A Belated Bastille Soiree

Juillet 2011

It was time to celebrate July birthdays at my day job, and what better way [for a Francophile party planner] to commemorate than with a French Fête in honor of Bastille Day?!?

(Click on the invitation to see the party pics)

To really motivate the potluckers’ French brainstorming, I sent an inspirational food collage prior to the party:

I may have both drooled and cried over my keyboard when assembling the above collage (click the collage to enlarge).

As for me, I decided to try my hand at a nutty Breton cake.  I must confess, this cake did not match all my memories of the motherland version.  I may have been guilty of slightly over mixing, but I also venture that my fatigued food processor just didn’t hack into those hazelnuts enough.  Thus, I still encourage following this recipe thanks to some really rave reviews, but really grind those hazelnuts and mix lightly.  Suggestion number deux:  this cake is quite lovely (and maybe more appropriately) served with coffee or tea.

Voila.  Bon courage!

Hazelnut Gâteau Breton

Cake Ingredients

1 ¼ cups organic, evaporated cane juice sugar
1 ¼ cup local honey
1 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted, husked
12 large egg yolks (local/free-range)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, divided
2 Tablespoons potato starch
2 large egg yolk beaten with 4 teaspoons water (for glaze)


Fig Compote (or jam of your choice)
Whole strawberries with stems attached for garnish

Whipped Topping Ingredients

3 cups organic heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

For the Hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange hazelnuts on a stone baking pan and place on middle oven rack.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes until toasted and fragrant.

Allow to cool slightly.

Rub the hazelnuts together in a linen towel to remove the husks.

For the Cake

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F.

Butter and flour a 9 x 13 rectangular pan.

Combine ½ cup sugar and hazelnuts in processor; blend until nuts are finely ground but not pasty.

Combine 12 egg yolks and remaining ¾ cup sugar in a large bowl; whisk until well blended and slightly thicker, about 2 minutes (do not use electric mixer).

Whisk in honey and then the hazelnut mixture.

Gradually whisk in the melted butter.

Combine the flour and potato starch in a separate bowl and then sift over the batter; stir just until blended (batter will be thick; do not over mix or cake may be tough).

Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top with offset spatula (layer will be thin).

Brush top generously with egg glaze.

Using back of tines of fork, deeply mark crisscross pattern atop cake, marking 3 times across in 1 direction and 3 times in opposite direction.

Bake cake until deep golden on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes, then remove pan sides and cool cake completely.

*Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.

For the Whipped Topping

Chill a medium-sized bowl in the freezer.

Remove the bowl from the freezer.  Combine the heavy cream and vanilla.

Use an electric mixer (unless going for forearm glory) to beat until stiff peaks form.

Chill until ready to use.

For the Assembly

Cut the cake into two layers.

Spread a thick layer of fig compote followed by whipped cream.

Add the top layer of cake.

Pipe whipped cream onto the sides and garnish the top.

Add the strawberries with stems for the final touch.

It’s not a French Fête without CREPES!

I made crepe batter, but I knew better than to attempt the batter splatter portion of the process.  I’m just not all that seasoned at spreading and flipping.  I am, however, very well versed at eating crepes.

The Crepes
Makes approximately 20 crepes

2 ½ cups organic, unbleached all purpose flour
2 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
10 eggs (local/free-range)
2-1/2 cups organic whole milk
2-1/2 cups water
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons butter, melted


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs.

Gradually add in the milk and water, whisking to combine.

Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.

Relinquish the bowl of batter to the crepe master at the griddle and then transition to this important question:  What type of crepe combination do I want (first)?


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