How Cordon Bleu experience changed me and Cheddar Gougères recipe

Going to Cordon Bleu Paris, changed me in a lot of ways. It showed me that a different universe exists , one that is quite opposite to the one we live in. As different as black and white. And still very beautiful.

To put it very frankly, I come from a conservative background. My dad has retired as a cop and my mom worked in an insurance company and then as a teacher. Growing up, we fit perfectly into the middle class traditional family category. And I am myself a very cautious person. I wanted to secure my future. The best possible method to do that was getting a good educational degree. So up until I got married, I had never thought I would go to a culinary school, in a foreign land. Cooking and home catering was what the aunty upstairs did, because that’s what she knew. I was a studious girl. I was meant to be a CA. And then going to Paris on my own, seemed impossible. But somehow, I I applied, got admitted and went to pursue a hobby which tugged at my heart. Very cautiously.

Those 5 weeks in Paris taught me a lot. I met so many different people from such varied cultures that sometimes baking was the only common thread between us. Most girls there were independent, living on their own , having travelled so many places all by themselves and in general much more confident than I was. In the initial days I found myself gawking at them, at their bindaas attitude towards life. They had no strings attached and were carefree. Then one evening about 6 of us sat drinking wine at a friend’s studio apartment and we were then going to go to a nightclub called Queens. Believe it or not that was the first time I was going to a nightclub. So anyway, when we sat there talking, I said to myself “I have nothing to lose, so why worry? Just have fun”. In a way, those girls had already alienated me a little bit since we Indians come from a different background. My parents were not divorced, they both loved each other very much, I loved my husband and me and my husband stay with our in-laws. My plans for the future involved having a baby and staying with my husband forever and not to run away to some exotic location like they dreamed of. Perhaps they found me very boring with my baby and family plans and I found them intriguing yet not in a way that I wanted it for myself.  Then when we were dancing at Queens, 6 of us girls and 3 gay guy friends I suddenly felt my heart open up. There is so much to discover in life, so much to learn. I couldn’t do that while being judgemental. Each and every one is right in their own way, and so am I. That was a turning point in my life. I learnt to accept. With an open mind.

Glimpses of LCB

After that night I was able to enjoy Paris and its quirks better.  We went to Queens a couple more times and danced our way to glory. I also went with a Russian girl-friend to Crazy-Horse (google what that is) and as a group we had some amazing dinners with each one of us from different countries cooking up a speciality. And we talked. About our lives, our hopes and our dreams and the possibilities of making them come true. I felt liberated. Yet with a firm grounding of my family and culture.

All of this was possible because I knew I had a family to come back to. A husband who was waiting for me to return. Mom and dad-in-law who were proud of their daughter-in-law and my parents who had given me a sound upbringing that I could take on the world.

xoxo,

Rutvika Charegaonkar

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Gougères

Since last time we saw how to make Mango Eclairs which is a basic Choux Pastry dough, this time I have used the same pate-a-choux technique to make savoury gougères. This recipe is taken from Le Cordon Bleu book “Classic Recipes”. It says that origin of this pastry can be traced back to the Burgundy region of France and it is mostly filled with cheese. Most commonly used filling is gruyère cheese, however other firm white cheese can be easily substituted. I have used Cheddar cheese since it is easily available.

Cheddar Gougères

Gougères (Cheese Pastry)

What you will need :

  • 250 ml water
  • 100 gm butter (I use Amul)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 175 gram flour
  • 6 eggs + 1 egg for eggwash
  • 150 gm grated cheddar (100 gm + 50 gm)

