There are limits to self-indulgence, none to restraint.
– Mahatma Ghandi
That day of the month approached on little winged feet. Closer and closer it flitted, mocking, daring, grinning the grin of the devil. I stared once again at the recipe and doubts crossed my mind, piling up like bricks, weighing down any curiosity or temptation that may have slithered their way between the cracks. The very name itself gâteau à la crème promised at once heaven and hell: the divine, ethereal taste and texture of fine brioche married in perfect union with the ambrosial, smooth vanilla-kissed cream; the Satanly richness, the devilishly voluptuous cream wreaking havoc on hips and health. The Bread Baking Babes and that exasperating, dizzying, maddening deadline and the difficult choice of whether one can or cannot, should or should not attempt the recipe was driving me mad. So many eggs. So much butter. Cream galore. Visions of fat danced around my head. Images of men, not a one with much of a sweet tooth to speak of, shaking their heads and wandering away, leaving me in front of an uneaten treat and disappointment. Nightmares of fellow Babes aghast at my irresponsibility, devastated by my lack of sisterly camaraderie. My own self caught between a rock and a hard place, between the devil and desire. Pourquoi tant de haine? Why such cruelty?
The gourmand is in harmony with the outside world.
He is in fact a normal person.
– Édouard de Pomaine
Yet I finally caved in. The morning of the day the post must be posted, the cake offered up to the world has arrived. As usual, I act at the last possible second. Very like me. I drag myself out of bed, now hit by the terrible cold that others in the house have been suffering for weeks. Or, more exactly, drag myself from the sofa where I had taken refuge at 3 o’clock in the morning, having woken in the night hot and uncomfortable, and begin rifling through the cupboard for ingredients. Decision made, cream-filled brioche cake on today’s menu. I make the announcement to JP who, much to my chagrin, rolls his eyes and pointedly reminds me that there is still uneaten pudding in the refrigerator from yesterday’s experiment. But he finally shrugs his shoulders, deciding to let me have my way, and wanders away, crazy wife no good.
And there he is, doubting husband, standing at the kitchen counter, eating to his heart’s content, not willing even to wait until son arrives for snacktime. His eyes glowing with delight at the sight of these treats, he is, after all, quite pleased that I baked today.
This month’s Bread Baking Babe Kitchen of the Month is Lien of Notitie Van Lien and she is exhorting us, tempting us to create an incredible creamed-filled brioche, a veritable Gâteau à la Crème for we Francophiles. Do not be afraid of the word brioche – this is one simple dough to put together. Give yourself plenty of time as the dough must rest several times, but the dough itself is one of those no-knead recipes that come together in a snap, only a bit of beating with a mixer oblige. The cream filling whisks together in no time at all, to flavor as one pleases (I encourage you to visit the other Babes to see what they have come up with).
I am so glad that I made that decision to bake, no matter the inspiration. Although I waited, although I doubted, although husband rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders, this is, as Ilva stated so eloquently, a keeper. This gâteau à la crème is boulangerie-perfect, boulangerie-delicious, and the perfect recipe for those who have little experience with yeast. Next time, make the entire recipe for cream filling, divide in half and flavor two different ways, and offer yourself and your loved ones a truly fantastic and oh-so French treat. For breakfast or snack or both. Thank you Lien, for choosing a terrific BBB Bread for March.
My fellow Bread Baking Babes:
Bake My Day - Karen
blog from OUR kitchen - Elizabeth
Feeding my Enthusiasms - Pat/Elle
girlichef - Heather
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies - Natashya
Lucullian Delights - Ilva
My Kitchen In Half Cups - Tanna
Notitie Van Lien - Lien
Paulchen's Foodblog - Astrid
Provecho Peru - Gretchen
Thyme for Cooking - Katie
And if you would like to bake this Gâteau à la Crème along with the Babes and earn your Buddy badge, visit Lien’s blog to find out how! Just send your link to Lien by the 30th of the March!
I will send this wonderful treat to Susan of Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting.
