Gateau Breton

Perhaps I've mentioned this wonderful goodie in previous posts, if only to speak of its ease of preparation and its delightful taste and texture.  In the wake of making a walnut version recently, I thought it time to focus on Breton dough a bit more.  


Gateau Breton au noix

In Brittany a simple gateau Breton is a common offering for petit déjeuner.  It's hard to describe its texture - kind of a cross between cake and shortbread.  When you first take a bite, there is a crispiness to the exterior, but then you reach a dense, almost cake-like interior full of buttery goodness. So deelish.

Breton dough is in the sablé category of dough, but differs from some pâte sablés by changing up the sugar, butter and flour ratios, adding more egg yolks plus baking powder, not a typical ingredient in shortbread and tart doughs.

There are many Breton dough recipes out there.  Most of them utilize equal weights (or close) of sugar and butter in addition to a number of egg yolks, and an amount of flour that is usually about 2 times by weight of that of the sugar or butter.  You can replace some of the flour with a ground nut flour of choice, e.g. almond, pistachio or walnut. Tons of variations exist!

The beauty of Breton dough is its ease of mixing and shaping.  Plus, depending on how thick you bake it, you'll end up with a crispy shortbread (baked thin) or a classic gateau Breton (baked thick).  How can you go wrong with those choices?!

For my walnut version I used Christophe Felder's sablé Breton recipe from his book Les Folles Tartes, replacing the almond flour with toasted, then ground walnuts (toasting nuts before using brings out their flavor!).

I'm a pastry chef who takes lots of notes.  In Felder's book the dough is described thus:  "sablé aéré et léger", and my notation of 2/11/11 was "c'est vrai!" On that date I baked this Breton dough in 60 mm rings and served it with ricotta custard, almond nougatine and a blackberry/raspberry sorbet.  Wow! 

How can something be dense yet airy and light at the same time?  You just have to taste it to understand.

I've since created versions of Breton tarts by topping the dough with almond or pistachio cream and berries or cherries before baking.  You can also add a layer of raspberry or apricot jam (or any flavor you want!) between two layers of dough before baking.  Or bake it plain and top with citrus curd and fresh fruit or coconut cream, candied lime zest and chopped crystallized ginger.  Just use your imagination!

On to the recipe.

les ingredients

There are different methods of mixing the dough - I use the one I learned at LCB in Paris in which one puts all the ingredients except the yolks in the mixing bowl, brings it to the crumbly stage, then adds the yolks and mixes just until the dough comes together.  So easy.

Here goes.  Place 140 g sugar, 150 g diced/cool butter, 200 g all purpose flour, 70 g ground toasted walnuts (almonds if you're following Felder's recipe), 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the mixing bowl.

NOTE:  Felder calls for 20 g baking powder which is about 2 tablespoons.  I opted to cut it back so as to avoid too heavy of a baking powder taste.

Mix with the paddle on low until coarse crumbs.  Have 3 egg yolks standing by.

ready to start mixing

coarse crumbs

Now add the 3 yolks and blend just until the dough comes together.

c'est fini!

I baked my gateaux Bretons in 80 mm (~3") wide, 2.5 cm (1") tall open rings.  Butter them first and place them on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Heat the oven to 325ºF (I use convection).

Here's the beauty of Breton dough.  When baking it this way, you don't have to chill it or let it rest first.  You can simply press it into place.  I divided the dough up among 6 rings ( ~105 g per ring) and pressed it down evenly.

all divided up

all pressed down evenly

On a side note, if you're baking this dough as a thin cookie, you should wrap and chill it for a couple of hours first.  Then you can roll it out on a lightly floured surface and cut shapes of choice.

Bake these gateaux for about 20-25 minutes and REMEMBER - always watch what's going on in your oven. You're looking for golden brown deliciousness, and the dough should have risen up along the edges of the rings.

golden brown

looks yummy

Let cool for about 10-15 minutes before gently removing from the rings.

I served the gateaux with warm, sautéed plums prepared as follows.

Thinly slice 4 plums, toss them with a bit of lemon zest,  about 1/4 cup of vanilla sugar and  a couple of teaspoons of cornstarch . . . .

all mixed up

then sauté them over med-low heat until the juices are released and start to thicken, 5-10 minutes.

thickened up and ready to go

And the piéce de resistance . . . .

Gateau Breton with sautéed plums, chantilly cream and nut crumble

Très, très délicieux!

Happy autumn tout le monde!!