Gateau de pithiviers

Gateau de pithiviers

By
From
Margaret Fulton Favourites
Serves
8-10
Photographer
Tanya Zouev and Armelle Habib

Many years ago, my sister and I had a wonderful holiday touring the Loire Valley — a beautiful part of France. On our way to the little town of Pithiviers we passed through a medieval town where they were celebrating the traditions of bygone times, wearing costumes, beating drums and waving flags. On we went, until we arrived in Pithiviers. It was Sunday lunchtime and the main square was empty. We stood in front of the closed patisserie, which seemed full of the most wonderful-looking pastries, and nearly cried! Then, suddenly, crowds started pouring into the square, coming out of the nearby churches. The charcuterie, boulangerie and patisserie quickly opened and filled with people picking up their special orders. We recovered enough from the commotion to order coffee and Pithiviers and we were not disappointed. The Pithiviers was perfect and, yes, I got the recipe.

Its scalloped edges, domed centre — marked with curved slashes to resemble the petals of a flower — and filling of warm almond paste make Pithiviers one of the world’s best pastries.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
2 sheets frozen puff pastry made with butter, just thawed
1 egg, beaten with 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, to glaze
caster or sifted icing sugar, for dusting

Almond filling

Quantity Ingredient
125g unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
125g whole blanched almonds, freshly ground
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons rum

Method

  1. To prepare the filling, cream the butter in a bowl. Add the sugar and beat until soft and light. Beat in the egg and egg yolk. Stir in the almonds, flour and rum; don’t beat the mixture at this point or the oil will be drawn out of the almonds.
  2. Using a cake tin as a guide, use a sharp knife to cut out a 25 cm round from each pastry sheet. Place one round on a baking sheet and mound the filling in the centre, leaving a 2.5 cm border. Brush the border with egg glaze. Lay the other round on top and press the edges together firmly. Scallop the edge of the gâteau by pulling it in at regular intervals with the back of a knife. Brush the gâteau with the egg glaze and, working from the centre, score the top in curves like the petals of a flower without cutting through to the filling. Chill for 15–20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  3. Pierce a few holes in the centre of the gâteau to allow steam to escape. Sprinkle it with sugar or icing sugar and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until puffed and brown on top. Lower the oven temperature to 200°C and continue baking for 15–20 minutes or until firm, lightly browned on the sides and glazed with melted sugar on top. If the sugar has not melted by the time the pastry is cooked, grill it quickly (watching it carefully) until shiny. Cool the gâteau on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip

  • To freshly grind the almonds I use a small nut mill that I have had for years. The next best thing is a coffee grinder, kept especially for grinding nuts, or a food processor. Roughly chop the nuts first by hand, then grind using the pulse button, though not too finely. Little bits of almond give the filling a pleasing texture.

Note

  • In France, a version of this cake is made flatter and known as galette des rois (cake of kings). This is a traditional Epiphany cake served on Twelfth Night (6th January), but it’s usually available in patisseries from Christmas until the end of January. Traditionally a dried bean or silver trinket would be hidden in the almond paste, and the cake accompanied by a cardboard crown. The lucky person who found the bean in his mouth would wear the crown for the day.
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