Brioche Creme Fraiche Tart

There are two lovely videos (part 1 and part 2) of a Baking with Julia episode by Nancy Silverton on YouTube that demonstrate how to make this amazing dessert. At the end of it, Julia Child, in tears, proclaims it to be the best dessert she’s ever tasted. That was enough to nudge me into making this! It’s a tricky one, I’ll say that, but it is absolutely delicious and even better the next day after the fruit sauce soaks into it overnight. Several of the elements can be made the day before and assembled for a special gathering the next day.

Nancy Silverton's Brioche Creme Fraiche Tart

  • Servings: 8-10
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Brioche Dough
1/3 cup (79 ml) warm-to-the-touch whole milk
2-1/4 tsp. (8 g) active dry yeast
5 large eggs DIVIDED
3-1/2 cups (420 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, DIVIDED, plus more as needed
1/3 cup (66 g) sugar
1 tsp. (6 g) salt
1-1/2 sticks (170 g) European unsalted butter (Plevra is my favorite) at room temperature

Put the milk, yeast, 1 egg, and 1 cup flour in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Make a sponge by mixing everything with a rubber spatula until it just comes together and sprinkle this with 1 more cup of flour. Leave the bowl uncovered for 30-40 minutes until the flour coating cracks.

The photo on the left shows the flour covering the sponge. Forty minutes later, if you have a good active yeast, your hill of flour will crack open like it’s erupting!

Lightly beat the remaining 4 eggs and add them—along with the sugar, salt, and 1 more cup of flour—to the sponge. Set the bowl into the mixer, attach the dough hook, and mix on low speed for a minute or two, until everything just comes together. Sprinkle in remaining 1/2 cup of flour, increase the mixer to medium, and beat for a full15 minutes (this is what will turn brioche into brioche). Pause to scrape down the bowl and hook as needed. The dough will eventually come together, wrap itself around the hook, and slap the sides of the bowl. If this doesn’t happen after 7-10 minutes, add up to 3 tablespoons of flour. Also, your mixer will become very hot; a heavy-duty mixer can handle the heat, but let it cool completely when you finish making the dough.

Use a rolling pin to beat the butter or use a bench scraper to smear it around so that it’s the same consistency as the dough. The butter should be smooth, soft, and still cool—not warm or oily. Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the butter a few tablespoons at a time until all of it has been added. The dough will break at first, and that’s okay. Raise the speed to medium-high for a minute, then reduce it to medium and beat for 5 minutes until the dough comes back together and once again slaps the sides of the bowl. If the dough doesn’t look like it’s coming together after the first minute, add up to 1 tablespoon more flour. When you’re done, the dough should still be cool and sticky.

FIRST RISE: Transfer to a large buttered bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

SECOND RISE: Deflate the dough by lifting a section with your fingers and letting it fall back down, working your way around the circumference. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 to 6 hours.

After the second rise, divide the dough in two (a little over a pound each). You will only need half of the dough for this recipe, and you can store the other half in the freezer, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in a Ziploc bag, for up to 1 month. Thaw the wrapped dough overnight in the refrigerator when ready to use.

Work the remaining half batch of dough into a ball and flatten to a disk. On a floured surface, roll it into an 11 1/2-inch circle. Center the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan on top of the dough and press it down to make an indentation. Remove the pan and use this circular line as your crimping guide—fold the dough so that it falls about a quarter-inch inside the line, crimping the edges inward by pinching and twisting on a slight diagonal. Assemble and butter the springform pan before lifting the dough into it. Work your fingers around the crimped edge (where the single layer of tart meets the double layer), pressing your fingers into the dough so that you simultaneously press down the base and slightly lift up the crimped edge.

THIRD RISE: Let rise, uncovered until doubled in size, 45 minutes to an hour.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 275°F.

The tart dough will have puffed after the last rise—leave the crimped edge nice and puffed but make a space for the creme fraiche filling by pressing your fingertips into the base of the tart, creating multiple deep, crater-like dimples.

Spread the creme fraiche filling (recipe below) evenly over the dimpled base. Sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar evenly over the creme fraiche. The custard will only absorb a certain amount; stop when it looks like it can’t absorb anymore.

Brush the edge of the tart with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle the crimped edge with a few tablespoons of sugar (a large crystal sugar is nice if you have any, like turbinado).

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is golden and the custard is almost set (it should jiggle slightly when you shake the pan). Transfer to a cooling rack. After a few minutes, remove the tart from the pan.

Crème Fraiche Filling
1 cup (227 g) crème fraiche (Vermont Creamery makes a delicious Madagascar Vanilla version that is delicious in this recipe, but plain is great too).
1 large egg

In a small bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche and the egg and set aside until it’s time to bake the brioche.

Caramel-Wine Syrup
1-1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
2 vanilla beans (or 2 tsp. vanilla paste)
1/3 cup (79 g) water
2-1/4 cups (532 ml) dry white wine

Put the sugar in a heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla beans, scrape the seeds into the pan and add the pods. Pour in the water; it should just be enough to cover the sugar. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Wash down any sugar that crystallizes on the sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. When the sugar starts to caramelize, gently swirl the pan over the heat. Keep cooking and swirling until the caramel is a deep gold color, about 7-10 minutes total. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the wine. The caramel will bubble and seize. To melt the caramel, return the pan to the heat and bring the syrup to a boil. (Syrup will be split between the Sabayon and the Fruit Sauce)

Sabayon (Nancy Silverton’s White Secret Sauce)
4 large (72 g) egg yolks
1-1/2 cups (355 ml) Caramel-Wine Syrup
1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream
One heaping T (19 g) of crème fraiche

1-1/2 cups of the syrup through a strainer into a heatproof measuring cup and reserve the remaining syrup to poach the plums.

Whisk the heavy cream to soft peaks and set aside.

Put the yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a heatproof bowl) and, whisking constantly, drizzle in the hot syrup. Put the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water—the bowl should not touch the water—and whisk constantly for five minutes or until the yolks are hand-hot and voluminous. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium-low for 10-15 minutes or until cool, pale, and tripled in volume. (It should look like whipped mayonnaise.) Gently fold in the whipped cream.

The sauce can be kept covered in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.

Fruit Sauce
1 cup (237 ml) Caramel-Wine Syrup
2 cups sliced stone-fruits (plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and/or berries)
Sugar to taste (if using macerated fruit)

Bring the reserved caramel-wine syrup to a boil and add the fruit. Swirl the pan and stir until the fruit softens a bit—but does not turn to mush—just a couple of minutes. If using macerated fruit instead, mix fresh fruit with about a tablespoon of sugar (or to taste) and allow to sit at least 30 minutes before serving. To serve, place a slice of tart on each plate and top with the sauce and fruit.

Recipe Credit: Nancy Silverton

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