White Sesame Tropezienne

Tropezienne has always been one of my sister’s favorites. Fluffy brioche that is brushed with a simple syrup, finished with pastry cream/lemon curd and fresh berries. Basically a shortcake using brioche instead of a biscuit or cake is the simplest way of explaining it. Ever since she had it in France and told me about it, I was intrigued by the concept of what tropezienne was. For me, I never really saw bread on in a dessert, but then again, my childhood sucked, and I never even had brioche before I was about 18, making it for myself from scratch. What I love about brioche is that it is light, airy, and is mixed in with lots of eggs and butter for this rich, decadent flavor. The dough itself takes forever to proof because of that(compared to your quicker breads like pita or focaccia), but the end product is well worth it. There is a debate whether or not brioche should be classified as a cake or not, because it is so dessert-friendly, and alongside challah, is probably the most dessert-friendly bread you can cook with! This recipe includes a recipe for how to make your own brioche as well, so if you want to make brioche buns for sandwiches, you can reference this recipe as well!

What makes tropezienne unique, beyond just being a sweet dessert brioche, is the sanding sugar that is baked on top of the brioches, just to give them a characteristic crunch. For this recipe, I wanted to highlight white sesame, using it in both the pastry cream filling and the top. In place of sanding or pearl sugar, I went with halva for the topping. Halva is a sandy-textured sesame paste candy that just bakes beautifully into the tops of the cake with. If you do not want to purchase that, using sanding/turbinado sugar and white sesame seeds works just as well! I also used tahini(white sesame paste) in the pastry cream, just to add a pleasant nuttiness that compliments the buttery flavor of the brioche itself. For the brioche, I had to do something special with it, and I hybridized milk bread with brioche, using a tangzhong, or cooked flour mixture, to add a springy quality to the bread. This dough still is a brioche in the sense that there is a ton of butter and eggs in the dough, but the tangzhong just gives the end product an even softer crumb, if that was somehow possible given the fact that it is already a brioche dough! For the other components, we have yuzu-glazed strawberries and a yuzu simple syrup, just to round everything out.

For the tangzhong:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter
2 eggs
a pinch of salt

In a pot, stir together the flour with milk on medium heat until combined and at the consistency of a thick paste. Take off heat and while still warm, mix in the butter. Once the butter is fully melted in, mix in the eggs and salt to finish. Allow the mixture to come down to room temperature before attempting to mix into the brioche dough.

For the brioche:
1 packet active-dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
tangzhong*
1 egg
Grated halva, kept cold

In a bowl, mix together the yeast with water and sugar and allow that mixture to sit for 10 minutes. Transfer to a stand mixer with a dough hook and combine the yeast with olive oil, flour, and the tangzhong. Mix on medium-high speed for 10 minutes, or until the dough is fully combined and elastic. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Leave to sit for 1 hour at room temperature before transferring to the fridge. Allow the dough to refrigerate for another 2 hours before rolling out into a rectangle. Keep cold for the assembly.

Roll the dough into a coil and press into a lined 8-inch baking ring/round cake mold. Brush the top with egg and sprinkle on the halva. Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes, then bring it down to 325 degrees, continuing to bake for another 25 minutes. Allow the brioche to completely cool before sawing in half, sandwich style.

For the simple syrup:

For the tahini pastry cream:

For the yuzu macerated strawberries:

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