High Altitude Baking column: A classic Spanish dessert with an intriguing name
Editor’s note: High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Gateau Basque … sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? It’s a classic dessert from the Basque region of Spain that crossed the Atlantic to a round of applause. Not really a cake, too thick for a cookie and distant cousin to a slab pie, this pastry boasts a sour cherry filling encased in rich, almond-flavored dough. The contrast between the sweet crust and the tangy cherries works; sip an espresso while you nibble and you’ll swear you’re in a European bakery.
The jam you use is critical to its success; get a high quality one with lots of cherries in a thick syrup; anything less will seriously undermine the results.
Make the gateau a day before you plan to serve it so the flavors have time to develop.
Make in a 9-inch springform pan
1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
A little less than 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, chilled
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sour cherry jam
2 teaspoons cherry brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons dark rum
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons whole milk
Make the crust: Place flour, almonds, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are ground to a fine powder. Cut the butter into 16 pieces, add them and pulse only until they’re reduced to small pieces. Combine the egg, yolk and two extracts in a small bowl, add them and pulse until the dough forms large, moist curds.
Dump the dough onto a sheet of waxed paper and gently knead a few times until it comes together. Divide it into two pieces, one a little larger than the other, and form into discs. Wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours or up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Generously grease the pan with a vegetable oil-flour spray.
Remove the larger disc of dough, place it between two sheets of plastic wrap sprinkled with flour and roll it into an 11-inch circle. Transfer it to the prepared pan. I do this by removing the top sheet of plastic wrap, centering the dough circle (plastic wrap side down) over the back of an 8-inch cake pan, putting the 9-inch springform pan over them, inverting them both, then removing the 8-inch pan and plastic wrap. Gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, trimming the sides to make sure they’re even and about 1-inch high and smoothing and patching any tears or wrinkles. Place the dough-lined pan in the refrigerator.
Prepare the filling by mixing the jam, brandy and rum in a 2-cup measure or small bowl until well blended. Set aside.
Remove the second disc of dough from the refrigerator and roll it into a 9-inch circle.
Remove the pan from the fridge and spread the filling over the bottom of the dough, leaving a border of about 1 inch. Put the 9-inch dough circle on top, then fold the sides of the dough over it and press with the tines of a fork to seal the two together. Use the fork to make crossing diagonal lines on the top. If there are any dough scraps, roll them and cut shapes with a small cookie cutter to decorate the center.
Glaze by combining the egg and milk and brushing generously over the top. Bake until a deep golden color, about 40 minutes. Remove to a rack, let cool 10 minutes, run a knife around the sides, pressing toward the pan, and then remove the pan sides and let cool completely. Store, wrapped airtight, at cool room temperature, for up to three days. Cut with a serrated knife and serve at room temperature or slightly warm.
This is a variation of a recipe from Levitz’s “Ready for Dessert.”
Vera Dawson, author of the new high altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards and The Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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