My French family is full of ancestral tradition, and when I visit they always seem to pull out an old recipe that to them seems the epitome of simplicity, and to me seems exquisite and mysterious. The Broyé du Poitou – an old, old recipe for a buttery biscuit coming from the Poitou region of western France – is one such little treasure.
Originally used during mass, communions, weddings and other big religious gatherings where large groups of people needed to be fed, the broyé takes it name from the word that means “to crush” – it is traditionally broken into little pieces to share by giving one big punch to the middle of it. The hard biscuit then breaks into chunky shards. Very Christian and all that.
The main beauty of this biscuit though is that it is rather easy to make, and you don’t even need a special tin – my aunt just uses the “lèche-frites” (I love this word – literally the “chip-licker” which is the standard tray that most ovens come with) and then we all share the biscuits pieces with a bowl of crème au chocolat, or just coffee. It’s one of the most convivial, sociable sweets I know.
To make it even more sociable (wink wink), you can add a few drops of eau-de-vie (again, a great name: it means “water of life”, but it’s actually just brandy), but I like to share this one with my kids so I leave that part out. Your call. As long as you remember the sharing part!
Broyé du Poitou
450g plain flour
250g salty butter + some extra for the mould
250g caster sugar
100g whole almonds
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
3tbsp full-fat milk
a pinch of salt
Preheat your oven to 180ºC.
Mix the two eggs with the sugar and salt until it forms a creamy paste, add the butter and blend it all nicely together.
Sprinkle the flour in while stirring. Add the almonds, whole. Use your fingers at this point, and only mix lightly for the perfect crumb result.
Butter the oven dish and smooth the batter into it, drawing lines with a fork into the top of it. Mix the milk and egg yolk together and paint over the top of the batter.
Bake for 35-40 minutes and leave to cool before you remove it from the dish. Then don’t forget to smash it with one good punch!