a fork to etch a crosshatch pattern.
Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Transfer to a rack, and let rest for 5 minutes, then carefully run a table knife around the edge of the cake. Unmold onto the rack, and then quickly and carefully turn the cake over onto another rack, crosshatch side up, so that it can cool to room temperature. Wrapped well, the cake will keep for 2 days at room temperature

The verdict? Cétait Magnifique!


Popular Posts