English Custard Tart (Pie)


I was just sitting there minding my own business, when an ad came up for a recipe for “magic crust custard pie”. After reading the recipe, I suddenly had the urge to make and eat a lot of custard pie, albeit an English custard tart (… don’t get me started). Now the custard tarts I’m used to are English custard tarts; the ones that are speckled with freshly grated nutmeg, the ones that are fragrantly eggy, smooth on the tongue, lightly sweet and wobbly. We never had custard tarts for dessert, they were more like a “cake” to be enjoyed with tea, and boy, do I miss Birds the confectioners!

Since the “magic crust custard pie” recipe was too easy to pass, I decided to make it the same day I saw it. I mean, why not? I had all of the ingredients at home, only the result was so bad, I felt sickened by the ingredients I had just wasted. For once, I followed the recipe to the tee, and the result was an abomination. Why on earth it had almost 300 reviews with an average of 5 stars out of 5, I have no idea! The recipe said that the flour sinks and creates its own crust… yeah, right! What I had was a thick, sweet, eggy, rubbery “thing”, with no crust whatsoever, and I cooked it for only 25 minutes, as opposed to 45! The “thing” was so rubbery, that I’m sure if I’d thrown it against the wall, it would have bounced back! I ended up eating the “rubbery thing” for breakfast; I just didn’t have the heart to throw away food made out of good ingredients.

To redeem my fond memories of custard tarts, I had to make a “proper” one. This recipe I am sharing with you is the closest thing you can get to an English egg tart in the US, that is unless you happen to live near a British bakery.

A warning to people who aren’t familiar with English custard tarts, the flavor is predominantly nutmeg, so, if you don’t like nutmeg, either omit the nutmeg, or skip this recipe altogether. A. was an example of this, he said the nutmeg just spoilt it for him. I think that unless you’re British, or have a love for nutmeg and egg custard, then it may be a little overwhelming. My explanation to A. was that custard tart to me is what pumpkin pie is to Americans. Very few people “get” pumpkin pie bar Americans. I mean, I like pumpkin pie, but I could happily live with the knowledge that I’d never eat it again. It will never be something that I’d crave… mainly because I never grew up with it.

As an additional note: the recipe for the pastry (crust) creates a really thin tart (pie), and unless you are very experienced with handling thin pastry (crusts), I would recommend in doubling the recipe, and storing any leftovers in the freezer.


ENGLISH CUSTARD TART (PIE)

Adapted from Delia online: Old-Fashioned English Custard Tart

Makes 1 – 23 cm (9 inch) deep tart (pie)


Method

For the pastry (crust)

  • 150 g (1 c) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 25 g (2 ½ tablespoons) cold pressed vegetable shortening
  • 50 g (3 ½ tablespoons) salted European butter, cut into cubes

For the Egg Custard

  • 570 ml (2 1/3 c and 2 teaspoons) full-fat (whole) or skimmed (skim, 2%) milk *
  • 100 – 150 g (½ to ¾ c) raw cane (turbinado) sugar
  • 3 large chicken eggs and 2 large chicken egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

  • ½ whole nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salted butter, softened

* If you’re feeling really indulgent, use single cream (or half and half)


Method

1. To make the pastry (crust), rub the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of cold water, and mix to create a smooth, but not sticky dough. Flatten into a disc and wrap in cling film (plastic wrap), and then chill for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).

3. Roll the pastry between two sheets of greaseproof (waxed) paper until large enough to fit into the pie dish. If using one batch of pastry (crust), you may need to do some patchwork. If using two batches of pastry (crust), trim the excess off with a sharp knife. Prick the bottom of the pastry case (shell) with a fork. Pop into the freezer for 5 minutes.

4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 4 minutes. If the middle of the pastry case (shell) is rising, poke it with a fork. Continue to bake for another 16 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, heat the milk and sugar in a pan over low heat, stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, then stir in the vanilla and eggs. Pass the mixture through a sieve (strainer) into a measuring jug, and then repeat back into the pan.

6. When the pastry case (shell) is ready, reduce heat to 160°C (325°F). Pour the egg mixture through the sieve (strainer) directly into the pastry case (shell). Grate nutmeg over the egg mixture and dot the top with butter.

7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 55-60 minutes, or until just set, the center should wobble. Let cool, before slicing and enjoying. The custard tart is just as good cold from the fridge the next day.

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