Petits Gateaux Secs (Little Dry Cakes)

Source: Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen: Cooking Through the Seasons on Avery Island

Petits g?teaux secs is French for little dry cakes. They are indeed nothing fancy since they are made with ingredients – flour, butter, sugar – that were available on the farms in the rural areas of Acadiana.

They were often made for young children when they came home from school. They can be accompanied with caf? au lait (coffee milk) made with equal parts strong, dark coffee and hot milk or cream. For a heartier snack or dessert, they were served with Creole cream cheese.

They are also ideal for packing in airtight containers to take along on a boat trip, or to a picnic or any outdoor meal. The dough can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. This basic dough can be used for sweet tarts, sometimes referred to as turnovers, and can be filled with fig preserves, baked sliced apples or blackberry jam.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup evaporated milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cream together the butter, mace, nutmeg and sugar in a large mixing bowl until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat again until thick and smooth. Add the vanilla extract and beat again. Add the evaporated milk and blend.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and stir in one direction with a wooden spoon until it is all incorporated. The dough will be thick and slightly sticky. Form it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Gently pat one portion into a flattened ball and put it on the flour-dusted surface. With a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll out the dough into a circle about 9 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick. Cut the cookies with a 2-inch cookie cutter and place them on the prepared baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Gather up the scraps, roll them out and cut more cookies. You should have about 14 cookies per portion of dough. Repeat with the remaining portion of dough. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Then, with a metal spatula, carefully lift the cookies off the pan and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 28 cookies.

Variation: To make tarts, simply roll out the dough into circles 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick. Fill with about 1/4 cup of the desired filling, fold the dough over and seal. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork. Bake until slightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

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