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 220C.
  2. Combine water, butter and salt in a large pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once butter has completely melted, remove the pan from heat.
  3. Add all the flour at once to the butter and mix it in with a wooden spatula.
  4. Then put it on heat again and continue to dry out the dough on medium heat. Take care to see that it does not stick and form a crust at the bottom of the pan. Once the dough stops sticking to the pan and the spoon, it is done.
  5. Transfer it to another bowl immediately. It should fall in one go.
  6. Beat 5 eggs together and gradually incorporate them into the batter while mixing with a wooden spoon. Mix well after each addition to make the dough stretchy and slightly sticky.
  7. Stir in 100 gm of the grated cheese and transfer the dough to a piping bag, with a medium round tip.
  8. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  9. Pipe approximately 2- 2 1/2 cm balls on the tray, leaving about 2-3 cm in between two balls of dough.
  10. Brush the balls with eggwash and be careful that it doesn’t run down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  11. Bake until the gougères are puffed up and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  13. Sprinkle with some chilli powder and grated cheese before serving.

Hollow of a GougèreNotes :

  • The choux pastry balls puff up beautifully once baked. It can be then filled with a cheese filling, but I prefer to keep them unfilled and light.
  • Choux pastry is one of the most versatile doughs I have worked with, and so beautiful!

Gougères with cheese

French Macarons : Need I say more?

If I am to name one thing that I miss about Paris, it has to be the petite macarons. Every patisserie in Paris, big or small had tons of these dainty little colorful cream filled cookies. I was (am!) crazy about them. Most evenings while walking back from le Cordon Bleu school, I would hop into a Laudree or Pierre Hermé, and get one single macaron. Come out, sit on bench and relish that almondy ganache filled cookie before going home.

Now the French Macarons (pronounced mah-kah-ROHN) are different from the Coconut Macaroons. Both names are derived from Italian maccarone or maccherone meaning ‘paste’, referring to the original almond paste ingredient. But the final outcome is vastly different. The french macarons are elusive, and I was told that many a Parisians also did not know how to make the perfect macaron. In most elite patisseries, the macarons are made from a centuries old recipe. But the sandwiched macarons as we know now, have supposedly been invented by Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée, who, at the beginning of the 20th  century, had the idea to join two meringues and fill them with ganache.

The first time I tried a small batch of these macarons, I had very little faith in myself. I was sure that they might taste okay (its almond powder, sugar and egg whites, what’s not to taste good?) but they would not be photogenic at all. So I did not take any pictures. Duh. But then, just a few weeks later, I had to make them again. I just had to.

And here they are:

Macarons on top

These are still not perfect. But technically, they are there. Smooth tops, crinkled feet, a lovely pastel color and a generous amount of white chocolate ganache. What more do you need?

Now, it is not as complicated as people make it to be, but it is not very simple either. It takes some pre-planning, some sitting around time, and a lot of bend-over-the-workspace time as you pipe little rounds of the macaron shells by the dozen.

I studied the Pierre Herme macaron book and several other websites for a long time before I decided to use one recipe for Pierre Herme’s book Macarons.

One macaron

I will list out a few commandments for making these macarons. They are not exhaustive and every time I will be adding some more notes and tips and dos and donts. If you find any important must-dos, let me know in the comments section.

  1. The separated egg whites used to make the macaron shells have to be carefully separated, and should not contain any part of the fatty yolk, which makes whipping the egg-whites difficult.
  2. It is essential to use “liquified” egg-whites. Liquified egg-whites are those which have been sitting in the refrigerator for a week, so they lose their elasticity.
  3. To get perfect round shapes, you can make a stencil on a parchment paper with shot glasses and use that stencil underneath another parchment paper for piping the shells.
  4. I grind my almonds at home to make almond powder, and in that way I can use the best almonds and sieve it a couple of times to obtain a very smooth consistency. No crumbs at all.
  5. An electronic thermometer is essential, because the sugar syrup has to be cooked to a specific temperature and then whisked again with the egg whites till it cools down to a particular temperature. Any over-heating or over-cooling will disturb the macarons perfect texture.
  6. Sugar plays a crucial role in the meringue. If you decrease the sugar, the meringue will lose its stability.
  7. After piping the macaron shells, tap the baking tray on a towel on a kitchen counter, so that the top flattens out and all air bubbles are released. Then you have to let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, until a skin forms on the surface. The batter shouldn’t stick to your finger.
  8. The shells have to be baked for 12 minutes in a convection oven (the one with a  fan), briefly opening and shutting the oven door twice to let out the steam. Open the door first time at eight minutes (at that time the ‘foot’ of the shells will be cooked) then a second time after 10 minutes.
  9. The baked shells have to be carefully unstuck from the baking sheet, because they are quite fragile. You can use an offset spatula to gently nudge the shell.
  10. After filling the macarons whith ganache, they should be kept in the fridge for 24 hours to let the ganache/buttercream set in. Or the macaron feels very dry and crumbly. And they have to be best eaten at room temperature, an hour after taking them out.

