|Up there, near the fork, a little spoonful of smelt caviar to go with my eggs and toast soldiers|
Shopping Saturday occurred last weekend – that’s the first Saturday in December, on which my favorite bazaars and Christmas fairs occur, when I get my wreath for the front door, usually at the school Christmas Bazaar, but this year from a selection across the street at St. Patricks church – it was a short walk to bring it home to hang on my front door. Too, that’s the weekend that the Rutland County Farmers’ Market has its holiday fair at College of St. Joseph, and I have to stop by there before or after the Winter Farmers’ Market simply for old times’ sake if nothing else. Remember the years it was held at the Unitarian Church, all the farmers united, so colorful and chaotic? Well, it’s different now but I always find several dear people to catch up with.
I make discoveries, like just how oblivious I can be. I stop to look at the knitted items that Wendy Cijka (pronounced Chicka) of High Pond Goat Farm has for sale. A few years ago I bought a gorgeous black shawl from her for a nice amount of money to be spending on myself with Christmas just around the corner, wrapped it up and put it under the tree. I opened it Christmas morning to my utter delight! This year I emerged from my oblivion an eensie bit to realize that she offers a delicious fresh chèvre made from her goats’ milk. It’s a family operation with her husband, Stephen, son, Joseph, and daughter, Emma. You can find it at Gourmet Provence in Brandon and the Middlebury and Rutland Area Food Co-ops.
I could have eaten the whole container of it, and that in spite of being fresh from the Winter Farmers’ Market, on West Street, where I’d scarfed up quite a large Vietnamese steamed dumpling from Good Karma Kitchen. This was a pale, pillowy thing drizzled with just the right amount of soy sauce and dabbed with the perfect sear of red pepper. I wish I had one of those right now, but Oh!, I do have some chèvre. Excuse me a moment...
All right, I’m back. I’m a little scattershot today because I had meant to write about butter, as usual, so best to get going on that subject, right? Because butter makes everything better, as does wine, and, come to think of it, egg yolks, especially when there’s a prune filling involved. Damn, the french are good with these things. What other country would dare to boast prunes. I learned of their luxness from my grandmother, who simmered them with a little water then put them into a sauce dish and doused them with fresh heavy cream and ate them for breakfast, delicately slipping the pits back onto the spoon. Now, of course I’d never do that! Would I? Way too lux, wouldn’t you say?
Last August I wrote about clafouti, some of you remember – an eggy, buttery, fruity dessert, somewhere between an omelet and a cake. That set off a round of different versions of clafouti among me and friends, including the one in Larousse Gastronomique, that was clearly the loser, until finally I tried David Leibovitz’s Far Breton, which in my opinion was clearly the winner, with its prune filling and eggy batter.
Not to mention ease. These sweet things are so simple to make, not what you think of when you think ‘French’ at all. Shame on you, Julia Child, for inculcating the idea of difficulty in our French food consciousness.
So when I came upon Melissa Clark’s recipe for Gâteau Breton in the New York Times cooking newsletter, I had to make it. Why? Because, usually simply a butter cake from Brittany, this one, along with lots of butter and egg yolks, has a filling aux pruneaux.
Clark mentions a soft, buttery crumb, but I found it had a crisp bite. Both of us thought it resembled shortbread, however. She bakes it for 50 minutes or until golden. Mine was a little browner than golden at 45 minutes. I’d go maybe 40 next time. For prep, factor in the time it takes to chill the dough, about an hour, although I found myself dealing with two hard hunks so I might try not refrigerating them at all next time. I don’t pie crust, which no one can believe.
I didn’t have superfine sugar so I just put granulated sugar – with the flour, as it happened – into the blender and processed it fine. Maybe that fine flour made my finished product crisper. I used a tart pan with a removable bottom and didn’t use parchment paper, just buttered it well. I might spray it with pam next time. And then butter it. And finally, you know, if you don’t have a kitchen scale, think about gifting yourself one. So much easier and much more precise. Mine is a Mira digital, about $17.
adapted from Melissa Clark in the New York Times. Outrageously easy and so so good.
- 2 ¼ cups plus 2 1/2 tablespoons/300 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 cup/200 grams superfine sugar
- scant teaspoon of flaky sea salt
- 8 ½ ounces/240 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon), diced, more for buttering the pan
- 5 plus 1 extra-large egg yolks
- 16 nice sized pitted prunes
- 2 tablespoons rum
- 3 to 4 tablespoons water
In a food processor, pulse to combine flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add 5 egg yolks and pulse until mixture comes together as a dough. Divide in half, form into disks, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 2 hours or until firm.
Meanwhile, in a small pot over medium heat combine prunes, rum and water. Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed (about 5 minutes). Use a fork to mash into a thick purée. Let it cool.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper. Between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap, roll one of the dough halves into an 8-inch circle. Transfer dough to prepared cake pan, pressing into edges. Spread prune or apricot purée across dough, leaving 3/4 inch border around outside edge. Roll the second piece of dough into an 8-inch circle, transfer to cake pan, press around outside edge to stick the pieces together and seal in fruit purée.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water and beat lightly. Brush over top of cake, then use a fork to score a crisscross pattern into the dough. Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes (cover with foil if cake is browning too quickly). Cool in pan 15 minutes. Flip onto a plate, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
I did not let mine cool completely but sliced it when quite warm into 4 quarters, then cut each quarter into half-inch slices. Half slices of this would fit easily among cookies on a platter.
unfortunately, I did not remember to take a photo of it. It was gorgeous, though.
I guess that just about covers my food fortnight. Well, I didn’t touch on the caviar I made out of Donna and Hunky’s smelt roe, nor Zoe’s incredible scalloped oysters, nor even Robert’s lovely venison, not to mention the fact that if you do make the Gâteau you’ll have 6 egg whites needing to be made into meringues, but we’re out of space!
Enjoy this holiday season, okay? Relax, and Bon Appétit!