A gateau Breton is a wonderful French cake, very much like a very dense pound cake, and is a specialty of Brittany. This non-traditional version of it adds a layer of a cooked apple filling between layers of the dough. The crust is easy to prepare—you just press it into the pan. For the top crust you’ll need a couple of cake cardboards or tart pan bottoms the same diameter as the pan. My dear friend Stephanie Weaver gave me this recipe close to 30 years ago and I have made it countless times, always to rave reviews. Because the baked dough has a cake-like rather than a crisp texture, it freezes beautifully—I keep a couple in the freezer around the holidays.
Makes one 10-inch tart, about 12 servings.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, and each half cut into 6 wedges
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
Egg wash: 1 large egg well beaten with a pinch of salt
One 10-inch wide and 2-inch deep round layer pan, buttered and bottom lined with a disk of parchment or buttered wax paper
1. For the apple filling, melt the butter over medium heat in a pan that has a tight-fitting cover, such as an enameled iron Dutch oven. Add the apples and sprinkle them with the sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Cook the apples covered, checking them and stirring occasionally, until they are swimming in liquid, about 10 minutes. Uncover the pan and let the liquid evaporate, about 10 more minutes. Keep an eye on the apples while the liquid is evaporating, and stir occasionally to prevent the apples from scorching. Most of the apples will disintegrate while the filling is cooking, making it like a chunky applesauce.
2. Meanwhile, set a rack on the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.
3. For the dough, combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until very light, about 5 minutes. Beating the butter and sugar for a long time incorporates air and makes the baked dough light and delicate. Add the yolks, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Use a large rubber spatula to incorporate the flour.
4. Place half the dough in the bottom of the prepared pan. Using your fingertips, press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan and about 1 inch up the sides. Spread the cooled filling over the dough.
5. Flour the remaining dough and press it into a 10-inch disk on a cardboard or tart pan bottom. Use a long-bladed knife or spatula to make sure the dough isn’t stuck to the cardboard. Invert the dough to another floured cardboard and slide it onto the filling.
6. Brush the top of the Breton with the egg wash and trace a lattice pattern on it with the tines of a fork.
7. Bake the Breton until the dough is well colored and baked through, about 50 to 55 minutes.
8. Cool on a rack in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold and turn right side up again. Cool completely on a rack.