October 26, 2014 by NS
Yesterday I tried my hand at making Gateau Basque for the first time. The cake I made was tasty, but it didn’t come out quite right. I have a few ideas about what I did wrong, so I’ll have to try it again some time soon.
The following recipe was made by mixing together the following three recipes, which I found on the Euskal Gazeta page for Gateau Basque, and adjusting for what I had handy or could conveniently buy: Julius Kuhn-Regnier on David’s Table, Gerald Hirigoyen on Cooking.com, and Dorie Greenspan on NPR.
Preheat oven to 350F.
2 cups (250g) flour
1/3 cup (65g) brown sugar
1/3 cup (65g) white sugar
1 stick (125g) butter
1/4 cup (30g) almond flour
1/2 tsp (2.5mL) almond extract
1 tsp (5g) baking powder
1 extra large egg
1 egg yolk
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
pinch of salt
Different recipes suggested different mixing orders. I mixed all the dry ingredients together, then mixed in the butter and zest and extract, and then finally the eggs. Mixing just the butter and sugar together first might be easier. I did it by hand and it wasn’t much work, but for the weak-wristed cook, you can use a standing mixer. After it’s all mixed, just separate it into two balls, one a bit bigger than the other, and put them in the fridge or freezer to chill for a bit. Don’t put the dough in the freezer for too long or it will get too hard for you to roll out.
2 cups (0.5L) whole milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup (100g) white sugar
1/3 cup (40g) flour
1 vanilla bean
Put the vanilla bean in the milk and bring it to a boil. Separately, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until it’s pale yellow. Then mix in the flour. Once the milk is boiling, take it off the heat and slowly add milk to the rest of the mixture, whisking thoroughly, until you’ve added about half the milk. Take the vanilla bean out, cut it open, scrape the seeds out, and add the scrapings to the milk (you can throw away the pod). Then put the milk back on the heat, bring it to a boil, pour the mixture in, and cook for another 1 minute or so. Then pour the mixture out into a wide flat dish or pan to cool.
Roll out the larger ball of dough and put it in a 8 inch pie dish. Put the filling in the middle. Roll out the smaller ball and put it on top. Pinch the edges together. Glaze it with an egg wash (just beat an egg with a bit of water and brush it on). Score a pattern into the top of the dough – this is the traditional pattern for a vanilla cream Gateau Basque. You might want to put a vent in too. Bake the piecake until golden brown – probably at least 30 minutes, perhaps as long as 45 minutes.
The gateau basque that I made tastes pretty good, but it is a bit different and not as good as the ones I had when I visited Basque country. My crust was a bit more dry and hard, and my filling was too thick. Also, the vanilla cream Gateau Basque I had in France had a noticeable taste of liqueur in the filling, which I left out. Here are some things I thought went wrong:
1. Even though I read the David’s Table blog post, I wasn’t very careful about the temperature of the butter. I probably should have chilled the butter more before I put it in. I also didn’t chill the pie dish as suggested, and I touched the dough a lot with my hands as I was rolling it out. I think this caused the butter to get too warm and made the dough less light and flaky than it would have been if I had followed the advice of that blog.
2. My pie dishes are 9 inches, which means I needed a bit more dough, but I was not careful about increasing quantities. The recipe should be increased by roughly 25% to go from 8in to 9in, but I just haphazardly added more, and probably got my proportions off a bit. In particular I think there might have been too little baking powder.
3. Some recipes I saw had even more almond in the dough. I am not sure whether this would have helped with my texture issues, but maybe I should have put in more almond flour.
4. I wasn’t too careful about oven temp (mine is in Celsius and for baking I usually just divide by 2 because that’s pretty close in the 300-400F range), and I didn’t check the pie until about 40 minutes. It was already pretty dark by then but I still dallied for another couple of minutes before I finally took it out. I think I probably overcooked it by around 5 minutes.
5. I didn’t add any liquor to the filling. Some recipes call for 1 tbsp rum. I don’t know what was in the Gateau Basque I had in France, but there was definitely some sort of liqueur in there. I think it was a loss to exclude this, but I didn’t have any rum at home and didn’t want to buy a whole bottle of rum just to use 1 tbsp in the cake.
6. The filling I made came out surprisingly thick and gooey. I am not sure what went wrong as I don’t have much experience with this sort of vanilla pastry cream. I suppose I must have put in too much flour.
The Cooking.com recipe suggests putting rum and an anise-flavored liqueur or pastis into the dough, and also vanilla beans and vanilla extract. I didn’t try this, but it might be good. I’m pretty sure the ones I had in France were not like that, though. The liqueur flavor came from the filling.
Recipes I read varied in the egg content of the dough. Some just had egg, some had egg + egg yolk, and some just had yolk. I don’t have a great sense for how that would affect the resulting dough.
You can obviously fill the Gateau Basque with other things. The other traditional filling is Basque cherry preserves. You can try whatever you want, but some people might get touchy if you put some other fruit in and still try to call it Gateau Basque.