How to make renowned pastry chef Eric Kayser's favorite holiday bread display, a Parisian classic.

Tourte de Meule Basket
Credit: Eric Medsker

For home bakers and professional ones, the holiday season is a hectic time of rolling and piping and baking and eating. Eric Kayser, of artisanal French boulangerie Maison Kayser with 100 locations worldwide, takes this time of year very seriously. This autumn, he's rolled out seasonal treats like a pumpkin eclair (with pumpkin seed nougatine, pumpkin cream, and pumpkin chantilly), a tart with meringue and chestnut cream, and a pecan tart accented with a chocolate mousse and coffee glaze.

But one of his favorite baked goods to make for the holidays is far simpler than piping three layers of complicated pumpkin fillings into one tiny pastry. We're talking about bread inside of bread. Kayser sells a tourte de meule, a jumbo sourdough boule made from stone-ground wheat flour that you can hollow out and stuff bread rolls in. Then, when all the rolls are gone, you can get to work on the bowl. Genius.

"It adds a big surprise," says Kayser. "You can buy one big piece of bread and then you cut it. It's beautiful and very easy to do."

"Buy the bread that you like most, and then a bunch of smaller breads to go inside it," his head baker, Yann, adds. "You know how you carve the pumpkin for Halloween? You can do the same with your bread and make a very nice thing."

If you're making the bread from scratch yourself, keep in mind Kayser's biggest tip for prepping dough, whether for a loaf or a tart: do it the day before.

"You have to prepare the dough one day before because it will have a much better flavor and be much easier to work with," he says.

Born into the fourth generation of a family of bakers, Kayser says that the most evocative holiday flavor for him is chestnut, and he plans to incorporate chestnut paste (which you can find at specialty stores and online) into many of his pastries this year. "On the street in Paris, you can see people burning the chestnuts on the fire," he says. "You find it in New York too. It’s very much part of the Christmas spirit."

Kayser's tourte de meule is available at U.S. locations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.