Mini Gâteaux Breton

These cake-type cookies are based on the classic French cake. They are buttery, nutty and minimally sweet. Lovely!

This recipe is from The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I used granulated sugar, unbleached all-purpose flour, and baked them in regular brioche pans instead of mini pans. I may need to purchase mini brioche pans for my next batch! 😉

Yield: Makes 14 regular or up to 38 mini cookies

  • 25 g (1/4 cup, 0.9 oz) blanched sliced or slivered almonds
  • 75 g (6 T, 2.6 oz) granulated sugar or superfine sugar
  • 1/8 tsp (0.7 g) fine sea salt
  • 9 T (1 1/4 sticks, 4.5 to 5 oz, 128 to 142 g) unsalted butter, preferably high fat
  • 2 large egg yolks (2 T plus 1 tsp, 35 ml, 1/3 oz, 37 g), at room temperature
  • 1/2 T (7.5 ml) kirsch, dark rum, or water
  • 3/4 tsp (3.7 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 125 g (1 cup, 4.4 oz) all-purpose flour
  1. Twenty minutes (or longer) before baking, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160° C).
  2. Toast the almonds: Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until pale gold. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting and avoid over-browning. Cool completely.
  3. In a food processor, process the almonds with 2 T (25 g, 0.9 ounce) of the sugar and the salt until fairly fine but not powder.
  4. Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, mix the remaining sugar and the bittern low-speed for about 1 minute, or until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. On low-speed, beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating for about 20 seconds between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. Add the almond mixture, water or liquor, and vanilla and mix on low-speed until the almond mixture is moistened. Beat for about 20 seconds until evenly incorporated.
  7. Add the flour in four parts, turning off the mixer between addition, and beat no the lowest speed for about 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  8. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes, or until firm.
  9. If using regular brioche pans, use a large cookie scoop (about a tablespoon in volume) to ration the dough. (For mini brioche pans, scoop out rounded teaspoons of the dough (0.3 oz/10 g).
  10. Roll each piece of dough between the floured palms of your hands into a ball and set it into a brioche pan. (The flour will prevent the dough from sticking to the pan.)
  11. Press the dough balls into the pans. Use a finger to press the dough into the fluted edges.
  12. If the dough is sticky, refrigerate the dough until firmer.
  13. Set the dough-lined brioche pans at least 1/2-inch apart on a rimmed baking sheet.
  14. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until golden brown. (An instant-read thermometer should read about 205°F/96°C.
  15. Set the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  16. Using a toothpick (for regular pans) or a needle (for mini pans), loosen one of the edges of the gâteaux to loosen it and invert it onto another wire rack. Cool completely.
  17. Repeat process with remaining dough.

Notes:

  • These cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room-temperature for up to 5 days, refrigerated for up to 10 days, or frozen up to 3 months.
  • The regular brioche tins are 8 cm/3 inches in diameter. The mini brioche pans are ~4.5 cm/1 3/4 inches in diameter.

Pear and Almond Tart

I served this elegant tart on Thanksgiving Eve this year. It was very well received! The classic combination of pears and almonds was absolutely delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Dolester Miles’ recipe in Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill, via The Washington Post. The restaurant is located in Birmingham, Alabama. I used poaching liquid instead of rum in the filling and reduced the baking time. Wonderful!

Yield: 8 servings

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup plus 3 T flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the Pears:

  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • half a vanilla bean, split
  • one 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 5 (large) to 6 almost-ripe, firm pears, such as Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc, peeled, halved lengthwise and cored

For the Filling:

  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 T Calvados, dark rum, or poaching liquid
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 cup blanched/slivered or sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish

To Make the Crust:

  1. Use cooking oil spray to grease a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. Place the flour in a food processor.
  3. Sprinkle the salt and cubes of butter into the flour. Pulse until the butter is pea-sized.
  4. Pour the egg over the mixture; pulse just until the dough begins to come together.
  5. Turn the dough out onto the counter, and then gather it into a disk.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 1 day.
  7. Lightly flour a work surface. Unwrap and roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. (I roll the dough out between 2 sheets of plastic wrap.)
  8. Transfer it to the tart pan, using your fingertips to line the pan with the dough. Trim the edges even with the rim of the pan.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

To Poach the Pears:

  1. Combine the sugar, water, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the pears; once the liquid begins to bubble at the edges, cook the pears for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are tender and the tip of a paring knife slips into them easily. Let them cool in their liquid. Discard the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.

