Apple and Honey Basque Cake
Travel and trips are always a source of inspiration for me—the local materials, the landscapes, the language, the people. A few years ago, we joined our friend the pastry chef Carl Marletti’s family vacation in Biarritz, located in the Basque Country. This region lies on both sides of the border between France and Spain, along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Biarritz is in the French Basque Country and is very beloved by the French as a summer vacation destination, the “Vacances”.
During that trip, we were introduced to an area we didn’t know, the French Basque culture, fascinating people, and ingredients and desserts we hadn’t encountered until we arrived at this special place. Sure, today you can find French ingredients from all over France in Paris, but when you visit different regions of the Republic, those local ingredients and specialties take on a more central role and don’t get lost in the sea of products in Paris.
So, almost a decade ago, we were introduced to the “Gâteau Basque”, a Basque cake. It’s a wonderful cake consisting of a delicate and distinctive bottom layer of dough, topped with a filling (usually pastry cream), and another layer of dough on top. All the layers are baked together, creating a large “cookie” filled with cream. Originally, the cake was baked without any additions, but over the years, different variations have developed, like the Gâteau Basque with cherries or with chocolate.
It’s very important to distinguish between the “Gâteau Basque” and the Basque Cheesecake, which has gained popularity in recent years. The Basque Cheesecake comes from the Spanish Basque Country, whereas the Gâteau Basque comes from the French Basque Country. These are two different cakes with no connection between them, except for the region they both come from – the Basque Country.
Last summer, we visited Biarritz again, and spent about a week in the area. Here’s the special recipe I cooked after that trip in honor of the Tishrei holidays. A Basque cake filled with pastry cream and honey roasted apples.
Important note: The dough of the Basque cake is very moist and very soft, sometimes difficult to work with. Do not add more flour! That’s the whole idea. If the dough is too soft to handle, it is recommended to roll it between two sheets of parchment paper and put it in the refrigerator for some time to keep it very cold and more stable.
Apple and Honey Basque Cake
tart ring or round cake pan 22 cm in diameter, 2-3 cm high
125g butter at room temperature, cubed
20g egg yolks
200g all-purpose flour, sifted
50g almond meal
5g baking powder
Vanilla Pastry Cream:
1 vanilla bean split and seeded
60g egg yolks
25g cornstarch, sifted
Honey Roasted Apples:
360g apples pilled and cubed (I use Granny Smith)
15g lemon juice
3g cinnamon powder
1 egg for brushing
1. Dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar. Add egg and egg yolk and mix.
2. Add flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt to the mixer. Mix only until you get a uniform dough. The dough should be moist and sticky.
3. Remove from the mixer, gently knead by hand on a floured surface until you get a uniform dough ball. Divide the dough ball into two parts, one slightly larger than the other.
4. Lightly flour both parts of the dough and roll each one between two sheets of parchment paper into a thick disc. Place the dough discs with the parchment paper in the refrigerator for a few hours; I leave them overnight.
5. Vanilla Pastry Cream: In a medium saucepan, bring milk and vanilla seeds to the boiling point.
6. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks manually with sugar, add cornstarch, and continue to whisk until you get a uniform mixture.
7. When the milk reaches the boiling point, carefully pour the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk without stopping to prevent the yolks from curdling.
8. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan and return to the heat source, whisking continuously until the cream thickens.
9. Remove from the heat source, add the rum and whisk. Transfer the cream to a heatproof bowl/dish, cover it with cling wrap so that the wrap adheres to the cream (to prevent a skin from forming), and refrigerate for an hour.
10. Honey Roasted Apples: Heat a large pan, add the apple cubes, and stir. Add butter and continue to stir. Add sugar, honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon, and stir until lightly browned. Remove from the heat source, transfer to a bowl, and cool to room temperature.
11. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease a tart ring or a cake pan with butter. If you chose a tart ring, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
12. On a floured surface, roll out the larger part of the dough into a thick circle with a diameter of 24 cm. Place the dough circle in the ring or pan, ensuring it covers the bottom and sides. Remove any excess if there is any.
13. Pour half of the pastry cream onto the dough and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the caramelized apples over the cream, and then pour the remaining pastry cream over them. Fill almost to the top, so that the edges of the dough are not covered with cream and there will be room to connect the second part of the dough above the cream.
14. Roll out the second part of the dough, cutting it precisely to the size of the inner diameter of the ring or pan.
15. Brush the edges of the dough that are resting against the sides of the ring or pan with beaten egg. Place the second dough circle on top of the pastry cream and gently press it to connect it with the egg-brushed edges of the dough.
16. Brush the surface of the cake with beaten egg and create a decorative pattern with a fork.
17. Place it in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes (depending on your oven) until the cake is baked and set to the touch.