An aristocratic coffee cake, souvenir of a run through Brittany in 1985. Every bakery had it in the window, temptation was our constant companion.
Our premiere gastronomic experience in France’s scrubby but enfolding West was a dinner in the pre-Laura Ashley precincts of Chez Melanie near Pont-Aven, where the great bec fin Curnonsky holed up during the ’39 war. Like gung-ho philatelists eager to fill their album blanks, we had to eat here, amidst the faience and ferns. And a success it was, a soothing retro meal served by kindly coiffed Bretonnes adept at greasing the wheels of hospitality for such pilgrim foodies as Cecily and me. Suave local ham, mussels and rice, roast duck in brandied juices, ripe cheeses, flan with custard sauce, well, it was Mr. Liebling’s heaven.
Combine 2/3 cup of water, 1 package of dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of flour, mixing all together nicely with clean hands which will become very sticky in short order. Let the mixture rest for half an hour.
Then on a floured board with a floured rolling pin roll out the dough in a very long rectangle with a short side in front of you, after which you spread the bottom, or closer, two thirds with 6 tablespoons of quite soft butter and 6 tablespoons of sugar.
Now fold the top third down and the bottom third up over that (Who’s on Third, interrupts Costello here), place your dough on wax paper, put it on a plate and and chill it for an hour. Repeat the rolling-folding-chilling procedure three times, without adding butter and sugar.
Finally, flatten the pastry in a 6 or 7″ buttered pie pan and bake it at 425° for about 20 minutes, with a good prayer along the way, until it’s quite golden. Cool, unmold and sprinkle with sugar.