La Tarte Tropezienne
This cake was named in 1956 in honour of Brigitte Bardot while she was filming in town. Today, it’s the cake of St Tropez and is sold all over the region. This recipe is modelled on the secret one at the Sénéquier bakery. It’s a delightfully sweet brioche-tart with a delicate almond crème pâtissière. This is a little bit of a labour of love but it is pretty special let me tell you!
For the brioche
25ml whole milk
2 tsp fresh yeast or 1⁄2 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
200g strong white bread flour
2 free-range medium eggs plus 2 yolks, lightly beaten
25g unrefined caster sugar
2 tsp orange-blossom water
125g soft unsalted butter
FOR THE FILLING
270ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod
120g yolks (6–7 free-range medium eggs)
100g unrefined caster sugar, plus
1 1⁄2 tbsp
100ml whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
11⁄2 tsp almond extract
unrefined icing sugar, for dusting
10g crystal sugar cubes for the brioche touch or pistachios is nice
First, make the brioche dough. Heat the milk until lukewarm and add the yeast and 1 heaped teaspoon of the flour. Set aside for 30 minutes, covered with cling film.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat three quarters of the eggs, the sugar and a pinch of salt together. Add the yeast mixture, and spoon in the rest of the flour and orange-blossom water.
Mix until everything is just combined, then cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Now, set the mixer to a slow speed and begin spooning in the soft butter, letting each addition combine with the dough before adding the next. Once everything is incorporated, increase the speed and mix until the dough looks elastic and shiny. Scrape into a clean, dry bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove in the fridge overnight.
Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper, tip the chilled dough on to it and shape into a flat circle, roughly 3cm high. Its quite important that it is even and flat. Cover lightly with cling film and leave to rise for 2 hours in a warm, dry place, until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6. Once the dough has risen, brush the remaining egg all over it with a pastry brush. Sprinkle over with the sugar cubes if using! Bake for about 25 minutes, until the top is gorgeous and golden. Remove and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Prepare the pastry cream at least a good few hours before the brioche is ready, as it needs time to cool. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways, scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife. Put the vanilla seeds and skins in a large saucepan along with the milk and heat gently for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the 100g of sugar until pale, then stir in the cornflour. Slowly add the vanilla- infused milk to the eggs a little at a time, mixing constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Carefully return the mixture to the saucepan and bring it to the boil, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until it thickens. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture through a sieve placed over a bowl and stir it through to get rid of any lumps, discarding the vanilla skins. Cover with cling film touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming, leave to cool and then chill in the fridge.
Once cool, whip the cream with the 11⁄2 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla and almond extracts until light and fluffy. Loosen the cooled pastry cream with a whisk. Gently fold the whipped almond cream into the vanilla one. Slice the cooled brioche in half horizontally and fill the halves generously with the pastry cream. Top the tart with a dusting of icing sugar and, for an injection of colour, some crushed pistachios.