The movie And God Created Woman was one Roger Vadim’s first hits, but his biggest hit was with a string of beauties like Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda and Catherine Deneuve. But only one got a tarte.
It was Brigitte Bardot, who was born in Paris to wealthy parents and as fate would have it, she posed for a cover photo at 15 for Elle, a leading French magazine… the rest is history. Filming Vadim’s movie in a little fishing village in the south of France, St Tropez, not only was the actress a major hit, but St Tropez was discovered for its pretty little seaport and its charming appeal, it was already a quiet enclave of writers and artists. From a sleepy fishing port it has become the place to be with every high-end brand tucked into beautiful mansions and competing yachts are tied up in along the quai on display for all the chic café goers to oogle at. Bardot changed it all! And she has lived there at La Madrague, a secluded property in St Tropez, for more than 50 years.
Alexandre Micka opened his pastry shop on the main square of St. Tropez one year before the film company came to town. He was originally from Poland and used many of his grandmother’s recipes, one was a crème filled brioche which Bardot discovered and loved sharing with everyone, she suggested its name and therefore immediately became ambassador for La Tarte Tropezienne.
In 1973 Micka patented the recipe and even after he handed the reigns to Albert Dufrene, the secret recipe is still in the safe! A unique know-how is needed to make this delicate blend of two different creams, which is then placed in the heart of a soft brioche sprinkled with crunchy granulated sugar. Obviously many have tried to compete with the original and even I have put my hand to the test.
My first experience with La Tarte Tropezienne was in Miami in the early 80’s – a Frenchman was importing them frozen via Air France. First one – I was hooked, though it looks decadent, it isn’t too sweet. Years later that business went away, but we convince another French baker to make them even as special orders. He even made a 36” one for a special birthday surprise for a friend. Still today I special order them. Because yes, you can find mini bit size Tropezienne sold by Valice from France in the freezer section. But its only a hint of the real deal. On my last visit to St. Tropez I indulged again.
For the Brioche:
· 5 cups all-purpose flour
· 4 tablespoons active dry yeast
· 6 eggs , beaten
· 2 egg yolks (for the egg wash)
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1½ cup unsalted butter (soft)
· ½ cup sugar
· Zests of 2 lemons
· 1 cup pearl sugar (or ½ cup icing sugar)
For the Pastry Cream:
16 oz Milk (whole)
1/2 Vanilla Bean
3.5 oz Granulated Sugar
6 large Egg Yolks
1 oz Cornstarch
1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
3 Gelatin sheets