Gateau Breton


Gateau BretonThis recipe for Gateau Breton is brought to us by one of my readers, Oliver, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for this marvelous French pastry which comes from  the Bretagne region of France;  which is known for its butter and sea salt.  

Gateau Breton is destined to become one of your favorites.  It can be served for breakfast – it makes getting up a joy!  Or, serve it as a great dessert, a snack or, if you’re like me, just have a piece whenever.  I love the filling that is baked between two layers of dough.  It features the same cross hatch design as the cookies and looks like it came from the best European bakeries.

The tourism website of Brittany has mouth watering photos and descriptions of more pastry specialties from this area.  Alas, no recipes but wonderful to look at.

European Butters or High Fat Butters

European butters hit our markets some years ago and the American manufacturers of butters followed.  These butters have at least 82% butterfat as opposed to the 80% minimum in American regular butters. All 82% or more butters are known as high-fat butters. However, they are not alike in all aspects.

Many, many years ago, when I ventured into my bakery business European white chocolate was banned from the states.  It had something to do with it being classified as a dairy product and not a chocolate and as such was reclassified and in doing so it was banned.  At the time I used all European chocolate in my products.

Because I had a 500 pound minimum to purchase as wholesale, I didn’t want to split up suppliers so I went on a hunt for good American chocolate.  This was in the late 80’s so you have to remember food and food products were not the big thing they are now.  I contacted several companies, some of which responded well, others not so much.  But the standout favorite was Guittard Chocolate.  I was especially grateful to the head of the sales department who always responded to my phone calls (no internet at that time) and helped me in every way possible.  As my company grew, I used thousands of pounds of their chocolate, dark and white.

But to the point, he told me about the grass.  I never would have thought about grass having such a profound impact on the taste of food from different countries.  And herein is why butter and chocolate from different countries tastes different.  The grass in different countries tastes different.  The cows eat the grass and so their milk will taste different.  So even if the butters are all 82% or higher, the taste may very well differ which is why European butter may taste different than American high fat butters.

There are many high-fat butters on the market now.  My favorite is Kerry Gold.  However, Plugra was one of the first and many others followed including Land ‘O Lakes.  To make things more complicated there are also cultured butters on the market but that is a discussion for another time.

I don’t use European butters in all my baking.  In some items I actually prefer 80% butter because it doesn’t soften as quickly while being worked as can European butters.

Having said all that, it will still be good with American butter but I highly recommend the European for this recipe.

Ingredients for the Gateau Breton

Because this Gateau Breton is very butter forward, I used salted Kerry Gold Salted Butter.  When making Sable Breton, the famous butter cookie from Breton, salted butter is a must.  Although it wasn’t specified in the recipe I found online, I used it because of the connection.

The recipes found online and including this one are essentially based on a single recipe from Patisserie Made Simple by Edd Kimber of England.  The NY Times ran it and it has appeared elsewhere with minor changes.  While the original recipe is written in grams, the American measurements come out rather strangely.  I altered my ingredients so they make more sense.

Prunes are the fruit of choice for the filling of the original Gateau Breton.  As such, I kept them and also because I love prune filling.  Europeans use prunes a lot in their fillings but for some reason, unknown to me, Americans don’t go that route.  Prunes are simply dried Italian blue plums, also known as blue plums and prune plums.  Mr. Kimber uses the prune filling, but I changed mine to add more flavor.Plums and prunes

I have also included an apricot filling that seems to be more favored by American writers.  The choice is yours but you won’t do any better than the prune filling.

Gateau Breton couldn’t be easier to make.  For the pastry, it only takes four ingredients.  To make things even easier, you just whiz it up in the food processor.

This is one of the easiest, most beautiful, best tasting pastries you will ever make.  So let’s get to it!

Gateau Breton

Prune Filling

4 ounces dried prunes
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 tablespoon butter, cut into several small pieces (15 grams or 1/2 ounce)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the prunes, water and dark rum in a small pan.  Bring it to a boil and cook until most of the water has evaporated.  Remove it from the heat and mash the prunes with the back of a spoon until smooth.  Don’t worry if a few small pieces are left.  And the remaining ingredients, stirring until the butter melts and all is combined.  Set aside to cool.

