The Tart from St. Tropez

It’s the last weekend of August. The streets will no longer be empty in the morning, walking down the corridors at work will shortly be met with the buzz of colleagues whizzing in and out of offices and we’ll soon start complaining about the onset of the colder weather. Summer came reeeeally late this year for us in Paris, but boy has it hit us hard this past week, << HEATWAVE >>. The mercury went over 30C, this shit got serious.

Baking and cooking in general in this heat has been…hot. I became inspired to test out a tarte tropézienne after seeing a documentary about its origins in France’s beautiful south. Golden brown, glistening with crystallised bling with a sweet aroma of orange blossom, she’s got it going on. Though I’m definitely more tanned than she is right now 😉 those lunch-time sessions in the park are paying off.

I’d give the difficulty factor a 5/10, it’s more time consuming than anything as you have to let the brioche rise for 24hours. Pay attention to your crème patissière to avoid lumps as much as possible – I say this from experience! Enjoy readers, I’m gonna go melt on the couch with the sun in my eyes. Bisous.

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Ingredients

Brioche
300g plain white flour (I use Type 55)
75g powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
3 eggs + 1 yolk for browning
150g butter
45ml milk
15g dried yeast
Nib sugar – this has to be the big crystal pieces of sugar that do not melt in the oven, look in the baking section, a specialty shop or online.

Crème Pâtissière
500ml milk
Few drops of vanilla essence, or 1 vanilla pod split lengthways
75g powdered sugar
60g of flour
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons of orange blossom water (‘Fleur d’Oranger’)

Chantilly
125g whole cream
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

Method

Day 1
Brioche – mix the dry ingredients together, EXCEPT the yeast. Crack the eggs in a seperate bowl. In a saucepan, combine the milk and butter together until melted. Take off the heat and let it cool until it reaches a lukewarm/tepid temperature, and then add the yeast and whisk well. If the liquid is too hot, the yeast won’t properly activate. I normally wait at least a full 5 minutes before adding it. Mix the wet and dry ingredients until well-combined, put into a bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave in the fridge overnight, I left mine for about 18 hours.

Day 2
Brioche – the dough should have risen to double its original size. remove from the fridge, rub some flour over and shape into how you want it to be baked. I left mine as a big round form, you can also make individual buns if you prefer. Place the dough in the baking tin to be used later, cover with a tea towl and leave at room temperature for 2 hours to rise further.

Crème Patissière – this is just the French word for custard basically. Let the milk warm up in a saucepan with the vanilla essence/pods. In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with the powdered sugar for 1-2 minutes. (Don’t throw the egg whites, I used them to make egg-fried rice for dinner.) Once the milk starts to boil, gently pour it in small quantities into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking well to avoid lumps. Once all the milk has been poured, transfer the liquid back into the saucepan. Add the flour which allows it to thicken, then the orange blossom water and just keep on whisking! Once boiled, take it off the heat and cover the surface with plastic film. Place in the fridge and leave until fully cooled down, at least 1 hour.

Brioche – after 2 hours of letting it rise, brush the beaten egg yolk all over, sprinkle the sugar nibs on top and place the tray into a pre-heated oven at 180C for 25-30mins. Mine was a little browner than I’d have preferred so keep an eye on the oven.

Chantilly – simply, whipped cream! Add the powdered sugar to the cream and use an electric whisker to beat until stiff peaks form. This is to mix into the crème patissière once the former has cooled down. Until that point, keep the chantilly in the fridge.

Brioche – once cooked, leave on a cooling rack. When it is cool enough to handle, cut the brioche horizantally like you would a hamburger. When the crème patissière and chantilly are mixed together, add a thick layer of the cream to the base layer of brioche, then add the layer with the sugar nibs on top. Et voila, the tart is finished. Perfect for an afternoon goûter or in the morning with a cup of tea.

