Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Custard Tarts

Although I’ve been baking, I haven’t been blogging!! So I have quite a few updates to put up … and plans for more as I’ve just received two new cookbooks. Peter Grewelings “Chocolate and Confections” and Elizabeth David’s “English Bread and cookery”. Peter Grewelings’ book is full of delicious photos that I just want to eat!!! Elizabeth Davids’ book is surprising … I bought it because I felt it was one of those ‘must have if you are serious about making serious things’ … and am actually enjoying reading it!! I keep finding wonderful lines such as her discussion on crumpets that seem like they come from a “plastics factory”, and I never expected to actually want to read about the history of ovens associated with bread! Now I know why it is a ‘must have’ … it’s good!!

Linking into Elizabeth Davids dislike of plastic crumpets from supermarkets, a common treat here is a custard tart … which do mostly resemble yellow rubber – they too could bounce when dropped! I went to my trusty cookbook by Stephanie Alexander (my resource for basic recipes) and adapted hers only slightly. As per normal I was making individual tarts – my muffin tin being the best I could come up with. I made up her shortcrust pastry recipe (with some additions!), and the custard mix (I resisted additions, it was very very hard NOT to put vanilla in them!). Apart from the pastry shrinking more in the blind-bake than I expected, with a dusting of nutmeg these delicate little custards out did anything I’ve bought before!!

The original recipe was to be made in a single tart … so I had a bit of left over custard mix, which refrigerated for two days until I made more pastry (and I froze some custard mix in little silicon dishes so I can bake a custard for myself as a treat after dinner one night). I’ve cut the original custard filling mix in half – you may still end up with leftovers depending on how deep your little tarts are!

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (original recipe Stephanie Alexander “The Cook’s Companion”)
180g unsalted butter
240g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 tblspn castor sugar
1 tspn vanilla paste (or essence)
approx 2 tblspn cold water
1 egg white (reserve yolk for filling)

Place all ingredients except the water in food processor (just because I’m lazy making pastry!), whiz until it looks like crumbs or starts to come together. Add just enough water so it does come together. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.

Roll out and cut out rounds to suit muffin tins (note pastry will shrink so make a bit bigger than you want to finish with). Line with baking paper, then fill with pastry weights (or dried beans). Bake blind for 15 minutes – or until golden. Remove pastry weights/beans, brush shell with egg white, bake for 5 minutes. Makes approximately 20 small tarts
(depending if you like to eat raw pastry dough and it disappears before cooking – why do I often like raw things better than the cooked version?!)

Custard Tarts (original recipe Stephanie Alexander “The Cook’s Companion”)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup cream
2 tblspn castor sugar
freshly grated nutmeg

Oven 160degC

Warm milk and sugar until sugar dissolves (milk should not boil). Whisk eggs and add warm milk. Pour into the tart cases, bake for 45 minutes until just puffy (they should not brown). Grate nutmeg over the top whilst warm. Serve cold.

The outcome are delicate little custards that stand alone as themselves. No need to embellish these tarts as the joy is in their simplicity. They were eaten with much relish at work – many going back for seconds!

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