Collage of steps of macaron

 

Rose Macarons

Makes about 72 macarons, 144 shells.

What you will need:

For the macaron shells :

  • 300 gm ground almonds
  • 300 gm icing sugar
  • 110gm liquefied egg whites
  • About 5 gm red food coloring
  • 300 gm caster sugar
  • 75 gm water
  • 110 gm liquefied egg whites

For the ganache :

  • 200 gm white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 150 gm fresh cream

What to do :

  1. A week before making macarons, separate egg whites from egg yolks. For this recipe you will need about 8-10 eggs. Separate the egg whites, place them in a tight lid glass bottle, and keep it aside in the refrigerator for a week. This will liquefy the egg whites. (See commandment above)
  2. On the day of making macarons or one day prior, finely grind almonds and sieve them a couple of times to get a smoother consistency without any crumbs. I like the nutty flavor and hence use un-blanced almonds, but you can very well use blanched almonds.
  3. Then once again sift together icing sugar and ground almonds.
  4. Stir the food coloring into first portion of liquefied egg whites
  5. Pour them into the bowl of icing sugar and ground almonds but do not stir.
  6. Bring the sugar and water to a boil at 118C. When the syrup reaches 115C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of liquefied egg whites to soft peaks. (Take help if available.)
  7. When the sugar reaches 118C, pour it over the egg-whites. Whisk and allow the meringue to cool down to 50C. Then fold it well in the mixture of ground almonds and icing sugar.
  8. Now spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Be careful that there are no air bubbles getting trapped while filling the bag.
  9. Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5 cm in diameter, 2 cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment paper. It is essential for air to circulate from all sides of the macaron shell, and hence space them considerably. You can use the stencil made with a shot glass as a measure.
  10. Leave the piped shells to stand for 30 minutes until a skin forms on the surface.
  11. Meanwhile, preheat the fan oven to 180C. Put the baking tray in the oven and bake for 12 minutes, briefly opening and shutting, twice. (See commandment)
  12. Take the baking tray out and slide the baking parchment on to a work surface, or it will continue cooking further on the tray, which we don’t want.
  13. Put in the other tray to bake and continue doing so till all the shells are made. Once fully cooled, release the shells from the baking paper with a slight nudge with a spatula. (Careful, they are still fragile.)
  14. Take chopped white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and switch off the heat just when it starts to boil. Pour the cream on white chocolate, let it rest for 2 minutes and then whisk to form a smooth ganache.
  15. Spoon the ganache in a piping bag and pipe a generous mound of ganache on half the shells. Top with remaining shells, and keep in fridge for 24 hours.
  16. Remove and let it sit at room temperature for minimum one hour, before serving or eating.

Rose Macarons

Notes :

  1. Macarons are a bit time-consuming, but not difficult. And the joy of having made them at home is enormous. Try it, and everybody around you will be super impressed.
  2. These little things improve every time you practice. I sure did crack a few macaron shells,  one batch got burnt, one batch was undercooked and some macarons totally browned on top. you have to know your oven and keep practicing to get the perfect shell. Also, this recipe can be easily halved.
  3. The flavor combinations are tremendous and only sky is really the limit.

 

Orange Chocolate chip loaf cake – robust and simple as life mostly is.

