Back with a Gateau Breton

Wow.  That was longer than I expected.  And during the past three weeks I was lucky to cook toast let along cake!  I will have to play catchup because after reading the posts for the Coffee Chiffonlets and the St Honore Trifle, I cannot let them pass.

So, in the past three weeks, we have moved house (painful, painful, painful - why do I persist in agreeing to "do it ourselves" instead of paying for a man and a van to move the 11 loads of toys, 9 loads of kitchen stuff, 8 loads of books and 2 loads of everything else); welcomed my father in law and his wife through the volcanic ash haze; had six days in Seville (glorious and my almost two year old son has developed a taste for Caracoles - little snails cooked in garlic and herbs); and finally two days in Paris (working, so not very glamorous).  We are still surrounded by boxes and disarray.  Moving from a furnished house with lots of storage, to an unfurnished house with little storage has been interesting.  And not interesting as in "who is going to be the UK prime minister?".  Lets just say that I have a love/hate relationship with Ikea.  Cheap and functional, but a soul destroying labyrinth of flat packed consumerism.

I am in love with my new kitchen.  An expanse of black granite that advertises every single crumb in neon.  A fantastic oven that actually heats to the temperature indicated on the dial.  This is an absolute first for me!  The only slight downfall is that no cupboard is big enough for my Kenwood or Magimix, so they have been relegated to to the "top shelf".  If you read in the Darwin Awards about a woman killed by a blow to the head from a Kenwood...

This was a pretty easy cake to make.  This is a cake from the Brittany region in France, renowned for its butter and dairy products.  I searched high and low trying to find Brittany butter, well, to be honest, I just looked in the butter section at my local supermarket.  Nothing from Brittany, so I ended up with President, which hails from Normandy and is 80% butter fat.  Rose recommends 84% butter fat, the lower butter fat apparently results in a moister crumb, which makes sense since those four percentage points are replaced by water.

In general I am a big follower (some would say "instigator") of chaos theory.  So things like the mise en place that I see other HCB'ers do on a regular basis is completely foreign to me.  The photo above is my attempt at mise en place.  Two of the eight nine ingredients required for this cake.  Most of the time it all comes together with out any problems.  On Sunday night, I realised I missed the vanilla extract after I had smoothed the cake into the tart pan, hence the eight ingredients instead of requisite nine.  I brushed some vanilla extract on the top of my gateau, but I really do think it needs to go *into* the cake.

The cake is a traditional creaming method cake.  Fats creamed with sugar, add in almond meal (I was lazy and didn't do the toast and grind as Rose requests), egg yolks added one at a time, then flour in batches.

These egg yolks were looking so glorious, I just had to take a photo of them.  They look more like apricots than egg yolks.  I was momentarily distracted by a cold glass of Rosé on my way back across the kitchen to the mixer when gravity and alcohol interacted.  It is never good when gravity and alcohol get together...

I like to think it was my innate dexterity that prevented all five egg yolks hitting the deck, but I know it was more that I had finished swigging from my wine glass and righted my balance before the remaining eggs fell to the floor.  And anyone who knows me in the flesh knows that my innate dexterity is almost non-existent.

So anyway, after I opened another egg yolk and beat it in, the mix looked a lot like this.  In the euphoria of not dropping all the egg yolks I tipped them all into the mixer at once, instead of one at a time.  I am not sure if this had any effect on the end cake.  I did beat the mix for the total time and it seemed well combined.

This makes a really thick batter.  More biscuit like than cake like.  Which is exactly how Rose describes it - a cross between shortbread and pound cake. 

The most difficult thing about this cake was smoothing it out evenly in the tin.  That is if you discount the balancing of eggs on a plate whilst sipping your wine as you walk across the kitchen.  Rose goes into a lot of detail in her recipes, but rest assured, that was my invention and not a requirement from Rose.  So assuming you don't mix alcohol and motion with your eggs, you will be fine.

This is a completely gratuitous shot of my new oven.  I am astounded that I can take a photo through the front of the oven and you can actually see what is inside, clearly.  You may also see that my oven thermometer is measuring exactly as it should.  A first for me.  I may just take a photo of my oven each week to make sure that I continue to see into it and don't allow my cleaning chaos theory to spoil it.

I'm not raving about this cake.  Sure, we have eaten it (best warm from the oven with clotted cream icecream), but it doesn't call me up the stairs in the middle of the night.  And I wouldn't have missed it if it had been sent to office mouths.  I am a bit non-plussed by the middle ground of shortbread and pound cake.  I am a big fan of shortbread, and not fussed by pound cake.  So I guess any deviation from the shortbread end of that linear scale was going to leave me a bit disappointed.  I do think that my appreciation of it was somewhat dimmed by me forgetting the vanilla extract.  It tastes a lot of butter, eggs and a smidge of almond and Effen Black Cherry Vodka, but I can say I miss the completeness or familiarity that vanilla adds.

This won't be going on my bake again list.  I might try it again if I ever end up in Brittany and I have eaten my fill of baguette and butter and pastries and flan and, well, you get the idea.

Next week is baby Lemon Cheesecakes.  I am not sure if mine will be baby or not.  I haven't done anything about a pan.  The English must not be big bakers, or at least, not into specialty pans, because they are pretty hard to source over here.  I do have a little giggle that the land of the big has such an array of little specialty pans.  I need to finagle myself a work trip to the States...


  1. ב''ה

    Your chaotic flutters over in your end of the world are causing earthquakes of laugther in this one. :)

  2. LOL! Your baby is so adorable! I love the look of your new oven too! :)

  3. Funny read. Why don't you consider keeping your mixer on the counter instead of risking life and limb putting such heavy items on top of the cabinets?

    Congratulations on your lovely new kitchen, and wow, what a fantastic looking oven!


  4. We've missed you and your lovely humor. I'm sorry you didn't love the cake. Your new oven is amazing.

  5. Nicola! Glad you're back and christening your new kitchen with egg yolks! At least the wine was saved. That oven is fantastic. Looks like something out of a magazine. I laughed at the ten boxes of toys winning the moving box category. It only gets more proportional with each passing year. Your little lad is so cute.

  6. Welcome back! I am about to fall into the moving void. The shot of the egg yolks is a beauty--too funny the next shot of the yolk carnage on the floor! I also loved your mis en place. And the top shelf is too far away for your mixer! How will you bake every week? Good luck unpacking; I will be thinking of you as I unpack myself!

  7. Loved reading this! Your Kenwood bowl is NEVER going to survive being moved so many times from that high place! Mine went years ago and the plastic replacement is not as good. As Butteryum suggests, find a place on your worktop, pronto! Jeannette

  8. Nicola... wow, you been busy... and I love the oven! And of course your post made me laugh, I can relate to so much of the stuff that happens to you - I sometimes think we are living the same lives, just in different countries - oh, yeah, and I don't have the adorable baby (yet), but pretty much everything else - LOL

    And caracoles.. YUM, he is learning to like the GOOD things in life early!

    BTW, being in Paris for work related stuff... is super fancy in our world. ::wink::

    Welcome back to baking land.

  9. nicola,

    people in my office thinks I'm crazy now .. for I've been laughing at head's off reading your post.

    thanks for making my boring morning super-cheerful!

    keep writing .. you're gifted. make me laugh, anyday!


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