I love baking, but I’m not much of a dessert person. If I’m out for dinner and everyone is ordering dessert, I am that one person who orders a plate of cheese. I just prefer savoury over sweet, in most cases.

This said, there have been a few moments in my life and career as a chef where a dessert has stopped me in my tracks. For example, a dish of wild blueberries served at three michelin starred restaurant Maaemo in Oslo, Norway brought a tear to my eye – it tasted like summer at home in Canada, where we pick wild blueberries each year (they are sweeter and smaller than the blueberries found in supermarkets).

I recently ate at The Old Convent in south Tipperary. They have built some outdoor dining pods, so my husband and I enjoyed their multi-course dinner with a few of my in-laws. I didn’t think I would be blown away by chef Dermot’s mango mousse with strawberries – but I was. It was so light and delicious.

One other dessert I have grown to love is this Gateau Basque. When the company I worked with opened the restaurants at the Toronto International Film Festival building in 2010, our off-site bakery started making mini Gateau Basque tarlets with sweet, short sablée pastry, a creamy filling of creme patisserie – and nothing else.

We served it warm, with a scoop of a local vanilla ice cream. And it was perfect in its simplicity.

Now, in the summer, I am sometimes tempted to add cherries to the filling. I’m not sure of how traditional that is, but I have read that if the Gateau Basque is filled with cherries, there are different markings on top than if it is filled with pastry cream.

I am hoping to visit this region of France and Spain next year to taste test as many slices as possible.

Gateaux Basque

Serves 8-10

*Depending on the size of your tart pan, you may have to double the sablée recipe.


For the Sablee:

125g softened butter

35g powdered sugar

1 large egg yolk

Pinch of salt

160g plain flour

1 tbsp milk, if needed

For the Creme Patissiere:

5 egg yolks

250g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla

60g plain flour

400ml milk

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp cinnamon

Zest of ½ lemon

½ tsp almond extract

Fresh pitted cherries (optional)

Egg wash

Icing sugar, for dusting (optional)


1. Make the sablée: with a mixer, beat the butter and powdered sugar until well-combined. Add the egg yolk and mix. Add the flour and salt. Mix until combined, do not over-mix, you do not want to develop the gluten in the flour.

2. Wrap the sablée in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

3. Make the creme patissiere: in a bowl, whisk the egg yolk, lemon zest and sugar until light, pale yellow and ribbony. In the meantime, heat the milk, cinnamon, almond extract and vanilla on medium-high until it reaches boiling point.

4. Add the flour to the egg and sugar and mix until just combined.

5. Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk by adding a small amount and immediately whisking vigorously. Then, add the rest of the hot milk and mix to combine.

6. Return the mixture to the pot and return to the heat. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture up to a boil until it’s thick and glossy (if you think it’s too thick, you can thin it out with a bit more milk).

7. Add the butter and mix well. Set aside.

8. Press half of the sablée into the bottom of a tart pan. Add the creme patissiere to the tart (adding the cherries here, if you’re using them). Roll out the other half of the sablée and cover the top of the tart pan.

9. Trim the excess pastry and brush the tops of the pastry with egg wash. Place the tart in a cold oven.

10. Turn on the oven to 190°C and bake the tart for about 45 minutes, checking after 30.

11. Cool and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar, ice cream, compote or whipped cream.