I remembered her as I baked Pavé Montmartre, a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets, the book I am cooking in its entirety. It is an egg-rich almond cake that is wrapped in a thin sheet of almond paste, then lightly burnished in the oven for some color. It was designed to resemble a paving stone in Pâtisserie Arnaud Larher’s neighborhood.
The cake itself is a version of Pain de Genes, “Genoa Bread,” a cake commemorating France’s 1800 siege of the city, during which time people survived on almonds. It has a tender, even crumb and is not too sweet. You need a sturdy mixer as the batter is beaten for some 15 minutes.
An almond paste covering keeps the cake moist. Rolling and placing the almond paste is probably the greatest challenge, but even that is forgiving as Dorie notes in her recipe. (Almond paste, modeling clay — both are pliable, but only one is truly edible.)
This is one paving stone that will not harm your shoes.
from Patisserie Arnaud Larher
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets
For the cake:
1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 T potato starch (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
2 tubes Odense almond paste, broken into pieces
4 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 T Grand Marnier or kirsch
Butter and flour the inside of an 8 inch square cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the almond paste and 2 eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer and run on medium speed for 5 minutes using the paddle attachment. Then switch to the whisk. Add the other 2 eggs and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes until the batter is light and creamy. (Dorie says it should resemble mayonnaise and it will.)
Take a couple tablespoons of this batter and stir it in the cooled, melted butter. Turn the mixer to low speed and add Grand Marnier, then the flour and potato starch. Mix just until they are incorporated. Fold in the butter using a rubber spatula.
Put the batter in the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven, and turn it out onto a wire rack, and cool to room temperature upside down.
For the covering:
2 tubes Odense almond paste
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten with 1 T cold water
Put the two tubes of almond paste on the counter and mold them into a square shape. Roll the paste until it is a 20" x 20" square. You may need to use some flour on the counter occasionally to keep the paste from sticking. Flip the square over several times during the rolling so that both sides are rolled.
When you have finished rolling, lightly brush a coating of egg yolk on the surface of the almond paste. Put the cake upside down in the center of the square. Bring up the edges as though you are wrapping a present. You may need to cut some of the excess dough from around the corners. Use these cutout pieces to patch up any bare spots.
Now turn the cake right side up onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bursh top and sides with the beaten yolks. Wait 5 minutes, then brush again. The take the tines of a fork and make cross-hatches on the surface of the cake. Let the cake dry in the open air, for at least 12 hours, preferably 24.
The next day, put a rack in the upper third of the oven and reheat to 450 degrees. Bake until the egg-yolk glaze turns golden, about 5 minutes, but watching carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from the oven and serve when the cake is cool.
Dorie notes that she often makes this cake with just a topping of almond paste rather than a full coat.