Saturday, 2 September 2017

Breton butter cake and my disdain for making desserts

We have guests arriving tomorrow evening and they have booked in for dinner.I aways try to avoid cooking dinner on Sundays for several reasons.There is no market so no fish.I dont like serving up day old fish, and even with a meat option, the butcher is open but it is the end of the week and you can not be sure,in fact you can almost be certain that the meat has been held over from the day before.Those reasons aside they are arriving late and I fully understand that they would like to acclimatise slowly without the unnecessary hassle of having to find a local restaurant,something of which we always help with recommendations.
Most of the time I don't want anything sweet. I have never had a sweet tooth. Even as a child a small piece of my mothers dark bitter cooking chocolate would suffice. 
Not only that, but as with many chefs I have a certain disdain for making desserts. It’s not that I don’t like to make them but that these grumblings occur because I procrastinate planning the rest of the menu first. It is like opening the dishwasher to to put in the dirties only to find you haven’t yet put away the clean ones. I cant explain this other than it's why the god invented pastry chefs.
Well decision time came and I decided to serve as dessert my recently made Parmesan ice cream.Last time I served it up inside a partially hollowed out dessert pear.It was the thespian who came to the fore with a suggestion of a Breton butter cake,something that I had never heard of.From the land of lace, seaside resorts, crêpes and cider,and the home of Merlin, the magician of Arthurian legend,this cake, made with just a few ingredients, has a wonderfully dense texture similar to shortbread. It suited the bill for dessert,and topped with a q spiced pear confit  it would be even better.I might even give it a go for breakfast.
I like shortbread and that compliments ice cream so I went for it. Pretty calorific I thought, as I read the recipe, 225g of butter and six eggs, but what the heck.I followed "Irish Cooking Queen," Rachel Allen´s recipe,greased my cake tin, lined the bottom with a disc of baking parchment,made a stiff dough,pressed it into the tin,glazed it with the eggwash i had prepared earlier and put it into the oven for 30 minutes.Hey Ho after ten, smoke is belching out of every orifice of the oven.My breton butter cake had seepage that was dripping onto the bottom tray of the oven and burning.Too darned hot to do a salvage operation at this point at this point.I just had to wait and pray (this is exactly why I have never wanted to be a pastry chef )30 minutes was up, I removed it from the oven, the skewer test came out clean,ten minutes cooling in the tin,a little bit of help from a sharp knife round the edges and Hey presto I had a lovely Breton butter cake cooling on the rack,ready for tomorrow.

Rachel Allen´s ( Ballymaloe ) Breton butter cake
serves 8-12

1 egg yolk, for the glaze
225 g plain flour, sifted
225 g caster sugar
225 g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
6 egg yolks


Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Butter the sides of a 25cm cake tin and line the base with a disc of baking parchment.
Whisk together the egg yolk with 2 teaspoons of water for the glaze and set aside. Either in a large bowl using a wooden spoon or in an electric food mixer using the paddle beater, mix together the flour and sugar, then add the butter and egg yolks and beat together until the mixture resembles a stiff dough.  Press into the prepared tin, and flatten with a spatula. Brush with the glaze, then decorate by drawing a fork across the cake in a criss-cross pattern of lines, each set of lines roughly 5cm apart in a sort of chequerboard design, following the traditional style for the cake.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until it is a deep golden colour and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges using a small, sharp knife and carefully remove the cake from the tin before placing on a wire rack to cool down completely.

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