Living in Australia we are quite isolated from most of the world. However the town in which I live is quite multicultural as are many Australian towns. Among the nationalities in town are the Spanish Basque people who made their home here in the early to mid 1900’s. Our local baker who delivered fresh bread daily door to door was a wonderful Basque man who only ever baked hot cross buns on Good Friday and not one day before. Each Good Friday he would rise early, bake and then deliver hot cross buns across the district. And the buns were very good!
Last month my daughter traveled to Spain and to the Basque area within…our dear Baker was so taken by the photos she sent to us of his beloved homeland!
What I didn’t realise was that the Basque country covers the western Pyrenees in Spain and France. I had always only thought the Basque country was within the Spanish borders only. Hmmm, I musn’t have been listening in geography lessons!
Gâteau Basque, which is more of a delicious sweet biscuit crust filled with creamy pastry cream and cherry jam, is famous throughout the Basque country. Apparently according to wiki when filled with pastry cream only it more common in the Spanish Basque Country.
This recipe comes from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent, a wonderful book which I am gradually baking my way through. Coincidentally Greg posted his recipe on his blog Baking Wizard last weekend….that was definitely all the motivation I needed. So in honour of my Basque friends and my daughter who has just returned from the area I decided to bake Gâteau Basque. And it is delicious!

Gâteau Basque

 Pastry

3 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
250g butter, cut into smallish pieces
finely grated zest of  1 lemon
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure almond essence

Pastry Cream

2 cup milk
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1/2 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons rum ( my addition)

1 egg beaten with a little water for glazing

Place 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl. Add butter and rub into the flour with fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Be sure to leave a few small flakes of butter and not rub it all in. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add lemon zest, eggs, egg yolk, and esssence. Beat the eggs with a fork and then begin to combine until the mixture comes together. Sprinkle some of the remaining flour onto a board and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough lightly added more flour as necessary. Be light and don’t knead heavily or too long. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Now make the pastry cream.
Heat milk and bring almost to the boil. In a bowl whisk the egg yolk for a minute or so add the sugar whisk again. Then add the vanilla and flour, mix until smooth.  Add about 1/3 on the hot milk to the eggs, whisk. Then add the remaining milk and whisk well. Return mixture to the saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the mixture boils whisking the whole time. Boil for a minute or until the floury taste is cooked out. Remove from heat add the rum and scrape into a bowl. Cover the surface of the cream with plastic wrap and allow to cool.

Heat the oven to 180C/350F and have ready a 9 inch springform pan.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Divide into two pieces…one piece slightly larger. Take the larger piece and roll out between non stick baking paper to fit the pan. Sprinkle with flour if the dough seems stickly.  Line the springform pan with the dough bringing it all the way up the sides.

Fill with the cooled pastry cream.

Roll out the smaller piece of dough.  Use the springform pan to measure the diameter needed to cut the dough to fit over the pastry cream.

 Bring down the sides of pastry over the pastry cream then place the round of pastry over the top. Press edges to join. Then decorate with scrapes of dough and use a fork to make random designs over the surface. Brush with egg and water glaze.
The leftover dough can be rolled into balls and baked to make delicious biscuits or cookies.

Bake for 50 minutes until well browned. Cool thoroughly. Keeps well if refrigerated for several days.

Slice into wedges and enjoy!