Yield:  3/4 cup, 200 grams or 7 ouncesPrune filling

Gateau Breton PastryGateau Breton ingredients

1 cup salted European style butter, cold (225 grams or 8 ounces)
6 large egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour (280 grams or 10 ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams or 7 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line an 8” round cake pan with parchment paper.  Spray the paper and entire cake pan with a non-stick baking release.  Set aside.

Using the round pan, draw an 8” circle in the middle of a piece of parchment paper.  Turn it over and set aside.

Cut the butter into small pieces and keep refrigerated until using.Butter cut into pieces

Reserve one egg yolk for the finish.  Place it in a small bowl and cover it directly with plastic wrap.  To cover directly refers to placing the plastic wrap directly on top of the yolk.  Refrigerate until needed.Reserved egg yolk for the wash

Combine the flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor.   Pulse to combine.  Flour in processor for the Gateau Breton pastryAdd the cold butter and process until it is indistinguishable.

Cut up butter in processorAdd the five egg yolks and Egg yolks added to processor for Gateau Breton pastryprocess until the dough comes together.  I found I had to rearrange the dough in the processor a couple of time before it was smooth.  Be sure to scrape down.Partially processed

Processed dough

Remove the dough from the processor.  Clean the blade by pulsing several times. Blade of processor cleanedBring the dough together in one piece.  It will be soft at this point.  Do not add flour to the work surface.  Just use a gentle motion to bring it together.  It will weigh about 770 grams or about 27 ounces.  Divide it in half or about 385 grams each or 13 1/2 ounces each.  Shape into discs.

I was able to continue without refrigerating the pastry.  However, if the dough is too soft to work chill it for about 2 hours or so until it firms up.  Do not let it get too hard or it will be difficult to work.

Place one disc in the middle of the pan.  Bottom of pastry in panCover it with plastic wrap and press it out evenly to cover the bottom of the pan.Pressing in bottom pastry for Gateau Breton

Bottom pastry pressed into pan


Remove the plastic wrap.  Spread the filling to within about 3/4 inch from the sides.Prune filling spread on pastry

Place the second disc of pastry in the middle of the circle on the parchment paper.  Place another piece of parchment or waxed paper over the pastry and roll out to fit withing the 8” circle.

Flip the paper over so the bottom is on top.  If the pastry does not exactly fit, adjust it now.Top pastry on parchment paper flipped over

Chill just until firm but not hard, about 10  to 15 minutes.

In the meantime, stir a teaspoon of water into the reserved egg yolk.

Dampen the edges of the bottom piece of pastry with water Dampen edges of pastry with water for the Gateau Bretonand place the top over the filling.  Press the top and bottom edges together lightly.Top pastry covering the filling.

Apply the egg wash to the top of the cake.  Using a fork, draw a cross hatch on the top layer.  I have to admit I forgot to take the pictures here.  So these are from the Sable Breton cookies.  You can make the cross hatch design this way or as in the photo of the Gateau Breton below.Vertical lines on top of pastry

Fork making diagonal lines on top of pastry

Cross hatched design

Top view of Gateau Breton

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes until the top is a medium brown.  Cover with foil if it browns too quickly.  You won’t believe how wonderful this smells coming from the oven.  It’s hard to wait for it to cool.

Cool to lukewarm, go around the edges of the pan with a small metal spatula and turn the gateau out.  Cool completely right side  up.

This will keep for at least 5 days covered, I’ve read.  It never made it anywhere near that time in my house.

Gateau Breton

Alternate Apricot Filling for the Gateau Breton

Substitute dried apricots for the prunes in the filling above.

You might want to look at this post also:

Food Processor Tips When Baking

Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post!
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11 thoughts on “Gateau Breton

  1. Don Massey

    Hi Helen –

    I tired this recipe last night, and as always, it was perfect. I also love prunes and made this without a hitch! When is your book on cakes coming out??? I hope this finds you well.

    …forgot – another question about Cake Flour. I am seeing recipes online for “making your own cake flour by taking out 2 TBLS of flour and adding 2 TBLS of Corn Starch”. Have you tried this?



