Nancy Silverton's Creme Fraiche Brioche Tart that made Julia Child cry. (Photo by Chris Koo)

Liam’s Lowdown: The dessert that made Julia Child’s cry

Since COVID-19 is probably making us cry more, let the tears at least be joyful

Pandemic aside, fall is the time to start exploring the kitchen.

Darkness is coming earlier and earlier each day and the kitchen is becoming more inviting. Particularly, standing beside the warm stove.

And since the amount of crying has probably increased since COVID-19, here’s a recipe for some happy tears.

The Brioche Tart That Made Julia Child Cry

Guest baker Nancy Silverton once made a tart so good that baking legend Julia Child teared up on TV, exclaiming it was the most delicious dessert she had ever eaten.

Here’s an interpretation of that recipe from The Butter Lab.


BRIOCHE DOUGH (Visit The Butter Lab website for recipe)


1 cup crème fraiche

1 large egg

1 large egg white, beaten

1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

If you would like to top with caramel-wine syrup (see here or visit The Butter Lab website)


1 1/2 cups sugar

2 vanilla beans

1/3 cup water

2 1/4 cups dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

4 large egg yolks


Sliced stone-fruits (plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and/or berries)

Sugar to taste (if using macerated fruit)



Use half the brioche dough from The Butter Lab website . Work the 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.

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

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 275°F. In a small bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche and the egg and set aside. 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 evenly over the dimpled base.

Brush the edge of the tart with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle 1/2 to 1/3 cup sugar over the creme fraiche. The custard will only absorb a certain amount; stop when it looks like it can’t absorb anymore. Sprinkle the crimped edge with a few more tablespoons of sugar.

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.


First make a caramel-wine syrup: 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 seven to 10 minute. 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. Pour 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.


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.

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