GÂTEAU À LA CRÈME – CUSTARD-FILLED BRIOCHE CAKE
Adapted from Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets
This is a halved recipe for 2 small gâteaux or 1 gâteau + 1 small loaf over
3 hours total preparation time, 25 to 30 mins cooking time
For the brioche dough:
250 g untreated strong plain flour (I used regular flour)
3 1/2 g salt
2 Tbs caster sugar
1 Tbs fresh yeast or 1 1/2 tsp (5 g) active dry yeast
3 ½ large eggs (approximately 200 g), preferable organic (the other half egg will be used for the glaze) *
150 g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (cool room temperature)
For the crème/custard filling for 2 small gâteaux:
(half this recipe if making 1 small filled gâteau and 1 plain loaf as I did)
6 free-range egg yolks, preferably organic
60 g caster sugar
1 lemon, juice and zest (I omitted the lemon and used the seeds scraped from ¼ a vanilla bean + 1 Tbs rum or to taste)
250 ml crème fraîche (I used heavy cream)
For the glaze:
½ large egg, preferably organic *
10 g (¾ oz) butter, cut into cubes, optional (I omitted the butter)
1 Tbs or so nibbed or pearl sugar to decorate
1 Tbs or so slivered blanched almonds to decorate, optional
* to measure out half an egg, simply place one egg in a bowl on a digital scale and whisk the egg until blended. Weigh. Pour off half the egg into a small cup or recipient and reserve for the glaze. Add the remaining 3 whole eggs to the bowl with the remaining half an egg and whisk to blend before adding to the dry ingredients.
Prepare the brioche dough:
Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast (keeping the yeast away from the salt as it will attack it and damage its ability to ferment) in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the eggs (* see note above) and mix with a dough hook attachment for 5 minutes on low speed until the eggs are completely incorporated (alternatively, place the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir together for 5 minutes).
Increase the speed of the beater or your stirring and beat for another 5 minutes until the dough comes away from the edge of the bowl. Add the cubes of butter a few cubes at a time and continue to beat for 2-3 minutes until the butter is completely incorporated and the dough smooth and creamy.
Remove the bowl from the machine if using. Cover with clingfilm or plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to prove. At the end of the hour, place the covered bowl in the refrigerator and chill the dough for a further 1 hour; the dough will be easier to work with if chilled. Feel free to keep the dough in the refrigerator for more time if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 360°F (180°C).
Lightly flour a work surface and your hands. Take half of the brioche dough and gather it together with the palms of your hands to form a ball, then place it on a parchment-lined baking tray and flatten it slightly. Starting from the middle of the dough, gently press the dough flat and spread it out to form a circle to approximately 9 ½ inches (24 cm) in diameter, leaving a 1 inch (2 cm) edge or rim all around - this will create the rim of the tart. Be careful not to stretch the dough and try to keep the base even in thickness. Use the second half of the dough for a second gâteau or use it to make a small loaf.
Cover the prepared dough shapes with lightly greased plastic wrap (I buttered mine) and a clean kitchen towel and place the dough in the warm area for 25 minutes.
Prepare the cream custard filling:
Mix the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice together (or other flavoring) in a large mixing bowl and gradually mix in the crème fraîche (or heavy cream). Set aside.
Prepare the glaze and the cake:
Brush the rim of the gâteau with the egg yolk and sprinkle with the nibbed or pearl sugar and slivered almonds, if using. Prick the base of the dough evenly with a fork for even cooking and rising of the dough. Pour ½ of the crème mixture - ¼ of the mixture if making 2 cream-filled cakes and you have made the entire recipe - inside the rim of the dough of one gâteau, and dot with the butter if using. Pour in the other ½ or ¼ when the baking sheet is already in the oven, so you won't spill. (prepare the second one the same way) and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the brioche has risen and the filling is set. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool, then serve.
If making the small braided brioche with half the dough, brush the braid with egg, sprinkle with nibbed or pearl sugar and slivered almonds and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.
NB: For this recipe you will need a food processor with a dough hook attachment. I used a hand mixer with dough attachments.