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Gateau Breton

I met Susan Herrmann Loomis last May while we were in Paris. She had just finished a cooking class at Patricia Wells’ Studio and we had a chance to chat for a few minutes over a cup of tea.

I recently pulled her French Farmhouse Cookbook off the shelf again to prepare recipes for a series of French Immersion classes at Bret’s Table. Here is the recipe for the Gateau Breton. Use the best butter you can find. I used Pastureland unsalted butter and local organic eggs.

7 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons water
1 ¼ cup sugar
8 ounces or 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces or 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch cake pan.

In a small bowl, whisk one of the egg yolks with the water. Set this aside for the glaze.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 6 egg yolks and the sugar until the mixture is thick and pale yellow; this will just take a minute or two. Slowly whisk in the butter and the vanilla extract if you’re using it. Then sift in the flour and whisk until combined. Don’t overmix the flour, or the cake will be tough, but be sure it is thoroughly combined.

Turn the batter, which will be quite stiff, into the prepared pan and smooth it out. Lightly but thoroughly paint it with the egg glaze. Using the back of the tines of a fork, deeply mark a crisscross pattern in the top of the cake, going three times across it in one direction, then three in the other. (The marks in the cake will fade, leaving just their trace on the top of the cake).

Bake in the center of the oven until the cake is deep golden on the top and springs back slowly but surely when it is touched, 50 to 55 minutes. Using a knife or cake tester isn’t recommended as it always comes out looking slightly damp because of the amount of butter in the recipe.

Remove from the oven, transfer the cake to a wire rack, and let it cool thoroughly before serving.