Browned butter, brioche, quince - one of my all-time favourite baking holy trinities. But while I continue on with figuring out the ultimate way to combine them, why don't you settle back and enjoy something I've made in the meantime; one of these delightful little autumn brioche tarts?
Exceedingly soft, this dough is unlike any brioche I've ever worked with, although I'll admit I haven't gone much beyond this superb browned butter version since discovering it. The softness, however, is by no means a bad thing, and I suspect also necessary to prevent the dough drying out since, in the general scheme of things, these tarts are relatively small and thin.
For those tackling them at home I must forewarn that these tarts are a bit of a challenge, insomuch as they require preparation of an enriched dough, some poached fruit, and a frangipane consisting of almond cream and a quick crème pâtissière. But none of the individual components in themselves are particularly difficult or time consuming, and there is of course plenty of opportunity to play around with a vast array of jam and fruit combinations, if you so desire.
A most excellent addition to the growing list of delicious breakfast pastries, I particularly enjoyed the subtle tartness of the baked rhubarb, and soft creaminess of the vanilla-roasted pear. Another thing that worked exceedingly well was the use of cumquat marmalade as the glaze, which added a nice sharpness in contrast to the rich frangipane.
So as the crisp and colourful autumn mornings are slowly replaced by the more dark and dreary winter ones, why not start the day in a cheerful mood by greeting that paper and pot of coffee on the kitchen table with a big plateful of warm and wonderful brioche tarts?
For the brioche sponge
- 90 g flour
- 60 g water
- 1 g instant yeast
For the brioche
- All the brioche sponge (see above)
- 280 g flour
- 200 g eggs (approximately 4 large ones)
- 7 g salt
- 6 g instant yeast
- 20 g milk
- 60 g sugar
- 225 g unsalted butter, softened
For the almond cream
- 113 g butter
- 113 g sugar
- 113 g almond meal
- 35 g flour
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the crème pâtissière
- 350 g milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 2 egg yolks
- 80 g sugar
- 20 g corn flour
For the tarts
- Brioche dough (above)
- Raspberry jam (or flavour of your choice)
- Frangipane (above)
- Vanilla-roasted pear, rhubarb, apple*
- 1 egg, whisked with a little milk or water, for egg-wash
- 1/4 cup cumquat marmalade, warmed and strained*
- 1/2 cup flaked almonds, lightly toasted
- Pearl sugar
To prepare the brioche dough:
First make the sponge by mixing together all the ingredients in a medium bowl until just combined. Cover and leave to ferment at room temperature overnight (8-12 hours).
The following day, combine the flour, eggs, yeast, salt and fermented sponge in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix at low speed for about 4 minutes, until the ingredients are incorporated. Increase to medium speed and mix until you reach partial gluten development* (semi-windowpane effect). Add the milk and mix until fully incorporated.
With the mixer running at medium speed add the sugar in 4-5 increments, mixing for one minute in between each addition to allow full incorporation. After the final addition continue to mix until you reach full gluten development* (a fully translucent windowpane).
Drop the mixer back to low speed, add the butter and mix for one minute. Increase to medium speed and mix until the butter is fully incorporated. The dough should now be very soft and satiny. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to ferment at warm room temperature for 1 hour.
Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with floured baking paper and press into a rectangle, 1-inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour, until the dough is firm enough to handle. Divide the dough and pre-shape into balls (50-60 g each). Space the pre-shaped dough on a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, approximately 30 minutes.
To prepare the frangipane:
First make the almond cream. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix at low speed until fully incorporated. Add the egg in two additions, mixing between each addition until well combined. Add the flour and almond meal and mix until combined. Use immediately, or refrigerate until required.
Next make the pastry cream by combining the egg yolk, corn flour and half the sugar in a medium bowl, whisking gently to bring the ingredients together. Scape the seeds from the vanilla pod and combine them and the pod in a medium saucepan together with the milk and remaining sugar. Bring the milk mixture almost to the boil then pour approximately half of it over the egg, whisking constantly to combine. Whisk the egg mix back into the milk in the pan and return to a medium heat. Bring the custard to a boil and cook for another two minutes, whisking constantly. Pour into a shallow bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool.
Finally, make the frangipane by combining equal quantities of almond cream and crème pâtissière and beating together until smooth. If the creams have been refrigerated, return to room temperature before using.
To assemble the tarts:
On a floured surface, roll each ball into a disc 4-5-inches in diameter, 1/4-inch thick. Place on lined baking sheets and brush lightly with egg wash. Cover with plastic wrap and proof in a warm place for 1.5-2 hours, until the dough feels light and has risen. Brush again lightly with egg wash then press down the centre of each disc with your fingertips, leaving a 1/2-inch-rim around the edge.
Spread a thin layer of jam (approximately 1 teaspoon) in the depression of each disc, followed by a layer of frangipane. Press the prepared fruit into the centre of the frangipane, then bake the tarts for 13-15 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 190°C until the crust is shiny and a deep, golden brown. Keeping the tarts on the baking paper, transfer to a wire rack to cool. Brush the tarts lightly with marmalade glaze (thin the glaze with warm water, if necessary) and garnish with flaked almonds or pearl sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.
** Do what you wish with the fruit. I sprinkled mine with a little sugar and roasted for 5-10 minutes in a 180°C oven but, depending on the variety, it can also be poached or just thinly sliced.
** You could also use apricot jam for the glaze, if you'd prefer.
** If you're not familiar with the windowpane test for gluten development in doughs, check out this useful description of the technique on the Wild Yeast blog.