Custard Tarts

Custard Tarts

Ready, set, BAKE! The Great British Bake Off is back and I am obsessed. Each week, the Bafta award winning show grips the nation as Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood whittle out good crumbs from the soggy bottoms.

Baking is fun, but baking disasters are all part of the process. I once used cumin instead of cinnamon to flavour my baked apples in an FT lesson; safe to say I have now learned to read labels properly…  Watching other people’s baking disasters is also very nerve wracking, especially when your favourite contestant has just used salt instead of sugar, or has watched the middle fall out of their uncooked cake.

The technical challenge is one that is usually full of a few disasters. Contestants are given a recipe, but all technical aspects and methods are excluded from the instructions. Last week we watched in vain as bakers tried their hand at custard tarts. Removing the tarts from the tray proved difficult, and there was soggy bottoms and uncooked custard all over the bake-off kitchen. Things were tense!

Having never made a custard tart myself, I was intrigued. I took up the challenge under the safety that Mary and Paul’s harsh tongues wouldn’t judge me. The secret is making sure that the pastry is cooked but the egg custard isn’t over done. By following Paul Hollywood’s recipe below, everything went pretty much to plan, however if you are making smaller tarts, you will need to watch your cooking times.

Ingredients

For the sweet pastry

  • 165g/5¾oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 25g/1oz ground almonds
  • 120g/4¼oz chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 55g/2oz caster sugar
  • 1 free-range egg

For the custard filling

  • 700ml/1¼ pint full-fat milk
  • 7 free-range egg yolks
  • 90g/3¼oz caster sugar
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Make the pastry:

1)   Cut the cold butter into cubes and rub it into the flour and almonds with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.

2)   Break in the egg and use your fingers to mix it together to form soft sticky dough. Put the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a ball and flatten it into a disk with your fingers. Then pop this in the fridge in cling film to chill for 30 minutes.

3)   Now preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6.

4)   Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, then use an 11cm/4.5 inch fluted cutter to cut out 12 discs. Line the muffin tray with the circle ensuring that the pastry overlaps the top of the mould by a few millimetres.

 

For the egg custard:

1)   Warm the milk. In a separate bowl, beat in the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

2)   Pour the milk onto the egg yolks and stir well to create little bubbles. Now transfer this into a jug and fill each pastry case with custard.

3)   Sprinkle each tart with nutmeg and bake them for 10-15 minutes at 200C. Now turn the temperature down to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 10 minutes.

I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily
I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily

4)   Look for a golden pastry and a slight dome in the custard, which indicates it is baked. Too much dome means the custard is overcooked so watch out!

Custard Tarts

Lemon Meringue Pie

A zingy lemon filling with a golden crisp top meringue and absolutely no soggy bottoms. Mary Berry would be proud.

Happy April!

I hope you are all owners of slightly rounder stomachs in the wake of Easter, if not please come and help yourself to my chocolate before I resemble Augustus Gloop.

The sun is shining today, so maybe spring has finally arrived (touch wood, white rabbits). Either way, I am going to provide you with a springy zingy recipe to celebrate, and bombard you with cheesy puns and sayings along the way.

This is the first Lemon Meringue Pie I have ever made, so it’s proof that anyone can make it with success. The proof is in the pudding!

Lemon Meringue Pie

I was helped by life long best friend Polly Wicks (can’t get rid of her), who was especially good removing egg shells and taking pictures. There were a few ups and downs along the way; at one point it nearly fell on the floor, which I’m sure Mr Pigley would have been very happy about. But we made it out the other side mostly unscathed.

Confession: I didn’t make the pastry due to time constraints, laziness, and a short attention span. Next time I will I promise!

Also, before we start I would like words with whoever invented the spelling for Meringue. Seriously give me a break, my spell check has never had to work harder.

Lemon Meringue Pie

You will need:

  • Sweet short crust pastry- bought or made. Don’t feel guilty if you cheat, Delia does it!

For the filling:

  • 2 level tbsp cornflour
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
  • 125ml fresh lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
  • juice 1 small orange
  • 85g butter , cut into chunks
  • 3 egg yolks and plus 1 whole egg

For the meringue:

  • 4 egg whites at room temperature, avoid all yolks!
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 2 level tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

1) First you need to bake your pastry so that it retains it’s shape and there is no soggy business. Roll it out and lay it into your 23 x 2.5cm pastry tin with push out base. Leave the excess over the edges as the pastry shrinks in the oven, you can cut it off afterwards. I didn’t do this… I call it literal shortcrust pastry.

Bake it at 180 degrees for 15 mins with greaseproof paper and rice on it to weigh it down and stop the pastry rising.

2) Remove the greaseproof and bake for another 4 mins.

Lemon Meringue Pie
“Short crust” pastry

3) Leave this to one side and begin to make your filling. For this you need to stir your sugar, cornflour and lemon juice together on a medium heat in a pan. Do this until it is slightly sticky, then add your zest and orange juice, plus however much water you need to make the orange juice up to 200 ml.

4) Stir until thick, bubbling and smooth. Then remove from the heat and stir in the butter chunks until melted.

5) Beat in the egg yolks and whole egg- save the egg whites for the meringue. The trick with separating egg yolks is to crack the egg in half, keeping the yolk as a whole in one half of the shell and the white dribbles out. I’m always scared when I do this! But try this tutorial.

6) The mix will be thick, yellow, custard looking and jelly like. Remove it from the heat and now make the meringue.

Lemon Meringue Pie

7) Beat the 4 egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Make sure there is no yolk or shell in the whites- polly was in charge of this!

She likes pugs
She likes pugs

8) Add the sugar gradually with the corn flour. It will still form thick peaks and have a glistening sheen to the mix. If it is ready you can hold your bowl upside down and the mix won’t fall out!

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

I was actually very scared...!

I was actually very scared…!

9) Reheat the filling and pour it into the pastry case, then spoon on the meringue starting from around the edges or it will sink in the middle.

Lemon Meringue Pie

10) Bake in the oven for 18-20 mins at 180 degrees until the meringue is slightly golden and crisp on top. Let it cool in the tin for 30 mins, then remove and leave it to cool for another 1hr.

Lemon Meringue Piem

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie