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Gâteau Breton

Gâteau Breton

Having an exceptional cook as a friend, who is also generous with her recipes is a rare thing.  I did have an Italian friend whose mother produced the most wonderful food but getting a particular recipe however hard I tried came to nothing.  Even my own mother in law was furious when once at a Burns evening, I complimented her on her swedes and asked what she had put in them, my father in law, quick as a flash replied a spoonful of sugar, ignoring her cry of protest.  An icy presence over the meal followed, but I didn’t care – I had the secret ingredient!   Recipes are tricky things, so many times I have come home and made ‘the recipe’ only to find it didn’t quite turn out as it should.  The mock surprise look at the recipe owner usually tells me what I need to know – their ingredient ‘x’ is missing from the recipe.

Still, it hasn’t put me off – I still ask.  Luckily for me I met someone several years ago who came from Brittany, France.  She was very proud of her heritage and the food of Brittany and very generous in passing on her recipes, her attitude was that by passing them on they continue to live.   I have several of her recipes, which have turned out just as she had made them and how I had remembered enjoying them.

Gâteau Breton is difficult to describe, as it is a cake and not a cake.  It is a cross between buttery shortbread and Madeira cake.  One of the joys of baking this gâteau is that it fills the house with the most wonderful buttery smell whilst it is in the oven.

Gâteau Breton

Ingredients

225g/8 oz plain flour  (I use 00 flour)

225g/8 oz caster sugar

225g/8 oz unsalted butter softened

6 egg yolks

Oven 350/180/Gas 4

IGâteau Breton mixture

Add the softened butter and caster sugar together in a bowl and mix until light and fluffy.

Add the 5 egg yolks, a yolk at the time (I break the sixth egg yolk and put half in the gâteau at this stage and save half for the glazing as a whole yolk is far too much)  Mixing until combined.

Add the flour but not all at once. Keep adding flour until all have been combined. The mixture at this stage will be quite stiff.

Put the mixture into a loose 8” bottom cake tin or spring form tin.  With a knife evenly distribute the mixture and put into the fridge for 30 minutes.  This will allow the mixture to stiffen further.

After 30 minutes remove from the fridge and again with a palate knife smooth the top of the gâteau and coat with the remaining egg yolk.  Taking a fork, drag across the gâteau to create the criss cross lines decoration.

Bake in the oven and carefully check after 30 minutes that the top has not browned too much, if it is browning too quickly, cover for the rest of the cooking time.  To check that the gâteau is cooked press your finger gently in the centre, it should be firm with a slight bounce.

Leave the gâteau in the tin until it is cool.

Once cool it should be kept in a airtight container.

It is perfect cut up into triangles and served with coffee.

gateau breton 2

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butterpat21

I think the one and only time of year double cream seems to take up room in my fridge is Christmas.  I always worry I am going to run out and tend to overbuy.  Usually by Boxing day I realise that I have too much left and start to feel guilty that unless I use it I will have to throw it out.  It has been known for double cream to be poured over the breakfast cereal as a way of using it up but I have been brain washed that too much double cream is bad for you.   Then I realised that I could turn it into butter and freeze it.  End of guilt.

Many moons ago, I shared a house with a know it all cousin who was never fazed by anything or anyone.  He always had buttered toast for breakfast.  One morning he came down for breakfast to discover the butter dish was bare and that was the day I smugly sat and wondered what he would do?  Unfazed he disappeared into the kitchen only to re-appear at the door with a glass jar and the top of the milk (milk used to come delivered to the door with a thick amount of cream at the top);  this he proceeded to shake.  I scoffed and ate my not so nice dry toast.  Half an hour later he was spreading his toast with the newly made butter, admittedly there was a tiny amount, but butter it was.  The word choke and toast did come to mind.

Home made Butter

Ingredients

Double Cream

Salt or herbs (optional)

Equipment

Whisk or Kenwood mixer using the K beater, food processor or glass jar and a strong wrist.  Wooden spoon or Hands (Wooden Pats).

