I am in love with this cake. A Gateau Breton is a butter cake from the Brittany region of France. It is dense, rich and very buttery. This variation of the cake includes lightly toasted walnuts, ground and incorporated into the batter. Magnifique!
The recipe was in the book On Rue Tatin; Living and Cooking in a French Town by Susan Herrmann Loomis. This book has been around for a long time. As a matter of fact I read it years ago. But on a recent trip to the library, I picked it up again. Because of our two trips to France, and the time that we spent in Normandy I looked at it with a fresh eye. Susan’s historic home is in the Normandy village of Louviers. She currently offers cooking classes in her charming converted convent home on Rue Tatin. She also has a website.
This walnut gateau breton is like no other cake that I have eaten. It is very similar to shortbread. The amount of butter in it is astounding. It is not a light cake. It is very dense and, did I mention buttery? It is perfect with red wine or with coffee or espresso. It is traditionally marked on the top with a criss-cross of fork marks. The ingredients are few and simple. No need to get out your mixer. But I do recommend that you use a good quality butter.
I highly recommend this book. It is the tale of buying and restoring an historic home and learning to live in a small village while cooking in a picturesque kitchen. There are recipes at the end of each chapter. The last recipe featured is, of course, a Tarte Tatin. The Gateau Breton was made to please and influence the local priest. You can read the book to see if it worked. Check out “My Favorite Reads” from Amazon on my sidebar if you are interested in ordering On Rue Tatin.
WALNUT GATEAU BRETON
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
7 large egg yolks
16 tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch cake pan.
Place the walnuts and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind so that most of the walnuts are finely ground but not anywhere near a paste.
In a large bowl, whisk together 6 of the egg yolks and the remaining sugar until the mixture is blended, just a few minutes; there is no need to use an electric mixer here. It will be thick and yellow but shouldn’t form a ribbon. Slowly whisk in the walnuts and sugar, then the butter. Sift the flour over the mixture and whisk it in just until the mixture is homogeneous. Don’t overmix the batter or the cake will be tough.
Whisk together the remaining egg yolk and 2 teaspoons water to make an egg glaze.
Turn the batter, which will be quite stiff, into the prepared pan and smooth it out. Lightly but thoroughly paint it with the egg glaze. Using the back of the tines of a fork, deeply mark a crisscross pattern in the top of the cake, going three times across it in one direction, then three in another. (The marks in the cake will fade, leaving just their trace on the top of the cake.)
Bake in the center of the oven until the cake is deep golden on the top and springs back slowly but surely when it is touched, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Using a knife or cake tester isn’t recommended as it always comes out looking slightly damp because of the amount of butter in the recipe.
Remove from the oven, transfer the cake to a wire tack, and let cool for about 10 minutes before turning out of the cake pan. Let it cool thoroughly before serving.