Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all had a safe New Years Eve and are enjoying a relaxing New Years Day, 2015.
Last night we were invited to a New Year's Eve Party at the home of dear friends. Our hosts decided on a Spanish theme for the party. Paella was to be the main course and each couple was asked to bring a tapas to share. My husband and I were asked to bring a dessert.
After doing a little research on Spanish desserts, I found this rustic dessert cake called Pastel Vasco in Spain and Gâteau Basque in France. It is a traditional dessert of the Basque region of both countries which border the western Pyrenees mountain range.
It is made with a buttery egg dough and a vanilla pastry cream filling. I found some versions included almond flour in the dough and filling. Sometimes, there is a layer of cherry preserves also. The typical plaid pattern etched into the top of the cake is also traditional with other designs indicating different types of filling. The cake received great reviews from the other guests and I must agree it was wonderful.
I decided to use Mimi Thorissen's recipe for the cake dough from her new cookbook A Kitchen in France with a few slight alterations to the assembly of the cake. The dough is wonderfully buttery and tastes almost like a light cookie dough which puffs up beautifully while baking. For the vanilla pastry cream filling I used a recipe from a local French bistro that I also used in my post about Fruit Baluchons. The sweet cherry sauce is a recipe I created just for this dessert. My other additions were to add a couple of tablespoons of ground almonds and lemon zest to the bottom of the tart just before adding the filling.
It was a deliciously wonderful way to end 2014. Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2015!
Cake Dough Adapted from My Kitchen in France
For the Vanilla Pastry Cream
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract)
1/3 cup sugar
7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch (sifted)
4 very large egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
For the cake dough:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
13 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh baking powder
Sweet cherry sauce for serving:
1 package frozen sweet pitted cherries, quartered
1/2 cup tart cherry preserves
2-3 tablespoons Triple Sec or Grand Marnier (optional), or lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
Toasted slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
1- 8 or 9" non-stick tart pan with removable bottom
1 egg yolk plus a pinch of salt for brushing over the cake
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
First make the pastry cream:
Place milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Split and scrape the vanilla bean and add it to the milk along with the scrapings (or use pure vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon vanilla paste as I did). Bring milk mixture to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl and using a hand or stand mixer, beat together the sugar, cornstarch and yolks until the mixture turns pale yellow. Gradually pour a little hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Keep adding the hot milk a little at a time until you have added at least 1 cup of hot milk while whisking. Return all of the yolk mixture to the pan with the milk over medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Remove the vanilla bean, if using. Pour the cream into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly over the thickened cream. This will prevent a skin for forming. Place in the refrigerator to cool for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Make the cake dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the sugar and butter until smooth. Gradually add the eggs and egg yolks, mixing until the dough is smooth. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well. The dough will be soft. Divide dough in half,shape into 2 balls and wrap in plastic wrap, flattening into discs. Refrigerate for about 1 hour.
After the cream has sufficiently chilled you may proceed to assemble the cake.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 8" tart pan or butter a round cake pan and dust with flour. (If pan with removable bottom, this step is not necessary.)
Roll out each ball of dough, one at a time on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Roll the first piece into a round about 1-2 inches wider than bottom of the pan so that there is a slight overhang. Roll out the second piece of dough about the same size of the bottom of the tart pan.
To assemble the cake, line the pan with the larger piece of dough, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Sprinkle the ground almonds and lemon zest on the bottom, then fill with the refrigerated pastry cream. Place the smaller piece of dough over the filling.
Stir together the egg yolk and pinch of salt. Brush the overhang of the dough with the egg wash and press the edges together to seal, folding the overhang up and over the smaller piece of dough. Press to seal with your fingers making a rim of dough around the edge of the pan. Brush the top of the cake with more of the egg wash and use a fork to score lines on the top of the cake in the traditional plaid pattern. Make 3 or 4 tiny slits in the top of the cake to allow steam or escape.
Bake the cake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 40 minutes before serving.
While cake is baking, make cherry sauce. Stir together quartered sweet cherries, preserves, liqueur (if using) or lemon juice and lemon zest. Serve along side cake. Toss a few toasted slivered almonds over the sauce.
Notes: This cake tastes best eaten the same day. Leftover dough can be used to make cookies. Brush with egg wash and prick with a fork and bake about 9-11 minutes at 350F, depending on how thick you make the cookies.