British Egg Custard Tart

British Egg Custard Tart
“This is right up your alley” was all her email said. She included this link. She was right – and I haven’t stopped dreaming of it since.

I’m sidelined by the enormity of it. It’s not easy to buy a business in the UK when you’re not a citizen. Yet, a similar cottage in New England doesn’t hold any appeal. And what would I do with my two “boys?” Sending them across the ocean followed by quarantine is more than their little pampered hearts could take, I’m afraid. What to do with my typical American superfluous “stuff” that couldn’t make the trip? Finally, there’s the brisk and rainy Yorkshire weather – a 66⁰ F. June summer HIGH. Brrrrr!!

And yet, I can’t shake it from my mind.

I’d have to learn to make a proper cuppa – and traditional High Street pastries like this one:


British Egg Custard Tart

Eggnog fans rejoice – all that creamy nutmeg-gy flavor wrapped in a pastry crust. This recipe uses a forgiving pâté sucrée dough rather than brisee which requires cutting in the butter.

Ingredients

  • 3 ¾ oz. butter, softened
  • 1 ½ oz. sugar
  • 1 ½ oz. egg, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. All-purpose flour
  • 6 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 6 oz. whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 3 ¼ oz. sugar
  • Freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale. Add egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together salt and flour and stir into sugar mixture. Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate about 30 minutes.
  2. Roll the dough on a well-floured surface into a large enough circle to cover the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan. Ease the dough into the pan, nudging the dough into the sides of the pan. Trim excess dough and return to the refrigerator for about 30 more minutes.
  3. For the filling, warm the heavy whipping cream and milk in a saucepan. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg mixture stirring constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs. Stir well until all sugar has melted. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring.
  4. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Blind bake the pastry for about 30 minutes. Remove the parchment or foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 minutes until bottom of pastry is light brown.
  5. Fill the pastry with custard mixture. The mixture is very runny so I recommend filling as close as possible to the oven to avoid splashes. Grate fresh nutmeg over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes until the edges look set but the center still wobbles. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy slightly warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Rich Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart

I’m celebrating a milestone birthday in a mere handful of weeks. I can’t help but ponder what I want for rest of my life. What do I want to do – for a living; as a passion? Where should I live? Who do I want to be? How will I leave my mark? Who do I want by my side? That Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime,” has been running through my brain this week.

And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house
And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well how did I get here?

In truth, I don’t know what I want – and haven’t a clue how I ended up here. My chosen path isn’t clear to me – I just know this isn’t it. Not having a clear notion of what one wants for their life is fine at 18, not so much when one has less than half her years remaining.
So, I bake tarts and ponder life.


Rich Lemon Tart


Ingredients

    FILLING
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs and 2 egg yolks
  • pinch salt
  • 1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon gelatin
  • CRUST
  • 1 1/3 cups All-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cups sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. Make Lemon Curd: Whisk together zest, juice, sugar, eggs, and salt in a saucepan. Add butter all at once and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly until curd is very thick and first bubbles appear on the surface, about 10 minutes. Pour curd through a sieve into a bowl. Cover and chill.
  2. Make Crust: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, sugar, zest and salt. Add melted butter and stir together until dough forms a ball. Press dough on bottom and up sides of 9” tart pan. Prick bottom of shell with fork and pre-baked until golden, 20-30 minutes.
  3. Assemble Tart: Whisk together heavy whipping cream with gelatin. Add 2/3 of lemon curd to whipping cream and fill tart pan almost full. Finish with a layer of pure curd. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with Mocha Crust

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart


Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with Mocha Crust

This is one of two tarts I made for a friend’s housewarming party this weekend. Slightly adapted from Sunset Magazine

Ingredients

  • 9 ounces chocolate wafer cookies
  • 6 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons espresso
  • 1 pound mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups strawberries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Place cookies in a food processor and crush into fine crumbs. Add melted butter, sugar and espresso and process until combined. Press mixture evenly into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan.
  2. In another bowl, with a mixer on medium, beat mascarpone, honey, and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour and salt.
  3. Spread filling into chocolate crust. Place tart pan on a cookie sheet and set on center rack of preheated oven. Bake until filling is pale golden and barely set in the center when you gently shake pan, 30 to 35 minutes.
  4. Remove tart from oven and let cool on a rack about 30 minutes, then chill until cold, at least 1 hour. (cover tart once cold).
  5. Shortly before serving, remove rim from pan. Rinse, stem, and thinly slice strawberries. Arrange in a spiral pattern on top of the tart.

