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Gâteau Pithivier with Dates

  • 20 minutes
  • 30 minutes
  • 10
Gâteau Pithivier with Dates

On our arrival, fellow writers Brit, Nick Inman, and his Spanish wife, Clara Villanueva, welcomed us with an afternoon tea. Their son, who spoke English, was Jean-Luc’s buddy at school, helping him tremendously in the first few weeks with the French language and the daily school routine that was so very different whence we had come. Eager to try my hand at baking, I made one of my favourite gâteaux and added a twist with delicious dates from Jean-Claude.


  • 600 grams puff pastry; if frozen defrost evenly, preferably in the fridge


  • 125 grams softened butter, unsalted will give the finest taste here
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1 firmly packed cup ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence or extract, either will suffice
  • 8-10 plump juicy dried dates, if using very dried dates, they will need to be soaked in hot water until plump


  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C or 200°C fan bake and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Grease an oven tray.
  2. Divide the pastry into 2 portions, one being slightly bigger than the other, the latter will be for the top. Roll the smaller piece out large enough to cut out a 23-25cm circle and place on a lightly greased oven tray.
  3. Prepare the filling by beating the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. There’s no need to do this with a beater; a bowl, a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease is all that’s required. Beat in the egg mixture a little at a time, leaving about 1 tablespoonful of the beaten egg with which to glaze the pastry.
  4. Stir in the ground almonds and almond essence. Spread on top of the pastry base, leaving a 2.5cm edge free of filling all the way round. Brush this pastry rim with a little of the beaten egg. Halve and stone the dates and sit these firmly into the filling – random or in a pattern; the choice is yours.
  5. Roll the remaining piece of pastry large enough to cut a 24cm-26cm round and roll this evenly over the almond filling. Press the edges of the pastry together firmly. If time allows refrigerate for 30 minutes. Brush the pastry with egg glaze. Use the point of a sharp knife to make 6-8 curved cuts, beginning in the centre and working to the outside. Use the back of the knife to draw the edge of the pastry in – at about 2cm intervals – to make a scallop-like pattern. This is the classic decoration for a Gâteau Pithivier
  6. Bake in the hot oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until golden and well risen. If your oven cooks hot, then lower the temperature and/or cover with a piece of foil to prevent the gâteau from burning. Serve warm.

The garde-manger

  1. The pastry sheets I could buy came ready rolled in either a 26cm circle or a large oblong, making baking tarts so much easier – no rolling, measuring or cutting and helping the home cook easily achieve a more professional look. Pastries are available made from butter or a butter substitute. Delightfully, the Pâte Brisée or short pastry, comes without overpowering flavours making it useful for both savoury and sweet tarts. Pâte Sablée, a richer pastry - sablée meaning sand - comes without raising agents, thus it was a rich pastry and not thick and shortcake-like. The flaky pastry - Pâte Feuilletée - is denser and crisper and once cooked did not flake too much; the golden colour and buttery taste is superb.

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