This isn’t the standard French method for making gâteau battu (“beaten cake” in English). Traditionally it’s made with fresh yeast using what some people call the “blitz method”, i.e. just throwing everything into the mixer all at once and turning it on. I’ve converted this to a dry yeast procedure on the assumption fresh yeast isn’t easy for most people to find. To compensate for the lack of a fresh, live culture, I’m using instead the sponge method, which gives the yeast a running start since it’ll eventually be confronted with lots of sugar and/or alcohol. I also add the butter in late, as you do if you’re making standard brioche. This creates both a fluffier texture and a higher rise. Omit this step if you’re a stickler for authenticity.
Oh and I should mention that gâteau battu is made in a special mold that looks like this:
You can find it on the internet. Sometimes it’s called a “tall brioche mold” though a standard large brioche mold is actually quite different. If you don’t have — or don’t want to buy — either one of them, you can still make a great gâteau battu in a standard 10″ loaf pan.
For the Sponge
2 ounces (1/2 cup minus a tablespoon) flour
2 tablespoons milk
3 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
For the Dough
7 egg yolks
7 ounces (1 1/2 cups minus a tablespoon) all-purpose flour
2.5 ounces (1/3 cup plus a teaspoon) sugar
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) milk
1 ounce brandy, optional, or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or orange extract)
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces (10 tablespoons) soft butter
Combine the sponge ingredients, stir them together with a fork, and let the sponge ferment for an hour. At that point put the sponge into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook along with the rest of the ingredients save for the butter. Knead for about five minutes, until the dough comes together into a sticky ball. If it doesn’t, add more milk a teaspoon at a time until it does. Alternately, if it’s too sticky, add a little flour to bring it together.
With the mixer running on medium, add the butter a piece at a time and knead about 30 seconds between additions. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container and let it rise for about two hours, until it’s close to double in size.
Butter a tall brioche mold and place the dough in it. Allow it to rise about one more hour, covered with a lightly moistened cloth. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for about 50 minutes until well risen and browned on top. Cool completely on a wire rack before turning out. Slice and serve with your choice of spread.