Petits gâteaux basquaises

If you are into French pastry traditions, you may have heard about the Gâteau Basque. It’s a regional desert from southwest France consisting of a slightly crunchy, buttery, dense, crusted cake with a fruit (and sometimes custard) filling in the middle. The most common filling is a layer of cooked cherries, but other fruits are possible (such as prunes). Well, as usual, I needed to find an application for unused ingredients from a previous recipe. So, here is my experiment and variation on a theme. The gâteau becomes petits gâteaux. The “basque” becomes “basquaises” – much like my biscuits arabesques. I learned from this experiment, and so can you. Spoiler alert: Learning from an experiment usually means that something went wrong.

Petits gâteaux – muffin-size cakes

Overall process

These little cakes have two (or three) components, the crust (for lack of a better term since it’s not exactly like a muffin or a cake or a pie) and the filling. Make the filling first. Whatever filling or fillings you decide to include, they will need time to cool and come to room temperature. It’s important that they be at room temperature when putting it all together. Too cool and you risk an expansion that could erupt. While the fillings are cooling you have plenty of time to make the batter.

Creamy orange date filling

I used the date filling that was in the center of some of my biscuits arabesques. To it, I added finely diced candied orange peels (brunoise) and the last of the orange poaching syrup. This filling is delicious and could be still enhanced by the inclusion of Grand Marnier.

  • 1 kg dates (pitted)
  • 200 gm cream cheese
  • 50 gm powdered sugar
  • 9 gm ground nutmeg
  • Candied orange peel of one whole orange
  • 50 ml orange syrup
  • 25 ml orange blossom water

Place all of these ingredients in a food processor and turn it loose until you arrive at a homogeneous paste. The consistency of this paste will be very important. You will need to be able to pipe it into the center of a pastry ring but it should hold its shape and not flow.

Creamy orange date filling

Gâteau basque recipe

You can find a variety of recipes for the gateau basque batter on the web. I chose the following because it can be piped into a pastry ring. This recipe is from Bruno Albouze.

 250 g Butter, room temp

 4 g Salt

 180 g Brown sugar

 2.50 g Vanilla paste

 125 g Almond meal

 150 g Eggs

 280 g Pastry flour

4 g Baking powder

As per Chef Albouze’ instructions, this batter is sufficient for a 9” / 23 cm cake pan or pastry ring yielding 8 slices. I used 6 muffin-size pastry rings at 2” high. There was still a bit left over.

Spoiler reveal

I succeeded and failed at my experiment. How? I succeeded in making very good minis-gâteaux in the small pastry rings. The pastry itself cooked very well and was beautiful. However, I failed to make a delightful desert for one reason. I seriously under-filled the pastry. The filling is absolutely delicious but I should have used three times the amount in each gâteau. This batter dries considerably when baked. It needs plenty of filling to create a delightful experience.

Watch the video to see how I filled the rings. You will see how my skills need to improve but how “it worked”.

Montage: putting it all together in pastry rings
Creamy date orange filling. More filling would was needed.

Future corrections

A matter of proportions. To make a moist, flavorful and interesting petit gâteau basque in the future, use the following guide: 2/3 pastry to 1/3 filling by weight. Example: A 90 g petit gâteau would have 60g pastry batter / 30 g filling; 120 g would have 80 g pastry to 40 g filling.


Totally Nutty Chocolate Spread

I bought some peanuts the other day, wanting to make some peanut butter. However, as I was rummaging through the cupboard, I saw that I had some hazelnuts and almonds as well. Then I stumbled upon some chocolate bars and my mind quickly turned to Nutella. Of course Nutella has no peanuts, but a similar nut spread, Gianduja spread does.

Peanut, almond and hazelnut praline.

The recipe for this “Totally Nutty Chocolate Spread” is more simple than either Nutella or the Gianduja referenced above. Nothing gets masked in this recipe. The flavors are bold and straightforward. If you like dark roasted coffee, you’re gonna like this intense nutty chocolate spread on a piece of toast with your Java in the morning.


  • 200 g dark chocolate (72%)
  • 150 g milk chocolate (35%)
  • 250 g toasted peanuts
  • 150 g toasted almonds
  • 100 g toasted hazelnuts
  • 250 g granulated sugar
  • 2 pinches of sea salt (to make flavors pop, especially if you reserve some of the praline)
  • OPTIONAL: The addition of vanilla and/or cinnamon would work well in this.


