The Cross and the Swastika

Several folks weighing in so far telling me what they want to see as the filling in the gâteau Basque. As I mentioned below, classically they come in fruit versions (usually black cherry) and pastry cream versions. In Basque country they generally make one or the other. And while French pastry makers like Daniel Boulud no doubt make a great French gâteau Basque that combines both, the French aren’t Basque — just ask any Basque person, even and especially the French Basques.

I once had a Basque roommate and I can personally attest to the fact that these people aren’t from any country, and may not even be from this planet. They inhabit a pugilistically proud universe all their own. Traipse carelessly over Basque cultural territory whether by deed, thought or accidental movement of eyebrow and brother, they will let you know it. So my general thought on the matter is: let’s let them have it their way. Those who dissent can explain their thinking to Juan Carlos Aznar when he calls (and I warn you: he’ll make you use all three names when you address him).

Know a pastry cream gâteau Basque by the criss-crossing straight lines cut into the top. By contrast a fruit-filled gâteau Basque has a Basque cross, also known as a lauburu, cut into it. And if you’re wondering what that is, it’s a type of swastika (no, not the Nazi kind, the good luck kind) that’s sort of a national symbol of Basque Country. You see, they’re so serious about these pastries that there’s even a visual code for them. I’d hate to be the first to have to design a top that uses both the crosses and the swastika, as it would be frightfully gaudy (make that Gaudí since we’re so close to Spain) and maybe heretical.

But seriously, if I have dough and energy to spare I might make a second gâteau with both, provided no one out there tells Juan Carlos Aznar it was me. Because I can just hear the phone conversation now: no, Juan Carlos Aznar…I didn’t mean it, Juan Carlos Aznar…I’m sorry, Juan Carlos Aznar…

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