Why It Works
The primary time I heard of gâteau Basque (or Basque cake), I used to be advised to think about a form of pastry that blends components of a cookie, a tart, and a pie, with a filling of pastry cream or cherry jam. That description was greater than sufficient to promote me on the thought—it wasn’t lengthy earlier than I would baked my very own. The consequence was frivolously candy with a sturdy but tender, barely crumbly crust, buttery-rich taste, and a creamy heart. Dorie Greenspan, the prolific baker and cookbook writer, equates it to a “grown-up Pop-Tart” and, funnily sufficient, these had been the primary phrases my brother-in-law used to explain the pastry, mumbling them between mouthfuls of cake.
Gâteau Basque hails from the pays Basque, or Basque nation, in southwestern France. Often known as “etxeko bixkotxa” in Basque, the cake gained widespread reputation through the nineteenth century, due to Marianne Hirigoyen, a baker from the city of Cambo-les-Bains, who offered the muffins at native markets earlier than opening her personal bakery. These days, the cake is a fixture of Basque culinary tradition, a lot so that there’s a museum, a two-day annual pageant, and an Eguzkia affiliation of twenty pastry cooks, all of whom are devoted to selling and upholding the cake’s custom.
Basque cake has two important parts: the dough and the filling. The dough itself is comprised of all-purpose flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, eggs, butter, and salt. The addition of baking powder helps the dough rise barely and lightens the ultimate texture, avoiding dense and heavy outcomes. I like to combine in almond flour, a non-traditional ingredient, which I discovered provides a nubbly high quality to the dough and enhances the almond extract (one other addition of my selecting) within the pastry cream filling. The dough is simple to organize with a stand mixer, first by beating collectively softened butter and sugar till fluffy, then working in an egg, and eventually incorporating the almond and all-purpose flours. The dough is then break up into two (these will later be layered with the filling) and refrigerated to agency up.
Historically, the filling consists of both pastry cream or black cherry jam―it’s all the time one or the opposite, with pastry cream being the most well-liked. For the pastry cream, I persist with basic vanilla, including in a splash of rum (which I’ve made elective) and almond extract (should you’re inclined, you’ll be able to sub in chocolate pastry cream, which isn’t a typical taste variant however one which pairs effectively with cherries). As for the jam, the “official” model is comprised of black cherries grown in Itxassou, a village within the French Basque nation, however that is clearly not an possibility for many of us, so use no matter store-bought black cherry jam you’ll find.
In my very own recipe checks, I made variations alternatively with solely pastry cream and solely jam, and whereas they had been good, I couldn’t assist myself from making a 3rd model with each fillings, which—shocker of shockers!—was my favourite with that basic tart-like combo of candy custard and juicy fruit. Whereas not solely typical for gâteau Basque, it’s not an unheard-of innovation in fashionable recipes.
As soon as the fillings are ready, the ultimate step is assembling the cake, first by rolling the disks of dough into clean, skinny layers, after which layering them into an eight-inch cake pan with the pastry cream and jam in between. After pinching the highest and backside dough edges collectively, I wish to fold the surplus again over as an alternative of trimming, to create a thicker crust throughout. A little bit egg wash brushed on prime adopted by a crosshatch sample with the tines of a fork give the cake its basic shiny design. After baking and as soon as it has fully cooled, gâteau Basque tastes greatest on the day it’s made, coupled with a mug of tea or espresso, and, should you should, a Pop-Tart for comparability’s sake.
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