Cream turning into butter with the buttermilk at the bottom

Pour any amount of double cream into a clean bowl – there are no specific quantities – the more double cream you have the more butter you will end up with.

Whisk, keep on whisking until it starts to become thick and forming soft peaks.  At this stage slow the whisk to a minimum or you will be wiping the walls clean of buttermilk and specks of butter for many hours. Whisk on very low for a minute and stop.  The cream will have separated, producing a large lump of butter and a pool of buttermilk.

Sieve the buttermilk into a bowl and save, this can be used for scones etc. The butter clump now needs to be rinsed in cold water – the colder the better.  Rinse the butter until the water becomes clear – this can be up to seven times or even more.  The reason is to get rid of as much of the remaining buttermilk, as this is what will make the butter turn rancid too quickly.

Once the butter has been rinsed it will need to be beaten.  This can be a very relaxing and stress relieving stage.  Use the back of a wooden spoon or invest in some hands and slap the butter about, this encourages the last drops of buttermilk to drain out.

Separated buttermilk and butter

Finally, either add salt or herbs to taste, and with the hands form into pats, logs or bricks and wrap in greaseproof paper.  The butter will last about a week in the fridge and three months in the freezer.

I bought three pots of 600 ml of double cream out of which I made 940g of butter.  Buying double cream to make butter is quite a luxury so I tend to look out for when it’s massively reduced at the supermarket.  I also find whisking up any left over double cream to make butter is a good way of not wasting food.

I bought my butter Hands from http://www.ascott-dairy.co.uk or you could try ebay.

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When I was at school we were taught Home economics which included all the basic skills to run a home.  Some of the lessons proved not very useful but others did such as rough puff pastry.  It’s a recipe that can be used in so many ways.  Savoury or sweet and is much easier and much much nicer than anything bought.

Sausage rolls made with rough puff pastry was one of the delights that returned home with me from school after a hard afternoon at the home economics hot house that was known as Santa Maria.  Home economics took up a whole afternoon and we had a choice each term of sewing or cooking.  We all looked forward to those afternoons because they were easy and laid back.

Santa Maria was a detached slightly shabby Victorian house that sat alone in woodland.  We would have to cut across a couple of playing fields to get to it and of course none of us rushed.  So, straight after the lunch register we were free to make our way over to Santa Maria on our own.  We would break up into small groups of girls and take our time finding fresh interest in the surrounding flora and fauna.  A couple of the more flighty ones would disappear off for a smoke.   There was no register taking at Santa Maria so not everyone felt obliged to turn up.

The house itself was lovely;  there was a large light hallway with a large wooden staircase, which no one seemed to go up, what went on upstairs was a mystery to us girls.  The main bay fronted room to the front was the sewing room and the cooking went on in the kitchen and pantry area.  We were split into twos and worked at little tables.  The recipe and instructions were read out to us and we would have to write this down in a notebook in pencil and then work from this.  I wish I had kept my little instruction books as everything was so precise and had a reason.  We also used to doodle hearts with our names plus the boy of the moment on the inside of the covers maybe imagining how blissful married life would be cooking and cleaning for the chosen one!!

Rough Puff Pastry

8oz / 225g plain flour

Pinch of salt

5oz / 140g unsalted butter cut into little squares

Very cold to icy water

Sift the flour and the pinch of salt into a bowl.  Add the butter squares.  Without rubbing in the butter add the water – there is no real measure you will need to add the water a tablespoon at a time.  Start by adding 4 tablespoons and if the mixture doesn’t blind together add another – remember you can add water but you can’t take it away!

Use a knife to incorporate the water and then use your hands, knead very lightly you just want to bring the ingredients together to form one ball.

Wrap the pastry and let it relax in a fridge for 10 minutes or longer.

After ten minutes take the pastry out and on a floured board and a floured rolling pin roll the pastry into a strip 12” x 4” or 30 x 10 cm.  Take this stage slowly and remember to roll away from you.  Don’t roll back and forth just press down firmly with the rolling pin and push away trying not to over stretch or break the pastry.

