This classic cake from Brittany uses salted butter, sugar, and risen bread dough to make a golden cake with a caramelized top and bottom and a layered buttery crumb. Use a cast-iron skillet for best results.
About 1 1/2 pounds freshly risen bread dough, either unbleached all-purpose, or 50-50 whole wheat and all-purpose, at room temperature
1/3 pound very cold salted butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup flour
About 3/4 cup sugar
On a lightly floured surface flatten the dough out to a rectangle at least 12 inches long and 5 to 6 inches wide. Thinly slice the butter and divide it into 3 equal portions. Place one portion in pieces, over two-thirds of the length of the dough. Sprinkle over about 1/4 cup of sugar. Fold the bare third of the dough over the butter, then fold the other flap over that, like folding a letter. Flatten the dough out again to a rectangle and repeat with butter and sugar. Flatten once more, then repeat with butter only. The dough will feel soft and the butter may be breaking through a little. DOn’t worry.
Lightly grease a 9-inch diameter cast-iron skillet. Place the dough in the skillet and lightly press to flatten it a little and form a round. Let stand, loosely covered with plastic wrape to rise for 45 minutes to an hour.
Meantime place a rack in the center of the oven, place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles on it and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Just before baking, using a very sharp knife, make 5 or 6 vertical cuts in the cake each about 2 inches long, in a star burst pattern radiating out from near the center.
Bake at 450 degrees. After about 15 minutes remove the pan from the oven, pour any melted butter off into a measuring cup, then pour it back over the cake, before returning it to the oven to continue baking. Bake for about 25 minutes altogether, until golden and firm. The bottom will be caramelized.
Remove from the pan, decide whether you want it bottom side up or top side up, and set on a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes.
SWEET ANISE AND SUGAR CRISPBREADS adapted from HomeBaking
This is a version of the sweet crispbreads, heavily flavored with sugar and anise, that I came across at a bakery in Barcelona many years ago. They are best made with a slow-rise dough; if it already includes olive oil, then no need to add extra.
The recipe makes for long narrow breads (about 9 by 3 inches). You can of course make smaller breads if you wish.
About 1 pound risen bread dough made of 50-50 whole wheat and unbleached all-purpose flour
Scant 2 tablespoons olive oil (see Headnote)
Unbleached all-purpose flour for surfaces
A generous 1/4 cup sugar, preferably coarse crystals
About 3 teaspoons anise seeds
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven, put on a large baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if possible, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
Pull the dough together and add the olive oil. Knead the oil into the dough, along with a little flour.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut into four equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, flatten gently with lightly wetted fingertips until it is a rectangle approximately 9 inches long by 3 inches wide. Spritz lightly with water. Sprinkle on about 1 tablespoon sugar and a generous 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, then use the palm of your hand to distribute them evenly and press them into the dough. Prick the dough all over with a fork, about a dozen times.
Transfer to a peel or the flour-dusted back of a baking sheet and use it to transfer the bread onto the hot baking surface, then repeat shaping and transferring with a second bread if there’s room for it in the oven. Alternatively, if you don’t have a stone or tiles, then transfer onto a lightly greased baking sheet. If there’s room for a second bread on the sheet, then repeat with a second piece of dough before placing the sheet in the oven; otherwise place in the oven.
Bake until lightly touched with golden color at the edges. Transfer to a rack to cool and crisp up. Repeat with remaining dough and toppings.
BAKER’S FRUIT TART adapted from HomeBaking
Inspired by a recipe by the great Edouard de Pomiane, for a tart of yeasted dough enriched with butternand topped with one layer of pitted cherries, this is the kind of tart that home bakers made for generations, a way to make a treat from the end of alarger batch of bread dough.
About 3/4 pound freshly risen bread dough
1/4 pound cold butter
Flour for surfaces
About 3/4 pound fruit: fresh or frozen cranberries, or chopped pears, or pitted cherries, or ..
Sugar to taste (1/2 cup or more for cranberries, much less for pears or cherries)
2 tablespoons of cold butter in small chunks, optional
Flatten the dough gently on a lightly floured surface then grate the cold butter onto it. Roll up the dough then knead gently to distribute the butter, incorporating a little flour as necessary. If you have the time, let rest for twenty minutes.
Lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch cast iron skillet. Place the dough in the skillet and flatten gently with your fingertips to spread and stretch it out to the edge of the pan. Prick all over with a fork or the tip of a knife. Sprinkle on the fruit, leaving a half-inch rim around the edge, and then sprinkle on the sugar. Add a couple of small chunks of cold butter if you wish.
Let stand, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meantime place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the tart for 10 minutes at 450 and then lower the heat to 400 and bake for about 20 minutes longer, or until touched with brown at the edges.
Let cool for 20 minutes or more before removing from the pan or serving.
YEASTED CAKE WITH DRIED FRUIT AND NUTS
The texture of a cake made from yeasted dough is so satisfying. This one is dotted with chopped nuts and dried fruit, which you can vary to taste (you might want to use some dried cranberries for example, or chopped dried apricots); you could also include chunks of apple or pear in it.
3/4 pound freshly risen yeasted white-flour dough
1 large egg
2 tablespoons cold butter, grated or chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Scant 1 cup currants or golden raisins
1/2 cup rum or other liquor, or black tea
2 tablespoons pinenuts or slivered almonds or coarsely chopped walnuts
2 to 3 tablespoons dessicated unsweetened coconut, optional
1 to 2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sugar
Place the dough in a bowl, add the egg and about 1/2 cup flour and knead in, then add the butter and fold and knead to incorporate it. Add the sugar and a little more flour if needed and knead gently. Set aside, covered with plastic wrap to rest for 20 minutes.
Meantime place the currants in a bowl with the liquor or tea and let soak for 15 minutes, then drain, reserving the fruit and setting the liquor aside too.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flatten gently. Sprinkle on the drained currants, the nuts, and the coconut if using, then roll the dough up to incorporate them. Fold the rolled up dough in half and then shape into a ball between your palms. Place in a lightly greased ovenproof skillet or in a cake ring placed on a baking sheet and flatten gently. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30 minutes.
Meantime preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the reserved soaking liquid in a non-reactive pan, stir in the honey, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until it has reduced to about half its original volume. Set aside.
Place the cake in the oven. After about 20 minutes, pour the reduced liquid over the cake and sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue to bake until the cake is touched with gold and firm underneath, about 45 minutes altogether.
Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing.