Recipe of the month: the “Gâteau Mollet” (Moist Cake)
This month, our Chef will keep exploring the Champagne-Ardenne region, and particularly the Argonne area. Discover with him the famous "gâteau Mollet". Bon appétit!
Before we begin, I would like to personally wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and all the best for a joyful, happy and peaceful New Year.
This month, we will keep exploring the Champagne-Ardenne region, and particularly the Argonne area. Argonne spans the departments of Marne, Ardennes and Meuse, on the East side of the Paris Basin. Its landscape mostly features forests and ponds.
Throughout French history, three main events gave the Argonne region its reputation:
The arrest of Louis the 16th in Varennes in 1791
The Battle of Valmy in 1792 (on September 20, 1792, the Revolutionary Army, under generals Dumouriez and Kellerman, arrested the Austro-Prussian invasion, lead by the Duke of Brunswick).
The Battle of the Argonne Forest in September of 1915, during the Great War.
Argonne’s chief specialties include the “Norberte” plum, a small, 1-inch diameter rustic fruit with a purple-blue color and a sweet, flavorful flesh. “Norbertes” are harvested in September and October. This wild plum, also called “de Norbert”, owes its survival to the dedication of a few passionate and gourmet fruit growers. In the past, it used to make for remarkable brandy.
The « Sainte-Menehould » pork foot specialty, a local culinary staple and a veritable feat of butchery, features whole pork feet (as opposed to the usual half-feet), that are used just after slaughter, flambé, cleaned and marinated in coarse salt. The feet are subsequently wrapped in tight bandages, to prevent the meat from falling apart during the slow-cooking process (up to 18 hours!) in a spiced, aromatic broth. Once they have cooled down, the feet are dipped in egg yolk and bread crumbs, and served hot, with mustard or Sainte-Menehould sauce.
Legend has it that in 1730, at the Hôtel de Metz, a young kitchen boy inadvertently left the pot on the burner all night, and discovered the next morning a perfectly cooked pork foot, so tender that the bone had become brittle. Coated in egg yolk and bread crumbs, and served hot to reveal a fragrant, tender meat, the recipe made the reputation of local inns and more generally of the town of Sainte-Menehould.
The recipe I am sharing today is the « gâteau mollet”, or moist cake, which, I reassure you, is much easier to make than pork feet. Many of you requested it, and here it is! This brioche-like cake is baked in a bundt pan, and rather similar to the Kuglehopf, with the difference that the pan is a little shorter and wider. The central “chimney” is also larger. For the story, the Champagne and the Ardennes regions have been arguing over the paternity of this big, moist brioche, formerly called “royal cake”, whose origin is not established. It most likely appeared after 1870, when Alsacians fled the Prussian annexation and brought this recipe with them. However, this pastry features more prominently in Ardennes, so much so that it is often called “Gâteau mollet from Ardenes”, and that there is a Sugar Galette and Gâteau Mollet congregation in Ardennes. This cake used to feature prominently in village fairs and family events, next to sugar galettes and fruit flans.
Recipe for 6 people:
• 250 grams flour
• 20 grams yeast
• 200 grams butter
• 4 eggs
Dissolve the yeast in a bowl with one tablespoon of sugar and some lukewarm water. Add 1 tablespoon flour, mix and let the mixture “rise” in a dark space for 30 minutes.
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well and add a pinch of salt. Break the eggs into the well, and add the yeast mixture. Mix all ingredients with a spatula, until thoroughly incorporated. Add 175 grams of softened butter, while vigorously kneading the dough. Make a ball with the dough, place it in the mixing bowl and cover with a damp dish towel. Set aside in a cool, dark place for 2 hours. Punch down the dough 2 or 3 times. Butter the bundt pan, and fill with dough until it reaches ¾ of the way. Let rise for about thirty minutes, until the dough reaches the edges of the pan.
Place the pan in an oven pre-heated to 220° C (430° F) and bake for approximately 30 minutes. The cake is ready when a toothpick dipped in the center of the dough comes out clean.
With these words by Michelin-starred chef Georges Blanc,
I wish you a “bon appétit” and look forward to seeing you again next month for another recipe. Thank you!!
"Happy, successful cooking is not just a matter of technique; it comes from the heart, stimulates the palate and requires enthusiasm as well as a profound love of food for food’s sake"
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org