Semi Tropeziennes with Orange Custard and Strawberries

Today please allow me to take you to France, as French is the inspiration behind this dessert – at least on paper. This recipe comes from Amuse Bouche, a wonderful French baking blog I regularly follow and turn to for new ideas. In all frankness, if her recipe already couldn’t be called a ‘Tropezienne’, I’m guessing my even less canonical version is something purists would turn up their noses to. By definition, a ‘Tarte Tropezienne’ is a soft and indulgent brioche bun topped with sugar crystals and encasing a mixture of two creams (crème patissière and French butter cream). As is usually the case, the French are very proud of the origin of this dessert. You can read all about it on the Tarte Tropezienne’s official website.

I decided to tweak the original recipe a little bit: I changed the amount of flour used in the brioche dough and added some orange zest to it, modified the custard recipe by using some citrus zest and changed the fruit to strawberries. Also, somewhat unorthodoxly, I opted for custard powder in the custard as opposed to plain cornflour. You see, I think custard powder lends a golden yellow hue to the finished product which I really love and, despite trying more than once, I am still to achieve the same intense colour by using just cornflour. As for the strawberries, use small ones. I was lucky enough to find them in one of my local shops. However, any small berry would do, really, although maybe opt for a red one wherever possible to keep the dramatic contrast with the golden brioche and filling.

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Ingredients (for 6 small brioche buns)

  • 125ml whole milk
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 375g strong bread flour
  • 1 x 7g sachet instant dried yeast
  • zest of 1 1/2 oranges
  • demerara sugar, to sprinkle on top (optional)
  • milk, to brush on top

Ingredients (for the custard)

  • 300ml whole milk
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium egg yolks
  • 2 1/2 tbsp custard powder
  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon

Ingredients (for the decoration)

  • 250g mini strawberries, washed and hulled
  • icing sugar (optional)

Method

  1. To make the brioche dough, scald the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat, but don’t let it come to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. In a glass/small bowl, combine the yeast with a teaspoon of the golden caster sugar. Transfer the flour, salt, egg, remaining sugar, zest and butter in the bowl of a freestanding food mixer.
  2. Add 4 tbsp of the warm milk to the yeast and sugar mixture, then allow to stand for 10-15 minutes until the mixture is frothy. Add this and the remaining milk to the rest of the ingredients, then use the hook attachment to combine them until they form a soft and pliable dough which comes away from the sides of the bowl. Shape the dough to a ball, then transfer it to a large oiled/buttered bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to prove in a warm environment for at least 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. In the meantime, make the custard. Add the lemon and orange zest to the milk, then pour into a saucepan and bring to a simmer on a medium heat. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, custard powder and sugar. It will be a fairly stiff mixture, but don’t worry. Add some of the warmed milk to loosen it up, then slowly pour in the remaining hot milk over the egg mixture, whisking constantly to ensure there are no lumps. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and put it back on the hob, whisking constantly. Don’t be tempted to increase the heat or it might scramble the eggs. The custard powder will stabilize the mixture but it will also thicken it quite quickly, so ensure you keep on whisking or you will end up with large lumps.
  4. Once the mixture has thickened enough to easily cover the back of a spoon, remove from the heat and add the butter (cubed), whisking constantly to melt it. Transfer the custard to a shallow bowl, cover with clingfilm to avoid creating a skin on top and allow to cool before transferring to the fridge to set completely.
  5. Once the brioche dough has proven, remove from the bowl and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Shape into a long log, then cut into 6 equal pieces (8 is also possible, but they’ll end up being very small). To shape each brioche bun, use your hands as if they were small cages, gently press them on the brioche buns and roll them around to ensure they are perfectly smooth and have no bumps. Gently transfer to 2 lined trays (3 each), ensuring the brioches have enough room to expand during proving and baking. Cover with oiled clingfilm and allow to prove for another hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly brush the risen buns with some milk, sprinkle with the demerara sugar (optional), then bake the brioche for 20 minutes or until hollow to the sound when tapped underneath. Allow to cool completely before you proceed with the next step.
  7. To assemble the semi Tropeziennes, use a serrated knife to cut each bun in half horizontally, then arrange the mini straberries on the cut side so that they are equally spaced and there is some room in between them. Transfer the custard to a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle, then pipe some custard in the gaps between the mini strawberries and put a large dollop in the middle. Arrange the remaining brioche half on top, dust liberally with icing sugar and serve. Enjoy!

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