So Christmas is always, in my experience, an emotional roller coaster. And I don’t like roller coasters. Or emotions, really.
But what I do like is cake. Or, pie. Or, cookie/pie/cake hybrids. Which is why for Christmas this year, I made a Gateau Basque.
Actually, we’re not very big on sweets in thePoeLog household. Neither one of us has much of a sweet tooth. We don’t really do much baking either, other than an annual batch of Kris Kringle Christmas cookies.
But, when we were in San Sebastian staying at the fabulous Hotel Maria Cristina, they had this gateau on the desert table at the amazing breakfast buffet each morning.
Gateau Basque is like an adult version of a cherry Pop Tart. It’s an almond crust pie stuffed with cherry jam inside. And, it’s awesome. I immediately regretted not discovering it earlier, but as I said, we don’t really seek out the sweet stuff when we travel or eat out.
I wasn’t even sure what it was called, but when we got home, I did a Google search for “Spanish cherry pie.” I knew when I saw the picture for the Gateau Basque that that was what I’d had.
There are a million recipes for Gateau Basque out there, including ones that include a cream custard filling. But, I stuck with my original favorite, which I knew had an almond flavor and cherry filling. So I combined a couple of different recipes, making sure to include almond flour and leaving out the lemon zest I found in many of the recipes.
First, I hand mixed the dry ingredients, including 1 ½ cups of flour, ½ cup of almond flour, ¾ teaspoon of baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt.
Then I creamed 1 cup of sugar with 10 tablespoons of room temperature butter in the KitchenAid at medium speed until smooth (about 3 minutes). I added 1 large egg and ½ a teaspoon each of vanilla and almond extract and mix for another couple of minutes.
I then lowered the speed on the mixer and gently added the dry ingredients until they were fully incorporated. Divide the dough into two sections, and roll out two round crusts in between 2 pieces plastic wrap or wax paper. They should be about 8 ½ inches to fit in the bottom of a spring form pan. I made one of them slightly thicker than the other, with the plan to use the slightly thicker one on the bottom.
I stored the two pieces of crust on a cookie sheet in the fridge overnight. Recipes vary, but most suggest chilling the dough for at least 3 hours, or up to 3 days.
When you’re ready to make the pie, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line the bottom of the spring form pan with a sheet of parchment paper (to avoid sticking).
Place one chilled crust on the bottom of the pan, pressing any excess crust up onto the sides. Heads up: the chilled crusts are a bit crumbly and prone to breakage. Don’t worry, just smooth out any cracks with some wet fingers.
Spread an entire 8 oz jar of cherry jam or preserves on the crust. Leave a little bit of the edges bare. The goal is to not have sticky cherry jam cooked onto the sides of your spring form. Now place the second layer of the crust on top of the cherry layer, pressing the edges of the two crusts together.
Brush the top of the dough with a glaze of egg and a little water. Use the tines of a fork to scratch a light cross hatch pattern across the top.
Bake the pie for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for about 5 minutes before opening the spring form and sliding the pie out. Eat plain, with cream, or, with salt ice cream, which is how we had it at Christmas dinner this year. It has a nice, slightly hard, cookie-like crust that makes it easy to travel with, as well.
Share it with family, even if they’re driving you crazy after four days of forced closeness. Or, eat it alone while hiding from said family in the bathroom. Eat it for dessert. Eat it for breakfast. Eat it with coffee on a rainy/icy/miserable day like today. Do not, however, eat it on an emotional roller coaster. Far too messy on so many levels.