Preparation time: 5 + 10 minutes
Resting time for the pastry: 4 hours
Cooking time: 15 + 45 minutes
Xapata, Peloa, Beltza… all varieties of cherries found in the Basque country. Cherry trees are so common that in the little village of Itxassou, located 30 km from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a cherry festival takes place in early June, providing an opportunity for visitors and locals to contemplate the trees as they bend under the weight of their fruit.
The black cherries that the trees provide are made into jam which often finds its way into fillings for Gâteau Basque or become a wonderful accompaniment to a good sheep’s milk cheese.
Every family has its own jealously-guarded recipe for Gâteau Basque. It can be filled with pastry cream or, as was common in olden times, jam made from black Itxassou cherries.
Note: Alsa yeast is an instant yeast that does not have to be dissolved in liquid before being added to the batter. If using another variety of yeast, sprinkle it over a little warm water first, allow to sit for a few minutes and then stir to dissolve before adding.
Making the pastry
- Combine all the ingredients for the pastry without overworking it.
- Cover and let rest in a cool place for 4 hours.
Making the pastry cream
- Heat the milk; infuse the half vanilla bean, split in two, in the hot milk for about 10 minutes.
- Combine the flour, sugar, egg yolks and 1 tsp. rum.
- Remove the vanilla bean from the milk; return the milk to a boil, and as soon as it starts to bubble, blend it into the flour-sugar-egg mixture.
- Return to the heat and cook until the pastry cream thickens and just begins to boil; remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Butter a 22 cm (10”) round cake pan.
- Roll out half the pastry to a thickness of approximately 3 mm.
- Line the bottom and sides of the cake pan with the pastry.
- Spread the pastry cream evenly in the pastry case.
- Cover with the remaining pastry. Brush with egg yolk.
- Bake in a 160° C (325° F) oven for about 45 minutes. Serve warm or cold.
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