Tarte Tropézienne

Season: All | Active Time: 45 minutes (not including making the Brioche Dough or Pastry Cream) | Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes | Difficulty: 3 (Moderate)

Tarte Tropézienne is one of those French desserts with a charming backstory: a Polish baker working in St. Tropez in the 1950s invented the dessert and served it to Brigitte Bardot, who was there filming a movie. She, as the story goes, fell in love with it and dubbed the dessert “tarte Tropézienne.” Not so much a tart as a big, cream-filled brioche sandwich, tarte Tropézienne isn’t well known in the United States, but those who do know it are fierce devotees. The contrast between the bready, less-sweet brioche and the sweet vanilla-scented cream makes it particularly alluring. There are several components to prepare, but you can do them all ahead of time and then simply assemble the dessert the day you want to serve it.

Serves 8

Special Equipment: 9-inch cake pan, stand mixer (for making Brioche Dough)

Butter for the pan

½ recipe Brioche Dough (this page) ①

All-purpose flour, for rolling out

1 large egg, beaten

Demerara sugar, for sprinkling the top

½ recipe Honey Almond Syrup (this page)

Pastry Cream (this page), chilled

1 cup heavy cream (8.2 oz / 232g), chilled

Prepare the pan: Lightly butter the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and set aside.

Roll out and cut the brioche: Use your fist to punch down the cold brioche dough and knock out some of the gas that built up during the first rise. Turn the brioche out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 10-inch round. Place the cake pan over the dough and use a wheel cutter to cut around the pan, making a smooth round (try to work quickly so the brioche doesn’t soften too much). Lift the round of dough and place it inside the cake pan, centering it so all the edges are flush.

Proof the brioche: Cover the cake pan and let the brioche sit at room temperature until it’s puffed and a finger poked gently into the dough leaves only a slight imprint, 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the brioche: Uncover the pan and brush the surface of the dough with the beaten egg, then sprinkle generously with demerara sugar. Bake the brioche until the surface is domed, golden brown, and firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn the brioche out onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment, turn it right-side up, and let it cool completely.

Split the brioche: Using a serrated knife and holding it horizontally, make a shallow cut around the brioche right at the point where the straight side meets the edge of the dome. Then, using long, even strokes and positioning the knife parallel to the work surface, follow the shallow cut as a guide all the way around the brioche to slice it in half horizontally. Lift the top layer off the brioche and carefully set it cut-side up on a cutting board. Place the bottom half on a serving plate.

Soak the brioche and preslice the top: Use a pastry brush to dab a generous layer of the honey almond syrup across the surface of the bottom layer of the brioche and set aside. Soak the cut side of the top layer the same way, then turn it over so it’s cut-side down on the cutting board. Use the serrated knife to cut the top layer into 8 equal wedges (like a pie; preslicing it will make serving the tart much easier). Set aside.

Whip the cream and fold into the pastry cream: Transfer the chilled pastry cream to a medium bowl and whisk briefly to smooth any lumps. In a large bowl, vigorously beat the chilled heavy cream with a whisk until it forms very firm peaks and clearly holds the marks of the whisk. The cream needs to be very stiff, otherwise the filling will be too loose and will ooze out of the tart. Whisk about one-third of the whipped cream into the pastry cream, then add the rest of the whipped cream and use a spatula to gently fold it in. ②

Fill and chill the tart: Dollop the pastry cream mixture onto the soaked bottom layer of brioche and smooth it gently to make an even layer. Place the cut pieces of the top layer of brioche over the cream, reassembling it into a round. Place the assembled tart in the refrigerator and chill for at least 20 minutes. If chilling for more than 20 minutes, cover the tart loosely with plastic wrap.

Serve: Slice down between the wedges of the brioche with the serrated knife (without the precut top, much of the cream would smush out during slicing).

The tart, covered and stored in the refrigerator, will keep for several days but is best served the day it’s made. The brioche, unsliced, well wrapped, and stored at room temperature, will keep for 1 day.

① Prepare a full recipe of brioche dough and use the other half to make Brioche Twists with Coriander Sugar (this page) or Pigs in a Brioche Blanket (this page).

② Try not to overmix the pastry cream/whipped cream mixture, as this could deflate it and make it more likely to ooze as you dollop it over the brioche. You want it as light and thick as possible, so use a gentle touch when folding in the whipped cream. If the mixture gets too runny and a dollop won’t hold its shape, put it back in the refrigerator and let it set up for 15 minutes before spreading onto the brioche.

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