filling the empty nest with food

Following Directions to a Gâteau Breton

IMG_0985I have my prejudices when it comes to baking.  For example, any recipe for a baked good with cornstarch in the ingredients turns me off; separating eggs is rarely worth the bother; you can never have too much cinnamon; eliminating salt from baked goods doesn’t make enough difference to be worth adding it.

Probably most of them, as is the way with prejudices, are based on perception or laziness or some fuzzy memory and not founded on any kind of evidence.  Which probably means it’s time some of them were tested.

So, for a recent Bastille Day celebration, I made a cake from the Brittany region–a Gâteau Breton.  A dense shortbread-type cake I served with peach and raspberry “ice cream” (really just frozen raspberries and peach slices puréed in a food processor to the consistency of ice cream–amazingly easy and guilt-free delicious!  Plus it’s called by the wonderfully fitting name of Hungry Woman’s Simple Sorbet).

The cake batter tested all of the above prejudices:  I held my nose and put in the corn starch, separated the eggs and used only the yolks, tried to keep the cinnamon within the confines of the measuring spoon, and included the salt.  Not having made the cake earlier the thoughtless way, I don’t have a comparison, but following the recipe accurately turned out a deliciously moist and rich cake that complemented the summer fruit.

There is a truism about the importance of following directions.  And how far that can get you in life.  Hmmmm.

Do you have prejudices that get in the way in the baking part of your life?

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GÂTEAU BRETON ( from Bon Appétit , May 1994)


  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted, husked
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons milk


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 1 1/2-high sides; dust with flour. Grind nuts finely in processor. Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into medium bowl. Add 1/3 cup ground nuts; reserve remainder for garnish.

Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Set aside 1 teaspoon yolks for glaze; gradually add remainder to butter mixture, beating until fluffy. Mix in peel and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until jut blended. Transfer to pan, smoothing top.

Mix milk into reserved 1 teaspoon yolk. Brush atop batter for glaze. Draw tines of fork across top of cake in crisscross pattern. Top with reserved nuts.

Bake cake until just firm to touch, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool. Turn out cake from pan; arrange top side up on platter. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly; store at room temperature.)

One comment on “Following Directions to a Gâteau Breton

  1. Mary Finley
    July 16, 2013


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This entry was posted on July 16, 2013 by in Uncategorized.

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