Gâteau Basque originated in the 17th century. Although traditionally made with only pastry cream, it was common in old times to fill the pastry with jam made from black cherries from the village of Itxassou near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, where they celebrate with a cherry festival in June. It’s one of those dishes that has evolved with the world in which it travels. You can eat it civilly with hot coffee for a merienda or like I do, by the spoonful right out of the pan. The most amazing part of this gateau is that it came out so well and I made it from scratch. A year ago I had never baked at all. What a difference a year makes.
Ingenuity and daring are born out of support and a certain disregard of criticism. I have been incredibly grateful to have discovered and re-discovered the creative parts of myself through the creation of this site a little over a year ago. I’ve developed my own voice in various disciplines, discovered a new lens through which to view food and cultivated a certain fearlessness in experimentation. I’ve fallen in love with learning about all the bounty that nature has to offer and all of the ingenious ways in which we humans have thought to use that bounty across cultural divides. Failure has become just another attempt at something and no longer holds (much) power over me. When things don’t turn out right, I’ve learned to ask, “how can I do it better?” or “what can I do differently?” rather than unleashing an excoriating monologue in my head and burning through a list of personal faults. That’s no way to live. After all, failure is only failure if you haven’t grown from the experience. I’ve also come to know some incredible, intelligent, generous, supportive and passionate people (writers, photographers, cooks, travelers, etc) both in person and online that I would never have met were it not for the blog. It’s absolutely amazing and they keep me coming back daily.
In embarking upon this process, I’ve also learned to pay attention to the seasons. There are lessons to be learned there. The precious short-seasoned fruits and veggies beckon me to celebrate them by using them in everything I can, like berries, figs, tomatoes, scapes and summer squash. I mourn their passing less if I know I’ve made the most of my short time with them. It eases the blow of the natural cycle of comings and goings that are so much a part of life. The hearty veggies like potatoes, radishes and kale that hang around, remind you that they have seen all of your false moves and also demonstrate an admirable resilience and endurance. You can depend on them. Nature really has thought of everything.
In celebration of the blogiversary, I bring you Gâteau Basque. Emblematic of a new skill, sweet and tart, crusty yet soft, French and Spanish. Everything you could possibly want in a baked good, except maybe chocolate. That we can save for next year. If you follow this recipe to the letter, you will not regret it!
A caveat: I don’t own any beautiful bake ware, or bake ware at all for that matter. I had to go to the store late at night and all they had was disposable pie pans. I’m not too proud to use them. Now people know what to bring my blog for its birthday!
Gâteau Basque adapted from Daniel Bouloud’s Gâteau Basque from Food & Wine
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 ounces (1 stick-8 tablespoons) butter at room temperature
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- pinch of salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
Place the sugar, butter, lemon zest and salt in a food processor and pulse until it is blended. Add the egg and egg yolk and pulse until mixed. Whisk together the flour and baking powder and add to the processor and pulse until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and divide it into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Pat the dough into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup milk
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
For later you will also need preserved whole cherries and/or high quality cherry jam/preserves. And for the egg wash 1 egg yolk combined with 1 tablespoon milk.
Whisk the sugar with the egg yolks until pale. Add the flour and cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Heat the milk just until it starts to show signs of coming to a boil. Gradually add half of the hot milk to the sugar-yolk mixture, whisking vigorously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Take off the heat and stir in the butter. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract. Pour into a bowl and cool slightly. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate until chilled and firm.
Remove dough from fridge and let it sit for a few minutes to take the chill off. Butter a 9 by 1 inch baking pan, flan ring or pie pan and set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Working between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper and a bit of flour, roll out the larger piece of dough to about an 11-inch round. east the dough onto the flan ring, pressing into the bottom and up the sides, leaving a slight overhang. Spread a layer of cherry preserves evenly over the bottom of the tart shell. Layer the pastry cream over the preserves and spread carefully. Roll out the second piece of dough to a 10-inch round an lay it over the pastry cream. Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crusts together to seal the crusts and trim the overhang. Using a knife, score the top crust in a decorative crosshatch pattern. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Brush the gâteau with an egg wash made by combining the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon milk. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let the tart cool completely on a wire rack. Unmold to serve.