Gache is a traditional Guernsey fruit bread. It’s made with sultanas, raisins and mixed peel, and is not as dry as the plain fruit bread found on the mainland. The word “gache” is simply Guernesiais for cake, which makes more sense when talking about the alternative, gache melee, which is a variation on the spiced apple cake, traditionally made with windfall fruits. Regular gache is commonly found in supermarkets, and kiosks at the beaches.
There are several different methods for making gache, and it’s unlikely that a traditional island baker would agree with all of them, but here’s one in rhyme form to make the ingredients and method easier to remember.
Mix a pinch of salt
into lightly sieved plain flour
(a pound will be enough)
then warm for half an hour.
Leave it in the sun
while you sweeten off the yeast:
a teaspoon of white sugar
will give the mould a feast.
Now add a little water
and stir until it’s pasty
then put it to one side to rest:
dense loaves await the hasty.
Unwrap some Guernsey butter
(by far the choicest fat),
dice it up and rub it in:
reserve none of the pat.
Half a pint of water next
(be sure it’s not too cold).
Form a well and pour it in,
then add the frothing mould
followed by a pound of fruit:
sultanas and mixed peel.
Go easy on the latter:
two ounces is ideal.
Stir it and transfer it
to a buttered baking tin
and when the oven hits two twenty
throw the whole lot in.
Bake for half an hour
then turn the oven down.
Cook for thirty minutes more
until the crust’s light brown.
The local BBC station includes details of two different Gache recipes on its website.
Gache Melee isn’t much like traditional Gache, which itself is more like panettone than plain fruit bread. The Melee variety is more of a cake, so is perhaps truer to the meaning of “Gache”, the Guernesiais word for cake.
There are countless recipes, with varying combinations of fruit and spices. Some use wholemeal flour; others use plain. Some prefer suet (often beef suet) while others opt for butter. I want to make a vegetarian gache melee, so I’ve opted for butter version. It goes without saying that if you can use Guernsey Butter, you should.
This particular cake was made with windfall Bramley apples. Being windfall fruits, I had to cut away a lot of bruised flesh but that still left plenty for the baking. It also made a nice tart cake that would go well with custard for dessert.
- 1kg (2.2lb) apples
- 450g (1lb) flour
- 450g (1lb) sugar
- 225g (0.5lb) butter
- Two eggs
- 1tsp ginger
- 1tsp cinnamon
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
- Peel and slice the apples. This can take a while, so put the cut apples in a bowl of water to stop the air getting to them, and they won’t turn brown and mushy.
- Cream together the sugar and butter until you have what looks like breadcrumbs. You can do this with an electric hand mixer to make things easier. Make sure you use a very large bowl as you’ll be adding a lot of further ingredients.
- Beat in the eggs so the butter, sugar and egg mixture looks more like a thick paste. This should now be much easier to work with.
- Mix your spices and flour together, then sift them into the wet mixture and fold in, trying not to knock too much of the air out of it.
- When all of the flour and spices have been combined with the wet mixture, drain any water you have used to cover the apples, and stir half of the sliced apples into the mixture.
- Lay half of the remaining apples on the bottom of a greased and lined tin. I used a spring-sided 9in (22cm) round tin, 4in (10cm) deep. Pour your cake mixture on top of the bottom layer of apples and gently press down with a wooden spoon to fill any gaps between them. Put the remaining apples on top and scatter them with brown sugar.
- Put in the oven and be patient. My cake took two hours to bake, although I tested it after one hour, and then again after 90 minutes, by putting a carving fork into it and seeing if it came out clean. Bear in mind that it probably won’t ever come out perfectly clean because the amount of apple in it leaves it very wet, so you’ll need to use your own judgement as to whether or not it’s done.
The local BBC station includes three different recipes for gache melee on its website.