Gâteau Basque is probably the ultimate afternoon cup-of-coffee-and-a-good-book pastry. It’s definitely got a less-is-more thing going on. Sweet and crumbly, it’s the kind of cake you can nurse along for half the afternoon, savoring the vanilla, brown sugar, and black cherry filling. Despite all the steps you’re about it to see here, there’s no magic to the process. You can pull one together with very little work or worry. Start with the dough. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle, combine the sugar and butter (here I’m making a double batch).
Beat that until it’s fluffy, then add the egg.
Beat on medium-high for about two minutes until the mixture is light and creamy.
Scrape the bowl…
…and add the vanilla.
Beat that for another minute until…I guess it looks the same. Scrape the bowl again just to be safe.
Now add the dry ingredients in three additions, but stir the dough just until there’s only a little of the flour mixture showing. You don’t want to overmix this.
It’ll look about like so when you’re done:
Now then, divide the dough in half and gently form the halves into balls (about 10 ounces each). Lay one of them on a sheet of plastic…
…cover with the another sheet…
…and gently roll the ball out to a roughly 8-inch circle, rotating the dough as you work. Repeat with the remaining dough and refrigerate the pieces for at least three hours, up to three days.
When you’re ready to shape the cake and bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8″ cake or springform pan with parchment paper. Meanwhile take the dough circles out of the refrigerator to let them soften a bit.
Remove the top sheet of plastic from one of the circles and flip the dough into the pan.
Press it into the corners.
Now for the filling. Spread around about 3/4 cup of the black cherry preserves, leaving about a 1″ edge.
Then dip your finger in water and run it around the edge.
Now lay on the top crust.
Poke that down around the edges…
…then paint on some egg wash.
With a very sharp knife, score the top. Sets of three or four lines like this are traditional. Go straight across first…
…then at a diagonal.
Bake the cake for about 45 minutes, until it’s well browned. This was my pastry cream-filled one. It cracked a bit due to expanding steam. Ah well, these things happen. Let the cake sit in the pan for about five minutes on a cooling rack, then run a knife around the edge to loosen in.
Place another rack on top, then flip everything over.
Remove the pan, gently replace the rack…
…and flip everything back over again. Remove the rack, let it cool down another half an hour, then slice and serve.
Now then, for the pastry cream-filled version of the cake, pipe (or spoon) about 3/4 cup of pastry cream onto the crust.
If you want to be French about it, (not Basque) add a few dollops of black cherry preserves in addition. Proceed as above.
It will look about like so.
Some of you are surely wondering: which tastes better: the traditional single-filling gâteau Basque or the French-inspired combo? Well they’re both excellent. Ehem. However if pressed to answer I have to say…the French version. The pastry cream both moistens the very crumbly cake and mellows the black cherry perfectly.
But now I’ve gone and done it. Shortly Juan Carlos Aznar will be calling. He’ll force me to meet him on the field of honor in Basque Country where we’ll put on big shoes with balls on the toes, then ritually slap each other with fish until one of us cries out for mercy. Or whatever they do over there to settle disputes. I hear it’s something like that.