Thursday, March 24, 2011

Almond Crusted Gâteau Basque

Recipe and photos:Trina

The Basque region is on the border between Spain and France, and while the Basque are their own culture with their own language and culinary traditions, there are nevertheless some obvious culinary influences from both Spain and France. In this case, gâteau is the French word for cake, and this gâteau incorporates the quintessential rich pastry cream used in so many decadent, indulgent French pastries.

The recipe here is my experimental version of this traditional recipe. For the purposes of greater flavor, love of nuts, continued experimentation with nut crusts, and because a few of our dining companions are trying to avoid gluten, I made the gâteau with an almond crust. And, adhering to our policy of trying-not-to-waste-anything I added a (probably unnecessary) cherry syrup, using the juice drained from the cherries, to the already decadent scene. (And fed the egg whites to the dogs.)

2 15 oz. cans pitted cherries, drained (reserve juice for cherry syrup!)
brandy -- enough to cover the cherries in a shallow dish; I let mine soak in the brandy for a couple of days in the fridge.

Pastry Cream
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon brandy – I used some of the brandy the cherries had been soaking in.

Whisk the sugar with the egg yolks until pale. Add the flour and cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Heat the milk just until it starts to show signs of coming to a boil. Gradually add 1/2 of the hot milk to the sugar-yolk mixture, whisking vigorously to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Take off the heat and stir in the butter. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract or rum. Pour into a bowl and cool slightly. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate until chilled and firm. While pastry cream is chilling, make the crust.

Almond crust
2 1/2 cups raw, whole almonds
1 cup confectioner's sugar
6 TBSP chilled butter, cut into chunks
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
drizzle of half-n-half

Whiz almonds in food processor until fine. (That's almond flour!)

Remove ½ cup and reserve for topping. Add sugar to almond flour that remains in food processor; add butter and zest; pulse briefly until blended. With processor on, add vanilla and drizzle just enough half-n-half to get the dough to form into a ball. Turn dough out onto the chopping block. Scrape food processor bowl clean; work little bits of dough into the main pastry ball.

This is not the kind of crust you can roll out and handle.

Instead of the usual process of rolling it out and lifting it into the tart pan, simply press the pastry directly into the buttered tart pan using your fingertips and the heel of your palm.

Pull the sides up and press smooth.

Drain cherries from brandy, saving the now cherried brandy* to add to the cherry juice you saved initially.

Fill almond crust with cherries; top with chilled pastry cream.

Spread pastry cream and press down into cherries a little bit.

Sprinkle ½ cup almond flour on top, tilting pan slightly and tapping as necessary to spread almonds thinly, entirely covering the pastry cream filling.

Bake at 325 for 45 minutes. Let tart cool completely on wire rack before cutting.

Cherry syrup
reserved cherry juice and cherried brandy* (should be about 1 cup)
2 TBSP brandy
1½ tsp cornstarch

Bring mixture just to boiling over medium heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until it thickens.

Drizzle syrup over slices of Gâteau Basque. Yum!


  1. Oh Yum! Looks fantastic and sounds delicious. I think I'll try it soon. I'm also going to try my luck at growing figs. They grow so well in Ga. maybe they will do ok here. Unlike the papaya that froze. Love your blogs.

  2. you have the four of us here wowed this am, myself thinking how good that would taste right now with my coffee. thx for recipe, you have inspired us to attempt to follow your masterpiece. mike

  3. No Dirt, No Dogs, False Advertising....

  4. VERY nice food photo. Definitely magazine quality for the last one. YUM!

  5. This reminds me of mothers' cherry pie. I've never tasted another as good as what I remember. It has always been one of my favorite pies. I will definitely have to try your recipe, it sounds like it might top my list of favorites. I may have to try it a number of times before I make up my mind though. Wolfman is right!! Your photos are magazine quality for sure!!