There are moments when I terribly miss Paris. The omnipresent Eiffel tower, the sunset over the Seine, the fancy-dressed musicians on the streets, colorful pavlovas dotting the patisseries, tiny little espressos, copper pots clinging to the walls, demure little macaroons, the flea markets, Rodin’s Thinker, carefully curated gardens, the morning vegetable markets, foie grass, carousels and all, but most importantly Danielle, my host in Paris and now my friend.

It was partly because of Danielle, a friend of my dear friend, that my Paris dream came true. I remember the first time I met her, on the bus stop where I was waiting for her to pick me up. I always thought Parisian women are very snooty (and believe me they are), but Danielle looked very kind and warm. She willingly took me to her beautiful apartment and instantly I knew that this month in paris, her home and she, will be a cherished part of my life for years to come.

I miss that 71-year-old, young friend of mine very dearly. At-least once a day, I catch myself remembering something she said, or something around her house, or the French potato gratin she made on my first day in Paris. Sometimes the wine bottle sitting on my shelf makes me think of her so much that I have a temptation to pour a little in a glass and swirl it to check its notes. Or simply make a creamy fish like she did and may be the aroma of the cream being baked will make me feel close to her.

Her bedroom, the room which she gave me generously for a month, was idyllic, like those you see on Pinterest. White French windows with pink and violet flowers in the balcony and the room full of books. How fervently I hoped I could read French, those books were alluring. And Danielle, whose daughter in law is from Kolkatta, and who visits India every year had very cleverly used cotton sarees as in-house curtains. Simple, yet so elegant.

The day before I started school in Le Cordon Bleu, she carefully showed me the way to school, which metro to take, which exit to walk out of, and all in English because I hardly understood French. Oh how it tired her, the act of thinking in French, translating and then talking in English. But we had some great conversations. I always used to look forward to having breakfast or lunch with her, and talking about the oddities of life, the dreams, hopes, desires, tales of cruising along through life and its myriad colorful lanes. How she would say Oh là là when she remembered a sweet thing, and how her eyes would go silent when talking of something estranged. Oh I miss her voice, her pause when she is remembering an english word, her acceptance of reality, her zest to help an older 85-year-old lady staying upstairs, her caramelised leek roast-  the way her mom made it, the opera music filling the room when she knitted, and oh, simply her presence. I miss all of it so bad that I have to exhale deeply to empty my heart of the longing to see her.

Danielle invited me to her book club meetings, took me out for a classic French dinner, invited her friends and family so that I could meet them, showed me photos of her in her young days, took me around Paris, we even went for a Bollywood movie, and patiently listened to my tales from patisserie school every day and ensured that I don’t feel home-sick. And she did it all with such finesse that it never felt that she was intruding in my life, but was always solidly present.

All through the day I could go waltzing around Paris or be in the school for 9 hours, because I knew I would have company at night, someone to report the events of the day before going to sleep. Someone to pull me out of trouble if I get into one, while in Paris. Someone to look after me when I was an ocean away from home and someone to simply ask me how was my day or if I had proper dinner.

Five weeks later, when it was time to leave, she came to drop me off at the bus station and while bidding goodbye, a silent lonesome tear trickled down my face. Not a sad tear but a thankful, indebted one. And her parting words to me , the ones that got etched in my mind were “Thank you, you were kind to me.” It was the simplest, least dramatic but very emotional good-bye which was more of a see-you soon than a farewell. It was the beginning. Of a new friendship. Of a new me.


Today I will share with you all a simple go-to chocolate chip pound cake recipe. It can be baked in an hour and sometimes all you need is an uncomplicated chocolate flavor, with a hint of orange. Nothing fancy and assuming, but something robust yet tender, like a grandma’s wholesome cake.