1. Pour the sugar into a dry skillet (non-stick if possible) over medium high heat. Do not disturb the sugar until it has begun to melt and change to an amber color below the surface. You are making a dry caramel. Because you have so much sugar in the pan, you will now need to turn down the heat a bit and begin moving the pan and lightly stirring the caramelizing sugar so he it doesn’t burn on the bottom and the surface sugar can melt too. Ideally all the sugar would be melted and amber before adding the nuts. I didn’t wait that long as I was afraid of burning the sugar. RULE: Never leave caramelizing sugar unattended.

2. Add all of the nuts and work them down into the liquid sugar. This will cause the temperature of the sugar to drop and the mixture will show signs of hardening. Work quickly but with small movements to coat all of the nuts. Add a couple pinches of salt at this point. NOTE: You do not want the mixture to stiffen in the pan. You will need to keep it pliable by raising the heat slightly and/or moving the pan off and onto the heat as you stir.

3. When thoroughly combined move quickly to pour it onto a silicone mat or parchment paper and work with a spatula to flatten it out. The mixture with stiffen quickly. You’ll need to work quickly. Still, it doesn’t have to be perfect for our purposes here. Let the mixture cool. You have made praline.

4. Melt the chocolate. Your choice of methods – double boiler or microwave. I chose the microwave. Break the chocolate bars into chunks to facilitate easier, faster melting. Go for 30 second bursts, then stir. Repeat until completely melted.

5. Time for “Robocop” – my name for my amazing food processor (some days I think of it as Wolverine). Break up the praline into chucks that the food processor can handle and let it run until a moist, sandy mixture forms. Add all of the melted chocolate and repeat. This recipe makes a grainy paste, easy to spoon and spread but not fluid. You have made “Totally Nutty Chocolate Spread.”

Enjoy on toast or crackers with a cup of coffee or tea. As you can almost see in the photo below, I reached for an espresso. In its own way, this snack made for a double shot.

10 AM Booster shot: chocolate nut spread, a bite of praline, a dose of espresso.

Je vous souhaite une belle journée.

May you have a beautiful day.

Kale and Brussels sprout salad

Kale and Brussels sprout salad / Salade de chou frisé et de choux de Bruxelles

I’ve been making this salad for a few years by now after seeing it on a Bon Appétit site. It never fails to receive compliments, and friends often request that I bring it to dinner parties at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a bright, crisp, crunchy salad that contrasts well with braised or grilled meats and cooked vegetables. If you do not enjoy the taste of Brussels sprouts, fear not. Raw, young sprouts do not have the same flavor profile as when cooked.

The salad is not the only handmade thing appearing on today’s blog. I made the salad bowl (top left) for my mother 50 years ago – in 7th grade shop class.

I normally use our food processor to make this salad in order to “be quick about it.” However, today, to honor my daughter (again) who constantly advocates for muscle power in the kitchen instead of electricity whenever possible, I use a chef’s knife for this task and so can you.

Meditation on knife over “robot” (French for food processor). The decision to use no power tools has an immediate impact on one’s environment both internal and external. Yes, it will take longer to make the salad. No, this task is not strenuous (like making mayonnaise or whipped cream by hand can be). But more importantly, your world becomes quieter. If you can “let go” of time for a bit and focus on the simple tasks in your hands, you may discover a sense of peacefulness and the pleasure of your handiwork. To this recipe for working in peace, I added one more element – I turned off the kitchen lights and was able to work easily in the sunlight coming through the windows. A poor man would probably get a chuckle out of all this “talk”. After all, he is not in a position to make such decisions. Oh, just to keep it real and simple: 1) I would suggest to not play music while you work. Sing or hum a tune instead, 2) Enjoy renewed attention to your sense of smell too, the garlic, the lemon and the parmesan cheese when you grate it.

INGREDIENTS (All as fresh as possible. No precise quantities given. Watch the video below and judge how you might do this for yourself or your family.)

  • Kale : strip leaves from stem and chop as desired
  • Brussels sprouts: remove stem and chop as desired
  • Garlic: peel and mince
  • Lemon (zest and juice; one or two according to taste)
  • Parmesan cheese: finely shredded but not powdered (avoid buying pre-shredded)
  • Almonds (toasted and roughly chopped; used sliced almonds here since that’s what was in the cupboard)
  • Olive oil: use your judgement on quantity creating the consistency that you like
  • Salt and pepper (freshly ground; to taste)
9 ingrédients – 2 mains – 1 couteau

Biscuits arabesques

“arabesque”: decorative style, of Arabic or middle eastern inspiration

The “look” of these cookies was not exactly what I was going for. But the flavor…… I need to give these to friends asap or I’ll eat them all by this evening. These cookies are delicious.

