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!!

Sablés au praliné

The next recipe in the Biscuits Secs section of Philippe Conticini's book La Pâtisserie des Rêves is a sablé, a classic buttery, crisp cookie.  As I reviewed the recipe I came to realize that, even though he doesn't identify it as such, this is actually a sablé Breton, which happens to be one of my favorites!

the recipe

This dough differs from a basic butter/sugar/flour sablé by the addition of egg yolks and baking powder, giving the end result a somewhat different texture and flavor.  And, depending on how thick you roll the dough, it will come out crisp (rolled thinner) or softer with a more prominent crumb (rolled thicker).

The dough is very easy to put together and should be chilled before using, so make that part of your plan.

les ingredients

Mix 250 gm flour, 125 gm room temperature butter, a couple of pinches of fleur de sel (I use my favorite "Beanilla" vanilla fleur de sel) and un paquet de levure chimique (see side note below) to a coarse, sandy consistency (you can do this by hand or on low speed in the mixer).


Side note:  typically one finds baking powder sold in packets in France.  I can't recall the weight of one of those packets, but when I've made other Breton doughs, I've decreased the amount of baking powder called for.  For this one I added one teaspoon.

 Whisk together 3 egg yolks with 100 gm sugar plus the seeds scraped from one vanilla bean . . .

the yolk/sugar emulsion

and add this to the flour/butter mixture . . .

mixing just until it comes together.

like really coarse cornmeal

squeeze some to see that it's holding together

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight if your schedule demands it.)

ready for the fridge

That part was easy.  What became a conundrum was the duja preparation which is meant to serve as a garnish for the baked cookies.  I determined that the word duja is a shortened form for gianduja, that classic mixture of nut (typically hazelnut) paste and chocolate (what many of you know as "Nutella").

Here the recipe calls for grinding 140 gm hazelnuts with 60 gm powdered sugar, followed by the addition of 35 gm milk chocolate and 2 carrés de chocolat noir (both melted.)

The carrés de chocolat noir threw me a bit, not knowing how much a carré weighs.  On to the trusty (?) internet to find a reference stating a small carré weighs 5 gm and a large one weighs 10 gm.  So, throwing caution to the wind, I decided 20 gm of chocolat noir just might do the trick.

ground hazelnuts, powdered sugar and chocolate, waiting to be melted


There was no way this mixture would hold together to be piped as any sort of garnish!

So I added another 60 gm of melted chocolate so that it at least formed a cohesive (sort of) ball.

I still had my doubts.  So I turned back to the internet and found a source describing DIY gianduja made by processing equal weights toasted hazelnuts and chopped milk chocolate to create a paste.

I did a little figuring and ended up adding an additional 80 gm of melted chocolate to my ever developing gianduja . . . . and my paste was born.

my duja paste

Time to bake the cookies!  An interesting note about this recipe - the yield is reported as pour 6/7 personnes.  Now what the heck is that supposed to mean?  Typically a cookie recipe tells you how many cookies you might expect, rather than how many people it will serve.

So for the instructed 5 mm thick, 6 cm round cookie I determined that each cookie weighs about 16 gm. The total dough quantity is 525 gm which should yield about 32 cookies per batch.  So  pour 6/7 personnes means everyone gets 4-5 cookies each.  A goofy way to look at it à mon avis!

6 cm round, dough about 5 mm thick

Heat the oven to 325º.  Roll the dough out to the above mentioned thickness and cut 6 cm rounds.  Place on a parchment lined sheet pan and put into the freezer for 10 minutes or so before baking for 12-15 minutes selon votre four.  Ahhhh - those oh so important words - depending on your oven!

ready for the oven
My cookies baked for about 18 minutes . . .

and came out nicely set and golden brown.

Once the cookies are cooled it's time for the garnish.  The recipe instructs one to pipe a dome of duja on each cookie, sprinkle on some chopped hazelnuts and then pop them in the fridge.  Then it mentions that one has the option of "enrobing" the cookies in chocolate (no further instruction as to how to pursue that one!).

My duja was definitely not pipe-able, so I rolled it out between two layers of plastic wrap and cut circles of a smaller diameter than the cookie.

I placed the duja round on the cookie but realized it wasn't going to stay put - there wasn't any chocolate-to-cookie sticking power.  I tried a little schmear of chocolate glaze on the cookie to act as glue, but no way.  I then sprinkled some hazelnut nougatine on top but knew that I was not going to be able to dip the whole thing in "enrobing" chocolate unless prepared for total demolition.

So I simply used some ganache I had in the fridge, squiggled some on top of the cookies, sprinkled some hazelnut nougatine on top and called it a day.  The cookies accompanied Steve to work the next day.

So much for sablés au praliné!  And the batch of duja?  Into the freezer along with the crushed tuiles from my last post.  Maybe I'll mix the two together and create something new!

Oh, and by the way, the flavor of these was OK but nothing to write home about.  Another recipe I would not make again.