Trans­port your­self to the glam­orous Côte d’azur by bak­ing Brigitte Bar­dot’s favourite pas­try, says Rosa Jack­son

France - - Contents -

Have a go at bak­ing Brigitte Bar­dot’s favourite cake – the tropézi­enne.

Star-spot­ting might be the favoured sport in Saint-tropez, but when I visit this glitzy town on the Côte d’azur, I have some­thing else in mind: track­ing down the famed Tarte Tropézi­enne, an airy brioche sand­wiched with a gen­er­ous layer of vanilla mous­se­line cream.

In­com­pat­i­ble as it might seem with beach­wear, this cake has been part of the Saint-tropez land­scape since the 1950s, when Pol­ish baker Alexan­dre Micka opened a shop in Place de la Mairie and be­gan sell­ing a cake in­spired by one of his grand­mother’s recipes. Dur­ing the film­ing of the French clas­sic And God Cre­ated Woman in 1955, Micka provided meals for the cast and crew, cap­tur­ing the at­ten­tion of the young Brigitte Bar­dot, who sug­gested he mar­ket the cake as a spe­cial­ity of Saint-tropez. He trade­marked the name Tarte Tropézi­enne and re­mained the sole holder of the recipe un­til the Al­fred Dufrêne group took over the busi­ness in 1985. De­spite hav­ing opened mul­ti­ple branches in the south of France and Paris, the com­pany con­tin­ues to keep Micka’s recipe a se­cret.

What we do know is that the fill­ing con­sists of two dif­fer­ent creams blended to­gether: some ver­sions call for vanilla pas­try cream (crême patis­sière) mixed with but­ter­cream, while oth­ers re­place the but­ter­cream with whipped cream. Or­ange flower wa­ter, which en­ters into many pas­tries in the south of France, lends a mys­te­ri­ous flavour. Though the true Tarte Tropézi­enne can be sold only in the orig­i­nal shop and its branches, many pâtis­series along the Côte d’azur of­fer their own ver­sions, which they usu­ally re­fer to sim­ply as the tropézi­enne.

For the home baker, the tropézi­enne is a project that re­quires more pa­tience than tech­nique. Best made in a mixer, the brioche dough calls for ex­tended mix­ing, in­cor­po­rat­ing the roomtem­per­a­ture but­ter at the end, plus two ris­ings, as for most breads. Be­fore bak­ing, it may be topped with the tra­di­tional sugar crys­tals or a sprin­kling of crum­ble top­ping, as in a ver­sion by lead­ing chef Alain Du­casse.

As the of­fi­cial recipe will re­main a se­cret, the tropézi­enne is open to in­ter­pre­ta­tions: you might re­place the or­ange flower wa­ter with Grand Marnier or rum, or sub­sti­tute mas­car­pone cheese for the whipped cream. Which­ever ver­sion you choose, this ex­trav­a­gant Pol­ish-turned-french pas­try will trans­port you to a sunny beach in the south of France.

THE PER­FECT TROPÉZI­ENNE So­phie Lim, pas­try chef at my cookery school Les Pe­tits Far­cis in Nice, opts for a com­bi­na­tion of pas­try cream and whipped cream in her ver­sion.

For the brioche

• 250g/2 cups all-pur­pose flour • 1tsp salt • 30g/2tbsp white sugar • 1 packet dried yeast • 4 eggs • 125g/ 1/2 cup but­ter at room tem­per­a­ture • Sugar crys­tals • Ic­ing sugar

For the fill­ing:

• 1/2 vanilla pod • 250ml/1 cup whole milk • 3 egg yolks • 40g/ 1/4 cup white sugar • 15g/2tbsp flour • 15g/1 1/2 tbsp corn­flour • 150ml/ 2/3 cup dou­ble cream • 1tsp or­ange flower wa­ter

For the or­ange flower syrup • 200ml/ 3/4 cup wa­ter • 100g/ 1/2 cup sugar • 1tsp or­ange flower wa­ter

Pre­pare the dough the day be­fore: 1. Com­bine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a mixer (the salt and yeast should not be touch­ing). Add three eggs and mix on medium speed for three min­utes, then on high speed for 6-7 min­utes. 2. Add the diced but­ter piece by piece on medium speed un­til in­cor­po­rated. Turn the speed back to high un­til the dough is shiny, smooth and does not stick to the side of the bowl. 3. Trans­fer the dough to an­other bowl, cover and let rise for 40-60 min­utes, un­til ap­prox­i­mately dou­bled in size. 4. Flat­ten the dough into a cir­cle, wrap with cling­film and leave in the re­frig­er­a­tor overnight.

On the day: 1. Pre­pare the pas­try cream. Slit the vanilla bean length­wise, and scrape the seeds out us­ing the back of a knife. Place the vanilla seeds, vanilla pod and milk in a saucepan and heat to scald­ing point. Mean­while, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, then add the flour and corn­flour, and whisk un­til smooth. 2. Grad­u­ally pour the hot milk on to the egg mix­ture, whisk­ing con­stantly. Trans­fer the mix­ture back into the saucepan and re­turn to the stove on medium heat. Keep whisk­ing un­til the cream boils. Re­move the saucepan and trans­fer the pas­try cream into a clean bowl. Cover with cling­film to pre­vent a skin from form­ing on sur­face. Cool to room tem­per­a­ture, then place in the re­frig­er­a­tor for at least two hours. 3. To as­sem­ble the fill­ing, re­move the pas­try cream from the re­frig­er­a­tor and whisk to loosen it. Whip the dou­ble cream in a mixer un­til stiff. Us­ing a whisk, com­bine the pas­try cream, whipped cream and or­ange flower wa­ter. Set aside in the re­frig­er­a­tor. 4. To bake the brioche, re­move the dough from the re­frig­er­a­tor 15-20 min­utes be­fore us­ing. Roll into a 24cm (9in) cir­cle. Trans­fer to a bak­ing sheet lined with parch­ment pa­per. Whisk the re­main­ing egg in a small bowl for the egg wash. Brush the dough with egg wash, cover and let rise for 11/ 2- 2 hours. 5. Pre­heat the oven to 170°C/340° F. Brush the dough with egg wash again, and sprin­kle sugar crys­tals on top. Bake for 20-25 min­utes, un­til golden, then re­move from the oven and place on a cool­ing rack. 6. For the syrup, boil the wa­ter and pour over the sugar to melt it. When the syrup has cooled, add the or­ange flower wa­ter. Set aside. 7. To as­sem­ble, slice the cooled brioche in half hor­i­zon­tally. Place the bot­tom half on a serv­ing plate and brush the cut side of both halves with or­ange flower syrup. Pipe the fill­ing over the bot­tom half of the brioche in cir­cles us­ing a pas­try bag, or spread it with a spat­ula. Care­fully place the other half of the brioche on top. Keep in the re­frig­er­a­tor un­til serv­ing. Just be­fore serv­ing, dust with ic­ing sugar.

ABOVE: The waterfront at Saint-tropez on the Côte d’azur

Food critic and cook­book au­thor Rosa Jack­son lives in Nice, where she runs the cookery school Les Pe­tits Far­cis and writes about food for pub­li­ca­tions world­wide.

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