RECIPE: A Gâteau Basque popped up on my Instagram feed (@rubymadeit) and that immediately settled a decision about what to make for my kayak club Christmas party. I could prepare it in advance and it was easy to cut and serve. I used the recipe from William & Suzue Curley and didn’t alter it.
COMPONENTS: Preparing the pastry was a fairly standard process, but the results were uncertain. The ingredients were well combined leaving me with a smooth but very sticky dough. I scraped it into plastic and put it in the fridge. I watched the custard like a hawk while it was cooking – there was no way I was letting it burn or curdle this time! It thickened substantially after seven minutes. I used bought preserved cherries but you could easily prepare your own.
ASSEMBLY: Even with three hours in the fridge, the pastry was still very soft and sticky. I’m not sure whether I needed to work the pastry more when I was mixing it to activate the gluten more, or whether it just needed to chill for longer. I ended up not being able to roll the base, so I put my tart ring on the baking sheet, and pressed the pastry into place, making sure it wasn’t too thick around the corners. Slightly dampening my finger helped to smooth down the pastry. I added the custard using the piping bag and was a little concerned that there wasn’t enough custard, however it rises during baking and fills the case more than you would expect. I did several rings of cherries with about 2cm in between each one. I’d consider adding more – it wouldn’t hurt. For the top layer of pastry, I rolled it between a sheet of parchment and the cling wrap it had been cooling in. I then cooled the top in the fridge a bit longer before adding it to the top of the cake and making sure the edges had bound together. Following tradition I scored the top with two rows of lines made with the back of a fork.
IMPRESSION: This pastry is mildly sweet, so a great choice for people that don’t like super-sweet cakes. The custard sets perfectly and the cherries made the finished cake more juicy. I served it as is, but you could easily serve it with cream or ice cream. The pastry transforms into a cakey finish, which makes people wonder how you got the custard in the middle. It was easy to transport and serve, and overall was not a hard bake with the added bonus of being able to say you’ve baked a French classic!
Recipe from Patisserie by William and Suzue Curlew
200g (7oz) unsalted butter
180g (6oz) caster sugar
1/4 vanilla pod (bean) split lengthways
80g (3oz) whole eggs (about 1-2 eggs) (reserve the leftover for egg wash)
250g (9oz) plain all-purpose flour
2.5g (1/2 tsp) baking powder
105g (3.5oz) ground almonds
1.5g salt (pinch) salt
Put the butter in a mixing bowl and beat until soft and smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla seeds and beat together until smooth. Gradually incorporate the eggs until they become fully mixed and emulsified. Put the dry ingredients directly on the work surface. Make a well in the centre and use a spatula to spoon the butter mix into the middle of the flour. Use your hands or a pastry scraper to gradually work the flour and butter mixture together. Use your fingers to mix the wet and dry ingredients together to form a smooth homogenous dough. Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap it in cling film. Put it in the fridge to chill for 2-3 hours.
250ml (8.5 fl oz) full-fat milk
50ml (2 fl oz) double (heavy) cream (35%)
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 vanilla pod (bean) split lengthways
60g (2oz) egg yolks (about 3 eggs)
75g (2.75oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz) plain all-purpose flour sifted
20ml (0.75 fl oz) dark rum
Put the milk, cream and lemon zest in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the split vanilla pod into the pan and drop in the empty pod too. Bring to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until they are light in colour. Add the flour and mix until smooth. Add one-third of the boiled milk to the base mixture and mix until smooth. Pass through a sieve and return to the saucepan. Bring the custard back to the boil, stirring continuously, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the thickened custard into a shallow tray and cool rapidly. When it is cold, spoon the filling into a mixing bowl and add the rum. Beat until smooth.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone then grease a 20cm (8 inch) diameter tart ring 2.8cm (1 inch) deep, although a springform cake pan with the bottom removed will do, and sit it on top of the baking sheet. Split the rested pastry dough into two parts (one slightly bigger than the other). Roll out the larger piece of dough to a 5mm (1/4 inch) thickness and use it to line the tart ring. Roll out the smaller piece to the same thickness – this will be the lid of the tart. Put the lid back into the fridge to keep it firm.
Spoon the basque filling into a piping bag fitted with a 15mm (5/8 inch) plain nozzle (tip) and pipe the mixture into the bottom of the pastry case in one complete spiral. Drain the preserved cherries place them into the filling of the tart in a circular pattern. Lightly brush the edge of the pastry with egg wash (leftover egg from pastry). Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Use the rolling pin to lay the rolled out pastry lid on top of the tart. Press down gently to seal, trim the edges and egg wash the top. Score the surface, then bake the tart for 40-45 minutes until golden on top. Leave to cool.
Store in an airtight container and eat within 1-2 days.