(Quantities and inspiration from here and here, (sorry for the French!). Mixing the yeast in the butter/milk as well as rising times were taken from Rachel Khoo’s recipe on dulce de lèche brioche buns from The Little Paris Kitchen, as I’ve made that recipe a few times so I trust her method.)
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Weekend break in Normandy

This weekend we went to Normandy in the north of France for an impromptu weekend away. A friend of ours was staying there and invited us up, and as I’d taken the Friday off work (just because I wanted to), it was perfect timing. We were in a small village/town called St Maurice en Cotentin which took 3 1/2hrs to drive up to.

The idea of a stay-cation really appeals to me – firstly, there are so many interesting places to see in France apart from Paris. A few weeks ago we spent a week in Bordeaux and it was lush to be able to visist wine country at St. Emilion and be able to go to the beach in the space of an hour! Secondly when you don’t have oodles of cash to spare but want a break, why not see more of the country you’re in? There’s always going to be something to surprise you.

We drove up on Friday early afternoon and arrived around dusk. For Normandy we were surprised it was so warm but clearly not complaining! Saturday morning we all went to the local market to buy some goodies for a home-made lunch that Louis made sous-vide. For starters we had chicken enrobed in a spicy coating with grilled peaches, salad and mozzarella; the main was salmon cooked with vanilla pods and mini leeks, and for dessert there were a selection of mini pastries from the boulangerie (I didn’t take photos of everything though, too busy eating!)

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As the sun was shining bright and we had Pokémons to hunt, we took a trip to the beach in the afternoon. The tide was low so there was a lot of bare, wet sand around. We sat for a few hours on the dunes though, shooting the breeze and all that jazz. Good times. You could actually the coast of Jersey from where we were! Or maybe it was Guernsey.. Anyway, in the evening we went to see a firework show in one of the local towns. I have never been that close to fireworks in my life – the lights were blinding, the bangs definitely deafening and we all had bits of cardboard from the explosions scattered in our hair 🙂 it was a beautiful sight though!!

Sunday was very chilly and drizzly, so I guess we got the best of both worlds. We spent the morning at the Maison des Biscuits, literally the ‘house of biscuits’, which is a speciality shop selling cakes, biscuits, chocolates, jams, preserves, local beers, honey etc. I bought a small box of chocolates to share with my colleagues at work, whereas Louis bought €50 worth of meringues and biscuits!!! The thought of all that sugar literally makes me cringe, I have no idea how we will ever get rid of them! All in all though it was a pretty sweet weekend, (no pun intended :P), and the intense change of landscape was so relaxing. I didn’t grow up around the water so it’s never been something I miss but I guess that makes it all the more lovely when I get to spend a few days in its presence. (Plus I got to top up my tan which I wasn’t expecting, bonus!)

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Aman x

Every day can be Pancake Day!

Now I haven’t made crêpes at home in a looooong time. If I ever eat them in Paris it’s usually the savoury variety, known as galettes de sarrasin (roughly translated as buckwheat cake as this is the type of flour used) when I’m out at a restaurant, called crêperies, which cater specifically to these flying-saucer beauts.

New best friend

New best friend

The only time I really desire to make them at home is on Shrove Tuesday as we call it in the UK, (usually simplified to Pancake Day when I was growing up, which works just as well). In France it’s known as ‘Mardi Gras’ meaning ‘fat Tuesday’ and there is also another special occasion when the French love whipping up the batter, called La Chandeleur celebrated on February 2nd (this is another Christian-based festival commemorating the presentation of Jesus).

History lesson over! We had some batter left from last night when we made crêpes for dessert, which were really delicious and light after a heavy meal and so decided to make them again for breakfast. I used Nigella Lawson’s recipe which can be found here (I got 10 super-thin crêpes out of the batter), simple and fuss-free. We also added a splash of rum and liquid cane sugar, just to live on the wild side.

I don’t have pictures from last night as we were all too busy devouring them, but I ate mine with melted chocolate on the base, sliced banana and whipped cream from the can on top. The boy and his friends crushed a handful of M&M’s in the pestle and mortar and sprinkled it on theirs with chocolate too. As you can see in the picture, this morning I added raspberry confiture and honey to the mix. Other great toppings you could use are: nut butters such as almond or peanut, desiccated coconut with honey, chocolate and berries, caramelised apples with ice-cream…the possibilities are endless and equally as mouth-watering!

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