Earlier today award-winning cookbook writer, Dorie Greenspan, unraveled the mystery of Gâteau Basque. Here she walks you through the same process of making this traditional French dessert that is found in the pages of her latest book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. “This is my working of Gâteau Basque,” she warned us. “It's not authentic authentic. It's like a thick shortbread with filling. It's delicious.” Turn the page for her recipe.
Dorie Greenspan's Gâteau Basque
From: Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.
Makes: 8 servings
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup thick cherry jam or an equal amount of vanilla pastry cream
1 egg beaten with a splash of water, for the glaze
1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and keep at hand.
2. Working in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until smooth. Add the egg and beat another 2 minutes or so, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The mixture may look curdled, but that's okay. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two or three additions, mixing only until they're fully incorporated into the dough.
3. Place a large sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper on your work surface and put half of the very soft and sticky dough in the center of the sheet. Cover with another piece of plastic or wax paper, then roll the dough into a circle just a little larger than 8 inches in diameter. As you're rolling, turn the dough over and lift the plastic or paper frequently, so that you don't roll it into the dough and form creases. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
4. Put the dough on a cutting board or baking sheet and refrigerate it for about 3 hours or for up to 3 days.
5. When you're ready to assemble and bake the gateau, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 2-inch high 8-inch round cake pan.
6. Remove the layers from the refrigerator and let them rest on the counter for a couple of minutes before peeling away the plastic or paper. Fit one layer into the pan – if it breaks, just press the pieces together. If there's a little extra dough running up the sides of the pan, you can either fold it over the bottom layer or cut it so that it's even. Spoon some of the jam or pastry cream onto the dough, starting in the center of the cake and leaving one inch of dough bare around the border. Add more filling if you don't think it will squish out the sides when you press down on it with the top layer of dough. (I find that 3/4 cup is usually just the right amount, but if you're using a very thick jam, you might want a bit more.)
7. Moisten the bare ring of dough with a little water and then top with the second piece of dough, pressing down around the edges to seal it. If you'd like, you can work your finger between the top dough and the edge of the pan, so that you tuck the dough under a little. Because of the softness of the dough and the baking powder, even if you only press the layers together very lightly, they'll fuse as they bake. And, no matter, how well or how not well you press them together, it seems inevitable that a little of the filling will escape.
8. Brush the top of the dough with the egg glaze and use the tips of the tines of a fork to etch a cross-hatch pattern across the top.
9. Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 5 minutes before carefully running a blunt knife around the edges of the cake. Turn the cake over onto a cooling rack and then quickly and carefully invert it onto another rack so that it can cool to room temperature right side up.
Serving: I think both the jam- and cream-filled cakes are best plain, but a little whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream are always nice on simple sweets.
Storing: Wrapped well, the jam-filled cake will keep for a day or so at room temperature. You can also keep the cream-filled cake overnight, but it will need to go into the refrigerator. However, because refrigeration can dry cakes, I think it's best to serve the cream-filled cake the day it is made.