Now turn the pastry so it is in a long strip in front of you, fold the left side over and then the right side over this so it’s like a book.  Keeping the pastry with the fold to your left roll out again to 1/2”/1 cm thick.  Now fold this again in three and put wrapped in a freezer bag in the fridge to rest for 15 minutes or more.

Repeat the same process again by rolling into a strip and folding over twice.  Place back into freezer bag and into the fridge to rest for 15 minutes or more.

Roll and fold again one more time.  The pastry should be flexible and there should be no big streaks of butter showing.

Roll into shape and rest once more before cooking.

I prefer to cut my pastry into a pie shape or if I wanted to be posh a chapeau and cook it on a baking tray adding it on top of my pie filling when cooked.

If you use an egg wash on the top don’t brush it all the way across to the edge as this will seal the edge and stop the pastry from rising.

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A cream tea is something quintessentially English. It consists of a pot of tea, a scone, a pot of strawberry jam and clotted cream.  A proper cream tea is with clotted cream; some establishments I have had the misfortune to visit have had the nerve to replace the clotted cream with whipped double cream or even more heinous – squirty cream, which is nothing short of an insult to the scone.  Nothing beats the thick heavenly, buttery clotted cream with its yellow crust.

Heating cream in shallow pans until a thick layer or clots of cream appear, creates clotted cream.  It has the texture and colour of soft butter with a slightly crusty top, with a very rich creamy taste.  It can be served with any dessert.  Clotted cream needs no whipping, its used straight from the container.    If golden syrup is added over the top it is known as thunder and lightning.

My brother used to live in Devon and whenever I went down to visit, top of our list of treats was a cream tea at Angel’s Tearooms.  We would sit outside in the enclosed courtyard looking across Lyme Bay.  A large pot of tea and a couple of clotted cream and jam scones were our regular order.  We would sit and watch the world go by whilst stuffing our faces, always discussing how our mother was missing out.  She hated cream teas.  Her choice would be to drink the tea and then with a swift and practised hand, would whip open her serviette and deftly wrap the scone into a neat parcel, which would then disappear into her handbag, to be eaten at leisure in the comfort of her home.  What actually happened was that the scone was forgotten and by the time it was found it was past eating so would end up stale and in the bin.  We don’t know where she got this nasty habit from because all of us, including my grandmother, were all great fans of the great English afternoon cream tea.

Scones

8oz/225g of self raising flour

pinch of salt

3oz/75g of butter cut into small squares

1 ½ oz/40g caster sugar

2 tbs milk

1 large egg

Put the flour and salt into a food processor and add the butter.  Whizz until it resembles very fine breadcrumbs.  Add the caster sugar and mix.

Beat the egg with 2 tbs milk and add to the flour mixture and whiz for a minute.  If it hasn’t formed a dough ball add a little more milk, you can add but you can’t take away so be sparing.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form a ball.  Roll the ball with a floured rolling pin to a 1-inch thickness this is not the point to be mean.  Better to have 8 fabulous scones than 10 not so fabulous.  I don’t guess I get out the ruler.

With a 2 inch/5cm cutter cut out the scones and place them on a baking tray.  Once the cutter has gone into the dough do not twist just make a clean cut and put them onto the baking tray.  I have found giving the cutter a squeeze or shake usually dislodges the scone.  When the dough is used up gently reform the left over dough and repeat until it’s all used up.

Brush the scones with milk and place in the oven Gas mark 7/425C/220C for 10-12 minutes.  After 10 minutes check to see how they are doing, they should be risen and a golden brown on top, if not leave them in for a few more minutes.   Remove and leave on a wire rack to cool.

Scones are lovely warm with clotted cream and strawberry jam.  I put a couple of slices of fresh strawberry on top of the jam so that I can fit a maximum amount of clotted cream.

The only down side is that they don’t keep well.  They tend to go hard and dry.

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