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Bake basque and feel better! Gâteau basque

My poor non French people,

Are you one of these strange persons who always fantasize about going back to their childhood, “back to the future” way? I thought I wasn’t. I’m actually living with someone who is part of this weird crowd, obsessed by buying toys you had when you were a kid, or the smell of a perfume that’s “exactly as this particular glue I used at kindergarten”. I don’t consider myself nostalgic of the past, I will never say that “c’était mieux avant“, things were better back in the days… I know that life was much harder then, and for women even more… And then, I made this cake.

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Gâteau basque. Basque cake.

A tradition in the South West of France, in the Basque country, at the frontier with Spain. We used to go there every summer when I was a kid, and it’s still a magical place for me, so much that if I ever go back to France, that’s where I want to live (and eat!). More precisely in a small village called Itxassou. I fell in love with this village when I was 9 year old, and keep going there each time I can, to see the beautiful white and red houses, walk in the bright green mountain, and… buy great stuff to eat…

I drove there once again last time I was in the area with my mom, and we went on my favorite kind of road trip: the food quest! She drove me to a village she loves, where there is an amazing macarons store (I plan to write a post about these too, the authentic macarons, with no colour and fancy flavors, made with just almond meal and simple products, and invented 300 years ago in this area…).

Then we drove to Hasparren, where I wanted to go for a long time to buy what I consider the best ham ever, le jambon de Eric Ospital (God knows I also want to write a post about his French and perfect charcuterie I was the luckiest girl to be able to eat some of his wonderful Ibaiona ham and pâté for my wedding -oui, my mom smuggled it for me and came with a suitcase full of Eric Ospital’s wonders. His ham is so special that each has a carte d’identité, an ID card!)

And finally, after a long search, we found it. The one thing we had been looking for everywhere on the road, on many previous roadtrips. When I was a kid, I remember, it was at this old lady’s, place, in Saint Pée sur Nivelle. The shop is long closed now, so where should we go? We tried plenty, hated some, and finally found the one. The good and only, true, delicious, gâteau basque.

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A very good gâteau basque is very hard to find, although (or maybe because?) it is very simple. Eggs, flour, butter and… what else? rum. Oh yeah, Rum is important in the equation…

I love the very fact that it’s not trying to be fancy.

It almost seems plain. It was a common homecook dessert in the Pays Basque, before the tourists came and made it something to try after going to the beach. Something your grand-mother would cook when you came to see her on Sunday. But believe me, it’s more than a “normal” cake. Maybe because of the filling. Maybe because of the kind of crust. I really can’t tell. I just know that for me it tastes like vacations and being a 7 year old daydreaming in the backseat of my parents’ car.

part de gateau basque

So what was I saying… Do you consider yourself a nostalgic person?

Well, I kind of changed my mind after making this cake for the first time. I took a bite, closed my eyes, and it came to me instantly: I was back in my childhood, with my parents, trying to find the best gâteau basque. Something like Marcel Proust dipping his Madeleine in a cup of tea. Except that Madeleines are everywhere for me, from gâteau basque to boeuf bourguignon, rondiaux or tarte aux prunes…
And I guess that’s why I cook and blog… To find again my childhoods pleasures, and to share them with you.

My gâteau basque

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½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar, and 2/3 cup for the cream
2,5 cups flour, and 1/3 cup for the cream
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 large eggs,  3 large eggs for the cream and 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Rum and 2 tablespoons for the cream
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon butter

  • Cut the butter in small dices (it must be at room temperature). Smoothen it with a wooden spoon, until it’s soft as a face cream, “en pommade”. Stir continuously as you add ¾ cup sugar, 2,5 cups flour, the baking powder, two eggs, the salt and 2 tablespoons of rum. Stop when the dough is homogenous, divide it it twp and  shape two large balls.
  • Refrigerate for an hour.

Meanwhile prepare the crème pâtissière.

  • In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium-low heat. Whisk 3 eggs and 2/3 cup sugar, then add 1/3 cup flour. When they are perfectly combined, add half of the warm milk.  Whisk firmly together, then pour everything back in the saucepan, with the rest of the milk. Whisk continuously as you bring to a boil over medium heat, for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the rum, stir and stop the heat. Let the cream cool down at room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven at 350°F.
    Butter a 9-inch round spring-form pan. Flatten the balls of dough, and put the first one  at the bottom of the pan. Press it lightly onto the bottom and up the side of the pan. Pour the cream on it. Roll the rest of the dough into a 9” circle, and put it on the top. Press gently to seal the edges. Using a fork, lightly score the top in a diamond pattern. Brush it with the egg yolk. Bake for 40 minutes.

It’s at its best the next day, and cold, of course.
Bon appétit les amis!

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4 Comments On This Topic
  1. French Girl in Seattle posted
    November 18, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    What a lovely story… and it ends with a recipe for the elusive Gâteau basque! You are spoiling us. :-) By the way, I don’t consider myself a nostalgic person either, but I do know the value of always remembering your roots, your past, and where you came from. So go for it, indulge in the souvenirs (and the cake.) Nothing wrong with that. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    • Cecile Delarue posted
      November 19, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      Totally d’accord with you. This is how this blog was born actually. Funny how living far from your roots actually draws you closer to them, non?

  2. French Girl in Seattle posted
    November 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Indulge in the MEMORIES is what I meant– even if le Gâteau basque of your childhood could be considered a “souvenir,” too ;-)

    • Cecile Delarue posted
      November 19, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Merci! I’m in for indulging in everything!


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