Stop Looking! (Tart shell)

Once you find your perfect wedding dress, stop looking!” says Yes to the Dress’s Randy Fenoli (Don’t judge, it’s a guilty pleasure). The same should be said for the ideal tart crust – once you’ve found it, step away from the cookbooks! Wasn’t I done with this process? All that was left was to bake up a batch of the tarts and bring them to the Steakhouse for tasting. My tart shell quandary was solved until… I stumbled upon this month’s Cooks Illustrated recipe for a French apple tart; assuring a tastier and easier shell. Damn you, Christopher Kimball! In my present tart- obsessed hysteria, I couldn’t close the book (literally) on the promise of a perfect shell. This weekend, I placed my list of errands aside and ran a head-to-head battle between the Cooks Illustrated crust and mine. Both recipes came together in under 15 minutes. Both cut easily, cleanly, and with minimal crumbs. My version was sandier, better textured between my teeth. Theirs was buttery – and, I concede, much easier to make. There’s no heavy lifting of mixer from the cupboard – just a bowl and wooden spoon – and no need for almond flour. With the addition of vanilla and lemon zest (special ingredients in my version), it’s a contender, if not the winner. Before I admit defeat, I still needed to ensure the new crust would hold up to the filling test: filled and baked, does the shell collapse upon pan removal? I’ve had a recipe stashed since 1993 for a pumpkin-pecan pie. I decided to use it for my test filling – moist, heavy, dense, and a perfect flavor profile for the season. Instead of making tarts, I took a shortcut, patting the crust into an 8” square pan and making “bites” and omitting the butter sauce. The crust held up nicely.

Pecan Pumpkin Bites

Pecan Pumpkin Bites

Oh lordy! I’m one of those people who love pumpkin pie. When faced with the Thanksgiving pie array, my ranking would be pecan pie first, followed very closely by pumpkin with apple pie in the finish. (Who am I kidding? I like me some pie! Both pumpkin and pecan would make it on the plate, with apple being eaten in secret so I don’t seem a glutton). However, it needs to be the “right” pumpkin pie. I think some pumpkin pies are too firm and sturdy, more like a quiche or Jell-O. If you poke your finger on the surface, it shouldn’t resist or bounce back. It should easily plunge toward the middle with just a bit of surface resistance. On the flip side, it needs to be stable enough to hold up to a knife, not too fluffy or watery. I like my pumpkin pie on the custardy side – somewhere between flan and crème brulee. This recipe captures that texture perfectly.

Pecan Pumpkin Bites Crust

  •  1 1/3 c. APF flour
  •  5 T. Sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 – 1 t. finely shredded lemon zest
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 10 T. Unsalted butter

Melt butter.  Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and zest.  Add butter and vanilla.  Stir until dough forms.

Pumpkin Filling

  • 1 cup cooked pumpkin purée
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten until frothy
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg

Pecan Syrup

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350. Cover an 8” square pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang to help remove crust once baked. Butter foil.   Mix crust ingredients in a bowl and press into pan and up sides. Bake crust for 15 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden. While the crust bakes, combine the pumpkin filling and set aside. Combine the pecan syrup and set aside. Cool crust for 10 minutes. Spread pumpkin filling over crust. Drizzle pecan syrup over pumpkin. Return bites to the oven and bake approximately 60-70 minutes until pecans are brown and filling no longer jiggles. A knife inserted should come out clean. Completely cool bites. Carefully remove bites from pan using foil. Remove foil from sides of bites (you may need a knife to help the sides release). Cut into squares and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Hesser vs. Sucrée

I better figure out this tart crust dilemma quickly. I’ve volunteered to bake 24 tarts for our neighborhood bake sale next Saturday. Last night, regrettably, the Hesser and Sucrée battle ended, as I was afraid it would, without a clear victor.

The Hesser tart crumbled next to the very durable pate sucrée, but the sweet-savory taste and distinctive texture were far superior. The sucrée was overly sweet, yet bland and insipid – it could be any crust from any tart, but I’m convinced it could weather a 5” drop unscathed. Am I overreaching? I’ve scraped and eaten too many fillings, leaving the lackluster crust behind – and I don’t want my tarts to endure the same fate. I’m vainly searching for a formidable shell that can withstand the rigors of restaurant plating (and neighborhood bake sales) with a flavor worth devouring to the very last crumb.

Almond Tart Comparison

Almond Tart Comparison

Late last night, after the failed attempts above, I made another batch of Hesser’s with an added egg and pate sucrée with 1 oz of oil substituted for some of the butter, combining a little of each in the other. Both were better, but a winner is still eluding me. Maybe my best route is to make one of each and mash ‘em together.

I must find the ideal crust. Not yet defeated, but feeling the results of my quandary in the tightening waistband of my shorts, I recall my Culinary School sucrée recipe, substituting sugar for powdered sugar. That recipe – along with another ideation of Hesser’s – is my homework for tonight. Wish me luck – or a mash-up, it may have to be.

Where is my pastry fairy godmother to save me?