There are different types of tarte au sucre from the various regions of France and I've not found one that I don’t like yet. I first came across this particular tart in Normandy (in the Cotentin, to be precise). It’s a very northern French type of tart in that it’s a brioche-like dough with sugar and the local, rich crème fraîche on top. Probably not the healthiest thing you’ll ever eat, but very satisfying nonetheless.
The sugar used in the topping varies from recipe to recipe. I prefer some combination of brown and white but use whichever you fancy. I used white sugar crystals (or pearls) as part of the topping just for a little contrast in texture but it’s not critical, I'm just being fussy. A stand mixer fitted with a dough hook is very useful when making the base of the tart. Of course, you can make it by hand but I'm not really convinced by the ‘kneading is good for the soul’ argument. I find incorporating the butter into the dough by hand a little tedious.
This mixture will fill a tart tin of 32 cm diameter, but don’t worry if you don’t have one. You can simply flatten the dough out to roughly that size on a lined baking sheet, raising the edges a little in case of crème fraîche overflow. It might not look quite as neat at the edges, but this isn't a gourmet restaurant dish, so who cares?
The tart is fine on its own, but it also goes well with fresh berries or a fruit compote and a dollop or two more of crème fraîche. It should serve at least 12, although it’s quite difficult to avoid getting greedy and cutting larger slices.
For the base:
80 ml milk
2 tbsp and 1 tsp caster sugar
6 g dried active yeast
320 g plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
120 g unsalted butter, softened
For the topping:
100 ml crème fraîche
70 g white sugar crystals or pearls (or just white granulated sugar)
40 g granulated sugar
30 g unsalted butter, softened
Warm the milk, stir in the 1 teaspoon of caster sugar and then add the dried yeast. Stir vigorously until the yeast dissolves and set the mixture aside.
Place the flour and the 2 tablespoons of caster sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Add the cooled milk and yeast mixture and the eggs. Bring the dough together using the dough hook of the mixer. Once everything had been thoroughly combined, start adding the butter a little at a time while continuing to knead.
Once all the butter has been completely worked in, continue kneading for a few extra minutes. The dough should now feel reasonably elastic. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to prove in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours until roughly doubled in volume.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Butter and flour a 32 cm tart tin (or simply line a baking sheet if you don’t have one – see above). Knock back the dough, then press and shape it into the tart tin (or spread it out onto the baking sheet, raising the edges a little).
Now add the topping. Dot small pieces of the butter around the tart. Sprinkle over both sugars. Finally, pour on the crème fraîche. If it’s a good, thick crème fraîche, then it’s more a case of dropping blobs of it over the surface of the tart as evenly as possible. Don’t worry if the topping isn't completely evenly distributed, it will spread out as it bakes and, anyway, a little unevenness is part of the charm of the tart. You could thin the crème fraîche with a drop or two of milk to get a more even covering, if you prefer it that way.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until the edges look golden and the filling appears amalgamated and very inviting. Allow to cool before serving.