Butter is magic. I love its rich flavour, the crispy/chewy/flaky/tender textures it gives other foods… there’s nothing else like it. But not all butters are created equal.
Butter is only as good as the cream it’s made from, and cream is only as good as the cow it came from. So it makes sense that a well-fed, healthy cow is going to produce higher quality butter than a cow raised in questionable conditions, eating questionable feed. I’m a self-confessed penny pincher, but even I think its well worth the extra couple of dollars for butter, milk, and eggs that come from healthy animals. With some things, especially food, cheapest isn’t always best.
I’ve been wanting to try this recipe for Gâteau Breton for several years now, ever since I bought How to Be a Domestic Goddess, but since it depends very heavily on the best butter and the best eggs, I kept putting it off. In Gâteau Breton, butter is the star – there’s no vanilla, no citrus peel, no liqueurs – just a pure, unadulterated ode to butter. So I wanted to make sure I had the good stuff before I gave this recipe a go.
In my recent SPUD box, I ordered some organic butter from Avalon and some organic eggs from Farmer’s Finest – both producers treat their animals humanely and feed them antibiotic-, pesticide- and hormone-free food. Sounds good to me. You’d think that should just be the norm, but it’s not, unfortunately. Those who seek quality really have to seek sometimes. That’s why the novelty of SPUD hasn’t worn off for me – they curate all their products so I can shop with (almost) total abandon, knowing that the ingredients are coming from a good place.
And I figured with market season just around the bend, lots of farmers’ stalls will have fresh butter and eggs with your name all over them – this cake has your name on it, too!
Gâteau Breton is unlike any cake I’ve ever made or eaten – it’s somewhere between a chewy, caramelly shortbread and a buttery, crumbly pound cake. It’s dense, chewy, and the edges have a brown butter nuttiness that is pure magic. It also comes together insanely fast and keeps really well in an airtight container (in fact, it was a favourite among French sailors in the 19th century, because they could snack on it for weeks without it going stale). I like it because it’s made of just a few simple and unpretentious ingredients, yet the finished product is totally unique and crazy delicious.
You can serve this with berries, cream, or jam if you want, but I think it’s perfect as is, in all it’s buttery glory.
- 1¾ cups (225g) all-purpose flour
- 1¼ cups (250g) caster or berry sugar
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (250g) butter, room temperature & cubed
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon of egg yolk, from your 6
- 1 tablespoon of water
- Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Grease a 9-inch cake pan (I used a springform) and line the bottom with parchment paper. Whisk the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- If using a standing mixer: sift the flour into the bowl of your mixer, stir in the sugar, then add the butter and egg yolks. Using the dough hook attachment of your mixer, mix on low speed until a smooth, sticky dough forms. If making by hand: sift the flour into a mound on a clean work surface, then make a well in the centre and add the sugar, butter, and eggs; knead to mix, until a smooth but sticky dough forms.
- Scoop the dough into your prepared cake pan and gently pat down evenly, flouring your fingers if necessary. Brush the glaze all over the top of the gateau, then drag a fork across the surface of the gateau in a lattice/cross-hatch pattern.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350°F/180°C and bake a further 25 minutes until the edges are golden and the top is firm to the touch.
- Let the gateau cool completely before removing it from the pan. Cut it in a criss-cross pattern, making traditional diamond shapes, or into thin wedges. Store in an airtight container.