This sort-of-cake, sort-of -pastry was a favourite when I lived in south-west France. As every pâtisserie made delicious versions of this traditional pastry, I would rarely make my own. Having moved a few thousand kilometres away gâteaux Basques are thin on the ground (clootie dumpling anyone?), so I felt it was time to put on the apron and get baking. You must start this a day in advance-the crème pâtissière filling and fragile dough need to chill and firm up before assembling and baking the pastry. Some versions of a gâteau Basque are filled with a cherry compote but for me, the custard filling wins hands down. However it is delicious served with a fruit compote on the side, prunes soaked in Armagnac or the prune and Armagnac ice cream.
- For the crème pâtissière
- 250ml whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 medium egg yolks
- 60g caster sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornflour
- 20g unsalted butter
- For the pastry
- 240g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
- 30g ground almonds
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 150g unsalted butter, softened
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 medium eggs plus 1 egg yolk for glazing
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ½ teaspoon orange extract (optional)
- The day before, heat the milk with the vanilla extract in a saucepan to just below boiling point. Take off the heat. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and cornflour until thick and pale. Pour over the hot milk. Clean the saucepan and pour the egg and milk mixture back into the pan. Stir over a low heat until the custard thickened and beat to remove any lumps. Cook gently for 2 minutes. Take off the heat and beat in the butter. Spoon the crème pâtissière into a bowl and lay a sheet of cling film on to the surface-this will prevent a skin forming. Leave to cool and then refrigerate overnight.
- Also the day before, make the pastry: mix together the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs followed by the rum, almond and orange extract (if using). Beat in one third of the flour mixture then gently fold in the remaining flour mixture. Spoon the batter/pastry on to a sheet of cling film which has been dusted with a little flour. Don’t worry if it is very soft-it should resemble a stiff cake batter. Wrap up and chill overnight.
- The next day remove the pastry from the fridge. Divide the pastry into two pieces-making sure one piece is about a quarter larger than the other. Dust the larger piece of pastry with flour and roll it out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking parchment to a circle which should be wide enough to line a 20cm, loose-bottomed metal tart tin. My tin in the picture is quite deep but a shallower tin works perfectly too. Carefully line the tin with the pastry but don’t worry if it breaks up a bit-you can patch up any holes and cracks. Spoon the custard into the centre and spread to the edges. Brush the pastry edges with the beaten egg yolk.
- Roll out the second piece of pastry between the two sheets of parchment. It should be just large enough to cover the top of the tart tin. Lay over the custard and press down firmly around the edges to seal. Chill for at least one hour.
- Heat the oven to 200˚c, fan oven 180˚c, mark 4. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg yolk and make a hole in the centre. Score the surface with the prongs of a fork in a diamond pattern. Place the tin on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 40-45 minutes or until golden and firm. Leave to cool to room temperature then lift the pastry out of the tin. Serve in slices with some fruit compote or a scoop of ice cream.