Custard tarts! I love them. We used to get them as a treat from the bakers when we were younger, although I haven’t had one for a few years.
I have, however, made a custard tart before – Andrew’s nan fancied a sweet treat and I had just seen Marcus Wareing make his tart with garibaldi biscuits on the first ever series of Great British Menu, and so I decided to make it for her so that I could also try some. The tart was a success, and I took two strong memories from the experience. Firstly, the gorgeous lemon flavour from the pastry, and secondly the utter disaster of the garibaldi biscuits. I don’t know what I did wrong, but they were a complete failure, so I was determined to make them again alongside the custard tart and have a success.
Marcus Wareing’s custard tart recipe makes one large tart instead of the small ones in the Bake Off challenge. Actually, I imagine making one large one is harder than making small ones, so I was really giving myself an even greater challenge than the Bake Off contestants (get me!). Obviously I had a proper recipe and they didn’t, but that’s beside the point, right?!
Yes, in fact, that is beside the point, because I have a bone to pick with Mr Wareing. I have two version of his recipe – one on the BBC website and one in my Great British Menu cookbook, and both of them have errors! So in fact I had even more of a challenge in making my custard tart, because I had a recipe which was unreliable but I didn’t know which bit was going to be wrong. It’s frankly a miracle that I managed to make anything …
To be fair on Marcus, the custard tart recipe is more or less accurate (I think), except that the type of flour to be used is not specified in the online version (which I was using as the recipe for garibaldi biscuits seemed more reliable than the one in my book). Rather than check my recipe book for the type of flour to be used, I instead googled it, and found that self raising flour should be used in shortcrust pastry. After making the pastry, chilling it for the requisite two hours and then blind baking it, I discovered that shortcrust pastry doesn’t work well with self raising flour as the pastry rises despite the baking beans weighing it down, leaving less room for the filling. I then checked my recipe book and saw that Marcus has plain flour listed in his recipe. Damn. I was really annoyed about my mistake as this is an expensive tart to make and I didn’t want to have to make the pastry again. So I didn’t, I just tried to squish the partially cooked pastry back down so that there would be enough room for the filling, which seemed to work, but which I would not advise.
On a positive note (which may not actually be a good thing) the raw pastry is utterly, utterly delicious. I could not resist picking at the leftovers whilst making caramel (another total disaster) for my civet cat poo coffee cake (another story – blog to follow in due course), and was considering making jam tarts with the leftovers until I realised I had picked at them to such an extent there were none left. Whoops. A bit of a tip here – too much raw pastry is not brilliant for your tummy, so don’t pick at it.
The actual custard for the tart is so simple to make (especially when you ignore Marcus’ order to sieve the mixture before filling the tart tin – I mean, why bother giving yourself the extra washing up?), although filling the case and transporting the tart to the oven is always going to have the high possibility of a kitchen disaster. Better to half fill the tart before it goes in the oven, and finish filling it on the oven shelf (not easy when you have a plastic jug near the shelves of a pre-heated oven … prepare to burn it or you while you contort yourself when you try and hold the tart case on the oven shelf without dropping it whilst pouring the liquid custard into the case).
My tart cooked for closer to an hour to cook than the 35-40 minutes specified by Marcus, so be prepared to check it every 5 minutes from the half hour point, as it really will depend on how reliable the temperature gage of your oven is. When I finally did remove it from the oven, the kitchen was filled with gorgeous smells of citrus from the pastry and eggy goodness from the tart, as well as festive nutmeg from the fresh grating of nutmeg you give to the top of the tart while it cools.
Removing the tart from the tin once it cooled was scary but I used a loose-bottomed tin and I didn’t have any disasters. As I wasn’t planning to eat the tart until the next day, I left it in the fridge overnight but removed it an hour before serving so it wasn’t fridge cold. I am not sure how you would heat it to serve it warm as you don’t want the custard to cook any further, but I prefer the tart cold anyway.
What can I say? It’s delicious – wobbly, soft, creamy custard with a crisp (and decidedly un-soggy bottomed) pastry case with a subtle hint of lemon. Make it – it’s really worth the effort! But note my tips below so you aren’t caught out by the mistakes in the original recipe here.
For the pastry: 225g plain flour, pinch of salt, zest of 1 lemon, 150g butter, 75g caster sugar, 1 egg yolk and 1 whole egg
For the custard: 9 egg yolks, 75g caster sugar, 500ml whipping cream, freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees / gas mark 3. Make the pastry by combining the butter with the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the salt, lemon zest and sugar and mix well, then mix in the beaten egg and yolk mixture. Combine until you have a dough, which you should then cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
Once chilled, roll the dough out to the thickness of a pound coin and use it to line an oiled loose bottomed cake tin. Cover with greaseproof paper and baking beans and cook for 10 minutes until the pastry starts to turn golden at the edges. Remove the tart and turn the oven down to 130 degrees / gas mark 1, and allow the pastry case to cool while you make your custard by whisking together the egg yolks and flour before adding the cream. Once well mixed, heat the mixture to blood temperature (30 seconds in the microwave worked for me) and then pour the custard into the case. Bake in the oven for 30-60 minutes – when cooked, the custard should be lightly browned on top and set in the middle but still wobbly. Check every 5 minutes after 30 minutes to get it out of the oven at the optimum time. When the custard tart is out of the oven, cover with freshly grated nutmeg and then allow to cool before removing from the tin. Slice and serve.
I did make the garibaldi biscuits again and wasn’t overwhelmed with them – they are more spongey than biscuity, and to be honest I don’t see what value they add to the custard tart. I wouldn’t bother if I was you, but if you do then use the online recipe and not the one in the book.
Next week’s bake off will be biscuits. My favourite :).