    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Don, Glad you enjoyed the Gateau. It has become one of our favs. No idea on the cake book. It is down the line since there is a second cookie book featuring European cookies out hopefully, next year. Then I have a 60 Second Brioche book that needs to see the light of day also. Maybe after that. I have used the substitution when I have to but prefer cake flour as no matter what you do with all-purpose, it is still heavier. Hope that helps.

  2. Karen McCreary

    Dearest Helen , Your recipes are always the “BOMB” ! This one ,though , I just h ave to tell you about different tastes , etc . In 1973 , my husband’s job moved us to Germany near Heidelberg . Nothing to do with US Govt . We had 4 children then and this mom baked! I was in 7th heaven . German butter ? YES . French butter ? YES . Irish (Kerrygold)butter ? NO, thanks . It really tastes like grass to me (us).LOL Plugra is my fave . President is great and a few others . The Irish stuff just won’t make it here . I am still laughing ! other half of this note is (drumroll) Not one of us will eat prunes in any form ! Apricot isn’t a first choice but it’s OK .The gateau is incredible , though .! Since I’m too ill now and need help with too many things , baking is one thing I just can’t expect my dear Joe yo take on in any grand fashion and the whole family misses it . I will enjoy this vicariously through your readers’ comments .Living in Europe for those few years really taught me so much about so many things ! I LOVED it 100%. We traveled with the 4 little ones had # 5 3 mos. after we came home and they do remember a lot of the things we did so it is a real source of pleasure to share some of it here . Big lifestyle change again when new job took us to TX (Dallas area ) and sending away for chocolate was a Herculean effort due to heat , of course . But now it is whole other world and it isn’t hard to find a lot of things now compared to 41 yrs. ago ( exactly on Oct . 1st ) THANKS for all the recipes and mostly techniques you’ve taught me over these last yrs . Best one ? It has to be double panning ! It has saved so much grief ! Love to you and your dear ones . Karen McCreary

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Karen, I loved your comment. For sure tastes differ and that is a good thing. Even now, I stock up on chocolate before the hot days in Missouri start coming around. Take care of yourself Karen.

  3. Lynette Pruett

    I will definitely be making this…and soon! It sounds amazing. I’m one who also loves prunes, but since I love plums, that makes perfect sense! I have one question. You say it will keep for five days, covered. Is it to be stored at room temperature or refrigerated? It may be a moot point, because I doubt that it will last for five days here, either!
    Thanks for yet another wonderful recipe, Helen. You’re the best!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Lynette, this is truly easy and outstanding. Glad you will try it. Believe it or not, we stored it at room temperature uncovered for 3 days. It was fine. You could probably cover it but we didn’t.

  4. Mark Mayer

    I will definitely try this as everything I’ve ever baked from your site has been a « réussite culinaire. ». Please note, however, that the Gâteau Breton, hails from the Bretagne region of France; not, Normandie – home of the best apple tarts. The Brittany tourist office has a nice website with a nice review of their typical cakes/ pastries. Naturally, I had to read it word for word. Thanks again , Your regular Monday column serves as my weekly Opening Exercises session.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Mark, thanks so much for the clarification. I changed it in the blog. If you get a chance send me a link to the tourist office. I went online but couldn’t find it. Would love to share it with my readers. Also, thank you for your lovely words, I appreciate them and you.

  5. Judy Garden

    Good Morning Helen,
    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. One concern though. My cup measures 135g/per cup of flour. Should the recipe call for 2 cups instead of the 1 cup listed? 5 yolks seems a lot of moisture for 1 cup of flour.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Judy and Eccles, Thanks for the catch. I’ve made the correction to the blog. It most certainly should be 2 cups as the weight suggests. Most professionals use the weight of140 grams per cup including me, but 5 grams more or less won’t make a difference. This is so worth making – happy you’re going to make it.

  6. Eccles and Croissants

    Good Morning Helen,
    Looking forward to trying this recipe. I have one concern though. You have listed 1 cup of flour as weighing 280grams. Since my cups weigh out at 135 grams/cup of flour, I’m wondering if the recipe should ask for 2 cups of flour rather than the one.

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