Orange Blossom Brioche (Tarte Tropezienne)
I discovered this grand creation on holiday in the south of France last year. True to it's name, it's a St. Tropez tart; a tart from St. Tropez. You'll find many tarts walking St. Tropez but this one you will find in almost every bakery in the tiny, Mediterranean playground for the rich and famous.
The origin of this cake also happens to be star-lit. It was a request from actress Bridgette Bardot when she was filming in the area. She asked for a brioche, split in half and filled with creme patissiere flavoured with a particular essence: orange flower water. It's a perfume that originates from the flowers of orange trees; a soft citrus fragrance with an elegant note of jasmine. It's easy to come by in most baking shops, some Middle-Eastern and Spanish recipes are enhanced by it, it's just lovely.
I noticed a lot of heavy use of fragrance in foods during that trip, if it wasn't lavender, it was jasmine, violet, rose, lilies, etc. It all grows in the south of France - I'd probably call it the flower garden of Europe. I brought back a lot of floral-inspired recipes from the area, and this is a big one. A fresh brioche, filled with a glamorous creme patisserie flavoured with vanilla and orange flower. Very fanciful for a summer picnic or with a light tea in the garden, Earl Grey begs for it.
Now you can make your own brioche - I have included my recipe for it here - it's a nice weekend project. However, if you're in a hurry, you can just buy a ready-made loaf of brioche from a shop, split it in two and fill it with the fragranced creme pattissiere. Whatever works for you here.
- 450G Strong White Bread Flour
- 225g unsalted Butter
- 15g Fast Action Yeast (2x 7g sachets)
- 1 teaspoon fine salt
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar (40g)
- 6 eggs
- 1 lemon (for zesting)
- 2 tablespoons Pearl Sugar (optional)
TROPEZIENNE CREME PATISSIERE
- 150ml full-fat Milk
- 6 Egg Yolks
- 150g Caster Sugar
- 100g Cornflour
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean Paste
- 1 tablespoon Orange Flower Water (otherwise known as Orange Blossom Water)
- 300ml Double Cream
- Into a large mixing bowl, sieve the 450g of strong bread flour. Take the 225g of unsalted butter and cut into little cubes. Add into the flour and rib together with your fingers, coating the flour with butter until it is pale yellow and no blatant lumps of butter can be seen.
- To one side of the bowl, sprinkle the 15g of fast-action yeast, and to the other side of the bowl add the teaspoon of salt, zest of a lemon and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. I like to keep the yeast separate at first as occasionally the yeast can be destroyed if it has direct contact with salt or sugar.
- Take 5 of your 6 eggs and crack them into a bowl. Whisk briskly, and tip into the mixing bowl with the flour and butter. Stir together with a blunt knife or fork until it clumps together to a rough dough.
- The dough will most likely be a little dry. Measure a jug with 200ml of warm water. Add in a dribble of water at a time until it becomes a moist, fairy sticky dough. It usually takes about 100ml of water to get to this point, but it can vary so much depending on the room temperature, brand of flour, all sorts of factors!
- Once you have a moist dough, tip it out onto a countertop dusted with a little bit of flour. Roll the dough around with your hands to get a feel for it, and knead for 8 minutes: pushing into the dough and stretching it, and rotating it and repeating. It can be a bit of a work out, best thing to do is do a 4-minute knead, stop for a couple of minutes, and do another 4 minutes. If you have an electric mixer or even a whisk with a dough hook attachment, that will save you all the work - just set it on for 8 minutes. By the end, the dough should be a soft ball, it shouldn't be sticky to touch, and should be fairly elastic. If you press it with you finger it should spring back - perfect!
- Place the ball of dough back into the mixing bowl. You can brush some oil around the dough and the sides of the bowl to stop it sticking or drying out. Leave the bowl, with a tea towel over the top, in a warm place for 1-2 hours until it has doubled in size from the yeast action.
- Once doubled in size, knock the dough down to get rid of all the trapped gas. Tip if out of the bowl and roll it around the bench for a minute. The yeast creates flavourful alcohols as it ferments, and it's good to roll the dough around to distribute these alcohols. Take a springform cake pan, around 8-10 inches wide, and grease very generously with butter. Press the brioche dough into a rough disk shape, big enough to roughly fit the cake tin. Place the dough into the cake tin, cover it with a tea towel, and leave it somewhere warm again to have a second-rise for 1 hour. This second rise develops the beautiful holes and structure of the brioche and makes it very light.
- Once risen again, preheat an oven to 180C. Take your 1 spare egg and beat it lightly in a bowl, then brush it over the top of the brioche dough. Sprinkle over some granulated sugar, or more traditionally, pearl sugar. This is optional, it just gives it a traditional sheen and crunch to the Taste Tropezienne.
- Place the tin with the brioche dough into the middle of the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes. The brioche will tan very well on the top, but you will know it's done when it is very springy and spongy when you press on the top. Leave it to cool out of the oven for an hour before removing from the tin to slice.
TROPEZIENNE CREME PATISSIERE
- In a small saucepan, add 150ml of milk and heat until just boiling.
- Into a mixing bowl, add your 6 egg yolks, 150g of caster sugar and 120g cornflour. Whisk until creamy and smooth.
- Remove the hot milk from the heat and slowly trickle into the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly to distribute the hot milk evenly so it does not scramble the eggs. Once all of the milk is added to the yolks, pour this mixture back into the saucepan and place on to allow heat.
- Stirring slowly but constantly, heat the mixture gently until it begins to thicken. Stir until the mixture becomes incredibly thick, thicker than custard, so you can almost see the bottom of the pan as you stir. Then remove from the heat to cool slightly.
- Add in the 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and the tablespoon of orange flower water - adding them at the end prevents them being denatured in the heat. Pour this mixture back into the mixing bowl and leave to cool - this is creme patissiere!
- Once cool, whip 300ml of double cream until you have a firm whip. Take about one third of this cream and stir it roughly into the creme patissiere to lighten it up. Then, gently, take the rest of the whipped cream and softly fold it into the creme patissiere with a metal spoon, mixing in an 8-figure, cutting and swirling through the mixture . This will take a few minutes to mix through, but be patient, it keeps the Tropezienne Creme Patissiere light and firm and its worth it. You'll end up with Tropezienne Creme Patissiere!
- When the brioche has cooled, or if you have bought one from a shop or bakery, slice the whole loaf in half lengthways. Fill a piping back and pipe thick swirls of Tropezienne Creme Patissiere onto the bottom layer of brioche - starting from the centre and working outwards. Gently place the top layer of brioche on top like a sandwich - and it's all done. Slice it, plate it and enjoy! It's exquisite.