To Make the Filling and Finish the Tart:

  1. When ready to assemble, make the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat for several minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using for the topping.
  3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for several minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. Reduce the speed to low; add the egg, ground almonds, flour, Calvados, rum, or poaching liquid and the almond extract. Beat for about 2 minutes, until smooth.
  5. Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator. Unwrap and pour in the filling, spreading it evenly.
  6. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid, placing them in a colander set over a bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid for this recipe; reserve and refrigerate the rest for poaching more fruit later.
  7. Place the pears cut sides down on the tart filling, side by side with the narrow ends facing in, until the entire surface of the tart is covered with pears. Cover the edge of the tart to prevent over-browning and bake (middle rack) for about 28 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  8. Meanwhile, cook the reserved cup of poaching liquid in a small saucepan over high heat until it has reduced to a glaze – about 2 to 3 tablespoons total. Remove from the heat.
  9. Once the tart comes out of the oven, brush it with the glaze, then scatter the toasted almonds evenly over the top. Serve warm, or at room temperature.

Note: The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. The pears can be stored in their cooking liquid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The poaching liquid can be reused.

Pear & Almond Cream Tart

My entire family cannot stop eating pears this season. We are absolutely in love with them. Especially Bartletts. So, I really branched out by making these pear tarts instead of an apple pie for Thanksgiving this year in celebration of our love of pears. (As an aside, I have always had a love of tarts as well!)

This lovely tart recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Elisabeth Prueitt. I substituted 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract for the 2 tablespoons of brandy. I also made one 9-inch tart and one 10-inch tart because those are the size tart pans I own. 😉 The original recipe was for two 9-inch tarts. Because the tart sizes were different, each had a different pear pattern on top. Beautiful and delicious.

Total Time: 1 1/2 hours

Yield: Makes 2 9-inch Tarts

For the Pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1/4 cup ice water

For the Filling:

  • 1 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 stick plus 6 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced almonds, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or 1 T vanilla extract
  • 6 ripe medium Bartlett pears, peeled, quartered and cored
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Pulse in the butter until it is the size of small peas.
  3. Sprinkle the egg mixture on top and pulse just until a dough forms.
  4. Scrape the pastry onto 2 sheets of plastic wrap and form into 2 disks. Wrap and refrigerate until chilled. (I let it chill overnight.)
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each pastry disk to a 12-inch round 1/8 inch thick. Fit the pastry into two 9-inch fluted tart pans with removable bottoms. Fold the overhang onto itself. Using a sharp knife or a rolling pin, trim off any excess pastry. Chill to set while you prepare the filling.
  6. Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch.
  8. Whisk in 1 egg and the salt.
  9. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then return it to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until thickened and just beginning to bubble around the edges, about 4 minutes.
  10. Strain the custard into a bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the butter.
  11. Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer, beat the remaining 12 tablespoons of butter with the sliced almonds at medium-low speed until the almonds are slightly crushed.
  12. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 2 eggs, then beat in the custard and brandy/vanilla.
  13. Spoon the filling into the tarts. Place 1 pear quarter in the center of each tart; arrange the remaining quarters in a circle around it. (I made different patterns with the different size tarts, and was only able to place a pear quarter in the center of the 10-inch tart.)
  14. Bake the tarts in the center of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, rotating halfway between the cooking time, or until the pears are very tender and the custard and pastry are deep golden.
  15. Let the tarts cool for 30 minutes, then unmold. Garnish with additional sliced almonds, if desired.
  16. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Note: The tarts can be stored overnight in airtight containers.

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