Chocolate chip cake with oranges

Orange Chocolate Chip pound cake

What you will need:

  • 240 gm all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 225 gm salted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (only if using unsalted butter)
  • 200 gm granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175C. Generously butter a 9*5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together flour and baking powder to mix evenly and break any clumps.
  3. Beat sugar and butter till pale in color.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time till fully incorporated. Add orange zest.
  5. Fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula, taking care to not over-mix.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon the batter in the prepared pan and level it with the spatula.
  8. Bake for 40-60 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  9. Once baked, let it rest for 15 minutes before removing from pan and transferring to a cooling rack.
  10. Serve with fresh orange pulp , drizzled with some chocolate syrup.

Orange chocolate chip cake

Notes :

  • Resist the temptation to cut into the cake till it has considerably cooled down, or it has a tendency to crumble when hot.
  • The orange zest can be substituted with vanilla extract/ vanilla essence, but I highly recommend orange zest.

 

Paris and Hot Chocolate cake with buttercream frosting

I am back in Mumbai to the chaos, colors and my comfort zone. Overall the last 5 weeks in Paris have been quite enriching. There were days in the beginning when I did feel lost and missed home, but then the city seeped into my subconsciousness and I enjoyed the days. Paris is enigmatic and callous at the same time. The entire city is like a museum and each street is filled with art galleries and boutique shops. But also with thieves and drunkards. With gourmet food and fashion icons, but also with ragged clothes and foul smelling subways. Paris receives about 27 million visitors per year but still is the 5th topmost place in the world for pickpockets.

But as I said, my time in Paris was wonderful. I was on guard at all times , but I came back without :

  • Losing my passport, money and or anything valuable
  • Breaking any beautiful art piece or glassware in my host Danielle’s beautiful home
  • Gaining any weight after a month long buttery French Pastry course
  • Taking any medicine of any sort (not even a headache, even once).

And meanwhile, I had some amazing times when I:

  • Tasted almost 50 different types of French pastry from the chefs in school and also from Hermes, Laduree, Lenotre and some more.
  • Made awesome friends from atleast 10 different countries
  • Went first time to a kickass night club at the Champs Elysees (that was my first time in not only that club, but in ANY night club. Yeah.
  •  Tasted foie grass, grilled rabbit and Julia Child’s famous beef bourgnion in the school.

Eventually I realized that :

  • Mona Lisa at the Louvre is not that great. And plus you can only look at the painting from a 15 feet distance . The idea of her painting in my head sounds more gorgeous than the actual painting.
  • Eiffel tower on the other hand is so incredibly beautiful at night that I could stare at it for a long time, and look at it with longing for it to sparkle.
  • The French folks are somewhat arrogant, and no one will talk to you before you say Bonjour. No matter if you said Hello/ Hi, or you are in a hurry;  the world halts before you say Bonjour/ Bonsoir (that is good morning/ good evening)
  • All pigeons in the world are just the same. Look at this otherwise dainty Paris street :

pigeon in parisThe school, Le Cordon Bleu Paris was pretty cool, although I have some complaints about the format. That will come up in the next post.

chocolate cake

In school we once made a sponge cake with buttercream frosting and they showed us good techniques for doing the frosting. But surprisingly just three of us from the group of thirty had frosted a cake with buttercream before. And I had done it just the week before leaving, so it was easy for me during the practicals. We had to lift the cake in left hand and frost it with a spatula in the right hand, while rotating it around. We hoped that no one would have any accident while frosting, and thankfully no one did. But, while putting the tall cake in the fridge for cooling, one girl (a very dear friend of mine), bumped it to the upper rack and the cake got a slope on one side.Never-mind, such accidents happen, but it tasted delicious!

