Ah, gateau basque… my basic pastry class nightmare.
When I decided to sign up for a pastry diploma in Paris, I had absolutely no experience in the field. Yes, I knew how to bake one thing here and there but never before had I ever set feet in a professional kitchen.
During the basic intensive course (which, by itself is a pretty big challenge), I had a mostly alright experience. But I had a few oopsies and gateau basque was one of them.
My first ever attempt on this recipe was okayish. The top cracked a little bit but the tart overall looked fine (I think I got a 3 out of 5 score from the chef at the time) and the taste was just delish. Up to these days, and after trying all sorts of pastries, this is yet one of my favorite ones: not too sweet, not too dry, a little bit tart (from the sour cherries) and buttery.
This one, however, was on my exam list — given I wasn’t completely comfortable with the results I had in class, I went to practice it with a few friends before our test.
I don’t know if it was the wine I drank while making it, or some stupid substitution (I didn’t want to buy a whole liter of alcohol just to use in it — orange juice it was instead!), but the tart just exploded in the oven. Like, not exploded in the literal sense, but it was freaking ugly.`
After a few glasses of wine, though, I just convinced myself I had screwed up because of the substitutions and decided it the result was alright — and we all ate the tart because it was ugly but yet super tasty.
Luckily enough, my final test was a Moka cake (which I happened to screw up as well, but ended up fixing it and passing just fine) and gateau basque just became one of those recipes “to try again later at some point”.
And then I tried to make it again. Another screw up. And again. Not good. And again. Cracked top. And one day I just thought to myself “how could I ever make it right at the first trial if I just cannot make it right again?”.
So a few weeks ago, I decided to go on a cookbook shopping spree. I was looking for some basic manual since it’s always useful to have more than one version of a basic recipe (my thousand macaron recipes are saying hello to you now!) and there it was, as delicious as always: my nightmare, le gateau basque.
Given that I even kinda mastered how to make macarons now, I thought it was time to face my fears and finally try it again.
The recipe I got in the book was not too different from the one I had in school, but the method of how to line the tart ring looked way easier. The main problem is that this dough is too wet, and too soft. If you leave it too long in the fridge it will crack once you start lining the ring, and if it’s at room temperature, it will just fall apart.
So, instead of opening the dough all at once, it asked to line first the bottom, then the sides with a thin sausage-like piece of dough. Press it all gently to glue well all the sided, save the scraps for the top and voila, there you have a perfect lined ring with gateau basque dough.
The filling, however, is pretty easy to make. Just a orange flavored pastry cream with a few sour cherries (or sweet cherries if you prefer), really easy to put together.
Finally this time I had results that were better than my first trial at school. And after all this time, I have to admit that it is not that hard to make, it’s just that sometimes you get stuck in a technique but once you take a new perspective on it, then things can start to work well. This is true to absolutely everyone
- 175 g butter, softened
- 125 g sugar
- 85 g ground almonds
- Zests of ½ lemon
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 whole egg, beaten, divided in half (25g)
- 225 g all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 300 ml milk
- pinch of vanilla powder
- Zests of 1 lemon
- 2 egg yolks
- 60 g sugar
- 20 g flour
- 20 g cornstarch
- 20 g rum
- 1 cup of drained sour cherries
- In a medium bowl, mix the butter, sugar and ground almonds with a spatula until well combined.
- Mix in the zests, yolk, 25 g of egg. Lastly, add the flour and salt and mix also with a spatula until the dough is smooth.
- Divide the dough in 2 equal pieces and flatten it into a disk between two sheets of parchment paper. Leave in the fridge for 2 hours or preferably, overnight.
- In a small bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar. Add the cornstarch, flour and whisk to combine.
- Bring the milk, lemon zest and vanilla to a quick boil in a saucepan. Once boiled, pour the hot mixture over the yolks, and whisk well to combine.
- Put all this mixture back in the saucepan, and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the rum, whisk well to combine and transfer the contents to a shallow pan, cover with cling film touching the cream and leave in the fridge until ready to use.
- Before filling the tart with the cream, whisk well to soften it.
- Preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
- Take one of the dough disks from the fridge and cut a circle that is the same size of your ring. This recipe yields one large tart of 20 cm/7.8 in diameter or 4 tartelettes of 10 cm/4 inch diameter.
- With the remaining dough, make a rope-like shape and line the sides of the ring. Press the sides well, making sure it is not too thick on the sides and that it is also well binded with the bottom.
- Spread the pastry cream all over the tart, covering it with the cherries.
- Brush the sides of the tart with water and place the second dough disk on the top of your ring. With the help of a rolling pin, remove excess dough.
- Brush the tarts with the remaining half beaten egg, and decorate the top with the help of a fork.
- Bake the tarts for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.