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Gâteau Basque

There are many variations of this cake from the Basque region of France.  My version was originally created for PastureLand and I hope that it will still be published on their site.  However, this great company is in jeopardy of closing its doors, which will be a huge loss for all of us that enjoy this fabulous butter.  Therefore, I decided to go ahead and publish it here too as another way of keeping the hope alive that a solution will be found to keep their doors opened.

Of course with most everything I do, I’m always pushing the envelop.  In this case since there was almond flour in the freezer gilding the lily was in order.  I substituted some of the all-purpose flour with almond flour and bumped up the flavor even further by adding a little pure almond extract.  Almonds and cherries are a classic combination.

I realize that not everyone is going to have brandied cherries in their refrigerator, but if you have some at hand, add a few to balance the sweetness of the jam.  I have a couple of jars of said cherries as I made a sour cherry apéritif  last summer using the fruit from Mark and Sue Christopher’s trees of Maple Leaf Orchard [1], Spring Valley, WI.  I talked to Mark last Saturday at the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market.  He said that if the abundance of flowers are any indication, it should be a great crop of fruit this year.

I’ll try and post the recipe for brandied sour cherries and the Sour cherry Apéritif come July when the fruit will be plentiful.

1 ½ cups (6 ¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 ¾ ounces) ground almond flour or 1 ¾ ounces sliced blanched almonds, processed to powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces) organic cane sugar or granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
¾ – 1 cup (6 – 8 ounces) thick cherry jam
1/3 cup of brandied sour cherries, cut in half (optional)
1 large egg, beaten with about 1/2 tablespoon of water for glazing the cake
Crème Fraîche or Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)

Whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat another 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the extracts and mix for about a minute more.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in two or three additions, mixing only until they’re fully incorporated.

The entire weight of the dough is about 1.6 pounds. Divide the dough approximately in half and place each half between large pieces of plastic wrap.  One can be a little larger than other other as you will need one piece dough to be rolled to an 8 1/2-inch diameter round and the other to 8-inch in diameter round.

Place the doughs on a baking sheet and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours.   When you’re ready to assemble and bake the gâteau, center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350ºF.  Generously butter a 8 x 2-inch round cake pan.  Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

Remove one of the pieces of dough from the refrigerator.   Cut out a round of dough 8 1/2 –inches in diameter.  Fit the round in the bottom and up the sides of the pan by ½-inch.  If it tears a little, just press the piece together.   Spoon the jam onto the dough, starting in the center of and leaving 1/2 -inch of dough bare around the edge.   Using a pastry brush, moisten the bare edge of dough with a little water.

Remove the second piece of dough from the refrigerator and cut out 8-inch round of dough.  Set this piece on top of the jam filled piece.  Gently slide an off-set spatula down against the outside of the dough and push the ½-inch piece over on top of the piece that was just placed on top of the jam.  The goal is to seal the top dough to the bottom one.

Brush the top of the dough with the egg glaze and use the tips of the tines of a fork to etch a cross-hatch pattern across the top.

Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 5 minutes before carefully running a blunt knife around the edges of the cake. Turn the cake over onto a cooling rack and then quickly and carefully invert it onto another rack so that it can cool to room temperature right side up.

The cake is delicious eaten plain or enjoy it with a dollop of crème frâiche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.