Piece of cake

Hot Chocolate cake with Chocolate buttercream frosting

What you will need:

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup hot chocolate (I use 1 cup of hot water mixed with 5 tablespoon of hot chocolate powder)
  • 1 and ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 and ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 and ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, preferably warm
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 c. Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup salted butter , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2- 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 175C. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and hot chocolate; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.ith an electric mixer (either hand or stand), beat eggs for 1 minute.
  4. Add milk, butter, and yogurt. Beat until well-combined.
  5. Stir in vanilla extract until incorporated.
  6. Add hot chocolate mixture, and stir to combine.
  7. Add flour mixture, and stir in until just combined.
  8. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  10. Cool in pans for 10 minutes.
  11. Remove cakes from pans and cool on wire rack until room temperature.
  12. The cake is now ready to frost and assemble.
  13. For the frosting, take cocoa powder in a large bowl. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
  14. Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
  15. Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, whisk for about a minute or beat for about 30 seconds with a hand mixer. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
  16. Add vanilla extract and combine well.
  17. If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
  18. Once the cake has completely cooled down, frost one of the cakes with buttercream with a spatula. Then put the second cake on top and cover it generously with the buttercream. Store at room temperature.
  19. Decorate with buttercream drops on top.

Frosting cakecake being cutTips :

  1. You can also bake the cake batter in one pan and then cut it horizontally to frost in the centre and assemble back.
  2. The buttercream can be stored in the fridge for upto a week. Just whisk it well before using.
  3. I used salted butter to make the frosting, but if you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the buttercream so that it does not taste too sweet.

Gâteau Basque (French butter cake) and Paris Flea Market

When I was a kid, my grandmother had a big bottle of beads, sequins, buttons and other glitter. She used  it for her embroidery work and knitting, and treasured it in a cupboard in a corner. When I went to her house, which was often, I used to look at it and think of owning that treasure some day. I don’t do any embroidery work, but I badly wanted that bottle. May be because it was so important to her, that I felt I had to take it and keep it safe.

About 2 years back, a couple of days after she passed away, I went to look for that bottle and take it over. But to my utter dismay, it was not there. Nobody thought it was important, and I think it just went to trash. I almost cried. My grandma had handled it  everyday. It had her feel, her smell, and now it was gone. My mom reasoned to me saying ‘what use did I have of those mismatched beads?’. May be that mismatched beautiful mosaic made me see life in technicolor. Or may be it was just the Cancerian in me which wanted to hold on to things, of the past. But I could not hold on to it and it was gone. Eventually forgotten.

And then when I went to a flea market in Paris, it came back to me. Those antiques were a part of someone’s life just like my grandma. I had a good time looking at them, but never ever will they mean as much to anyone as much they did to the original owner. May be someone sat at that desk and wrote the best lines they had ever written, or may be that necklace was gifted to a new bride by her husband, or someone’s mom made delicious food in that copper pot, everyday, for years. We might never know the story, but only imagine some.

Paris flea market

My wonderful friend and host in Paris, Danielle (I feel very odd to call a 71 year old lady by her name, but that’s the way it is in Europe), she has some amazing stuff collected over years. Her husband’s illustrations, old books which her kids used, a few books written by her and her husband, souvenirs collected from places she visited and much more. It’s like an art gallery right here in her house. I wonder what will happen to it all when she does not need it anymore. Her husband’s drawings will go to the museum. But I hope her kids and grand-kids would take the stuff they like, before it is too late.

On another note, Paris is getting colder but more beautiful as Christmas approaches. The city of lights is really getting lit up, from the streets, to malls to big and small Christmas trees in front of shops. And of course, the Eiffel tower. The sparkling tower looks like a zillion stars just twinkled at the same time on a clear winter sky. And its visible as soon as we leave our school. One day, it literally pulled me in its direction and without any map or guide I simply walked and walked till I reached Tour Eiffel. Almost an hour’s walk in the cold windy Paris. But it was like discovering the tower myself from the other side, with autumn leaves still hanging for the last breath.

Autumn eiffel tower

It’s hard to imagine that we have already completed three weeks and 15 traditional French recipes at school. Everyone in school has developed dislike for anything sweet now and nobody even tastes the pastries anymore. Duh! Not me. I love every bit of it. Especially if it has some alcohol in it like the Grand Marnier, Cointreau or even rum. Its delicious. I can never tire of it. Period.

