Nineteenth century French chef Pierre Blot taught this recipe to his students at the New York Cooking Academy in the late 1860s. Considered America’s first celebrity chef, Blot’s teaching style was lively and conversational. His kitchen-classroom was prominently positioned on the stage of a huge lecture hall so his enthralled students could clearly see him describing the technique while his assistant demonstrated the process. First she mixed together butter, sugar, flour and egg. She then rolled out this dough into a large, very thin cake, and used a fancy tin cutter to cut out several little cakes. Next she beat an egg with a spoonful of water in a cup and lightly “painted” this mixture on the tops of the little cakes using a camel’s-hair brush, transferred them to a greased pan and popped them in the oven.
The result is a deliciously buttery cookie with a hint of lemon – simple, delectable elegance. In France, they are often featured during the Christmas season. Some recipes call for Cognac or rum; others for milk or cream. Use whatever tickles your fancy!
Gateaux de Milan
- 2 sticks softened butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 2-3 tbsp. milk or cream (or 1-2 tbsp. Cognac or rum)
- Zest from one lemon
- 3 cups sifted flour
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs, milk (or other liquid) and lemon zest until well mixed. Slowly add the flour a little at a time until thoroughly incorporated. Chill dough for one hour.
- Knead lightly on a floured surface and roll out to a thickness of a little less than ¼ inch. Add a bit more flour if dough still seems sticky. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters, glaze with beaten egg white and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes. Cookies will spread during baking. Trim any burned edges by placing cookie cutter over cookie pressing down. Sprinkle with granulated or colored decorating sugar if desired.
Yield: About 3 dozen small cakes
Source: Good Housekeeping, May 1893; “The Cooking Academy – Seventh Lecture,” The Cincinnati Enquirer, April 19, 1865, p. 2