WARNING: Despite my motivation for baking these, they are NOT “ma’moul”. They are a blend of Greek and Lebanese influences.

What about that “look”? I had been wanting to make a Lebanese cookie called “maamoul” for quite some time. You can shape them in the palm of your hand and then use a fork to create decorative patterns on the surface, or you can use small wooden molds (see below) for a more spectacular look.

I searched for months to find mamoul molds like those pictured above and found them in a shisha shop (of all places), but, alas, my molds are now in France and I am not. So… so…. what to do? I wanted to make these cookies and I was not confident that I could make them in my hand. “Aha!”, I thought. I’ve got some interesting molds that I could use to make a filled cookie.

As you can see in the photo above, I ended up using a mold AND making a few by hand. In the end, I learned that making them by hand was not as difficult as I had thought. Still, when I get back to France, I want to put those wooden molds to use.

What about that flavor? You’ll see and read the details below, but, just to say, clove, cinnamon and orange blossom water will put you in a dream state – and the only risk is caloric.


  • Make cookie dough (reserve in fridge)
  • Make date filling
  • Make walnut filling
  • Make date filling balls rolled in pistachio powder
  • Make cookie dough balls
  • Assemble
  • Bake at 350 F / 190 C for 12 minutes and begin checking for light golden doneness.


The recipe for the cookie dough in this blog comes from Dimitra’s Dishes. This Greek dough is lighter and more fragile than other doughs in this middle eastern cookie tradition. (US measurements from Dimitra. I did the metric conversions.)

  • ½ pound (227 gm) unsalted butter softened
  • 1 tablespoon (12 gm) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar (110 gm) (NOTE: I believe that the super light texture of this dough comes from this ingredient).
  • 2 egg yolks (100 gm)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 gm) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (250 gm) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (<2gm)
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder (2 gm)
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (NOTE: I didn’t have any oranges in the house. I added 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water……… an addition that fills your senses every time you start to take a bite. Use this ingredient if you can.)
Mise en place
Be careful when using a hand mixer. It is more difficult to control the speed than with a stand mixer. Too fast can produce a tougher dough. I thought of working in the dough with a spatula but didn’t want to push the air out of the mixture.

CREAMY DATE FILLING (The following recipe makes enough filling for several batches of cookies or other deserts; keeps very well in the fridge.)

  • 1 kg dates (pitted`)
  • 200 gm cream cheese (not a traditional ingredient)
  • 50 gm powdered sugar
  • 9 gm ground nutmeg

I had a block of dates that I had to pit and then place in a food processor to create the paste. TIP: Lightly oil the blade and bowl of the processor before beginning. The dates are a bit tough and sticky. Then 1) process the dates into a sticky mass, 2) add the other ingredients and process until well combined and smooth. You may need to pulse, scrape the sides and pulse until you are satisfied with the texture. NOTE: The cream cheese is not a traditional ingredient in these cookies. I added it because I wanted a filling that I could pipe into other deserts as well. To counter act the tanginess of the cheese, I also added the powdered sugar to keep the sweet kick kicking. It worked well and tastes wonderful.

SPICY WALNUT FILLING (from Dimitra’s Dishes with a couple modifications)

  • 125 grams ground walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ( 3 gm) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon (about 1 gm) ground cloves
  • 2-3 tablespoons (app 7 gm) powdered sugar (Dimitra uses granulated sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons orange blossom water (Dimitra suggests water or rose water)
  • SPOILER: I also added a slurpy tablespoon full of some leftover sweet elixir from some orange confit that was in the fridge. It seemed like a good thing to do. It had a little butter in it too. I think some crêpes suzettes was in its history.



Le pain au levain fait main/ Handmade sourdough bread

Added a couple of videos to show mixing and shaping the bread by hand.

Le Four de Sainte Anne à Chez Bonneau

First bread baked in the oven of Sainte Anne since before COVID-19.

I have hesitated all summer long to bake a load of bread in our precious oven. For one, I haven’t baked in it since the summer of 2019. I have heated it up a few times with small fires just to “season” the bricks but not wanting to shock them with a full-blown fire of 250 degrees Celsius. To heat up the oven is a commitment of resources that one should never waste – mainly wheat and wood. I finally pushed myself to get going again though still in a smaller way than will become the norm. I made 10 loaves of approximately 1 kilo each – enough to justify getting back “online” but not too much in case the bread didn’t turn out as hoped for.

Le pétrin – placed in line with the morning sun to…

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