Gateau basque

Today, I will be writing about this very traditional 17th Century cake called The Gâteau Basque (Butter cake with pastry cream) from the Basque region of Southern France. It’s rich, smooth and filled with delicious pastry cream and cherries. A recipe which was taught to us at the Le Cordon Bleu, it’s a classic and very French. The list of ingredients and step-by-step recipe is going to be a bit long, but don’t worry it is quite easy to make.

Butter cake

Gâteau Basque (Butter cake with pastry cream)

Time taken to make : about 2 hours and Serves : about 8 people

What you will need:

Cake Batter:

  • 250 gm unsalted butter, cold and diced into small pieces
  • 200 gm powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 260 all-purpose flour
  • 5 gm baking powder
  • vanilla

Pastry Cream

  • 300 ml milk
  • vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 60 gm powdered sugar
  • 20 gm flour
  • 20 gm custard powder / cornstarch
  • 20 ml Cointreau (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 150 gm cherries
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten, to glaze

What to do :

  1. In a clean dry bowl, take sifted flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and a pinch of vanilla.
  2. Add cold butter cut into cubes. Then with your fingers break the cubes of butter and mix it with the flour mixture.
  3. Once roughly incorporates, take it on a work surface or countertop.
  4. Make a well in the center and add egg yolks. Mix it with a pastry scraper and knead the dough with hands, till there are no more lumps of butter. Be careful to not overwork the dough.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle some flour on it.
  6. Take the dough and roughly divide it into two parts – 2/3rd and 1/3rd. Flatten it into a disk and let it rest in the fridge.
  7. For the pastry cream, take milk in a big saucepan, add some vanilla and then add half of the sugar and put it to boil.
  8. Meanwhile in another bowl, add the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar, Whisk well till it becomes frothy and pale in color.
  9. Add flour and custard powder to the egg yolk and sugar mixture and mix well.
  10. Once the milk comes to a boil, take it off the heat and add 1/3rd of it to the egg yolk mixture. Once totally combined, add this mixture to the rest of the milk and again heat it for 1-2 minutes, till the mixture begins to thicken. Remove it in a separate bowl, give it a good whisk and put it in the fridge for cooling. Add the Cointreau/ rum.
  11. Take a 20 cm ring mold or a springform pan, and generously butter it with softened butter.
  12. Take out the dough and on a well floured surface roll the larger dough disk into a circle about 2-3 cms bigger than the mold.
  13. With the mold firmly placed on a parchment paper on a baking tray, lift up the dough circle and place it on the mold. Press along the sides so that the dough sticks to the buttered mold. Let the excess dough flip over on the sides.
  14. Take out the pastry cream once cooled and with a piping bag and tip # 10 / 12, pipe the pastry cream on the dough disk in circles.
  15. Put some cherries in the pastry cream and gently push them down. Be careful to not push all the way through or it might pierce the dough at the bottom.
  16. Take the other 1/3rd dough disk and roll it into a thin circle. Place it on top of the dough in the mold with the pastry cream. Gently seal both the dough circles together on the rim of the mold and trim off the excess with a knife.
  17. Glaze the top with an egg wash of lightly whisked egg for getting a light caramel color on top.
  18. Bake this cake in a pre-heated oven at about 160°C for about 30-40 mins, till the dough looks cooked.
  19. Take it out and let it cool for a couple of minutes, but then un-mold it when it is still warm.

Gateau basque whole

This cake tastes better at room temperature once totally cooled. So plan in advance, and enjoy this French dessert.

Notes:

  1. The pastry cream is delicious on its own. Just mix with some citrusy fruits like oranges, or even strawberries and make a healthy dessert.
  2. Be careful while un-molding the cake, as it is a bit fragile with all the pastry cream inside.
  3. This cake can be stored int he refrigerator easily for upto 3 days.

Gatequ basque cherries