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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.