Classic Custard Tart
And so my saga with pastry continues… Soy and I have had Marcus Wareing’s How to Cook the Perfect… for some time now, and I’ve flipped through it a couple of times to read up on basics and techniques, but I haven’t actually made anything from it yet. After my latest batch of macarons, came the usual what-to-do-with-a-million-egg-yolks head scratching. Then, I came across this classic custard tart recipe, and despite my reputation with pastry, decided to take it on!!
And there is no better recipe for my first attempt at custard tart, which is a classic in British cuisine. Marcus Wareing got this recipe from his grandmother, and serves the tart in his 2-Michelin star restaurant, The Berkeley, in London. He was awarded the Remy Martin Coeur de Cognac award for Best Dessert for this tart, and also was entasked to make it for Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday. Now, how’s that for a tart with a reputation?
The recipe didn’t seem too difficult- less than 10 ingredients, and mostly pantry items. The nutmeg was a surprise for me! But it’s an ingredient I love- what a unique aroma and flavour- I can’t think of anything else that resembles nutmeg. Besides nutmeg, what makes the tart special is the labour that goes into it.
Here comes my sob story- the shortcrust is really delicate, as Marcus warns in his instructions. On the first day, I tried rolling out the dough, but this being a deep tart, I made a huge mess and so many holes in it to make a spider proud of me, that I called a time out, rolled the pastry up, chucked it in the fridge, and decided to try again the next day for my own sanity. Thankfully, I was second time lucky. It is really important to exercise patience for this tart, as chilling the dough after each step really makes a difference. The other imperative step (according to Marcus himself), is lining the dough well before adding the filling, i.e. brushing with egg yolks and sealing any cracks in the process.
I also got to use my Super Sprout lemon powder! Ok so in future I would just use lemon zest, but I just had to try it! Super Sprout is also where we got our beetroot powder from, at the Organic Expo and Green Show. The powder packs a punch! And, being a powder, was evenly distributed throughout the dough, giving it a subtle citrusy tang.
Now, this tart ranks right up there with macarons, as the things I have baked that I am most proud of. I was extra happy with my most successful shortcrust pastry!! It was everything Marcus promised in his recipe- crisp on the outside, then melt-in-the-mouth. The filling was lush, creamy, and the (dare I say it?) perfect texture- not overcooked, and not too runny! I was a VERY happy bunny! I actually thought that the tart reminded me of dan tah (Chinese egg custard tarts), but with a less eggy flavour and a more delicate texture, which I actually much prefer. The nutmeg added another dimension to the aroma and flavour of the custard. Soy and everyone else who tried it gave this classic custard tart by Marcus Wareing their stamp of approval. My next wish is to try it at Marcus’ restaurant to compare how the master’s tart tastes. But in the meantime, I am so glad that he shared this recipe, and you should give it a go too!
Marcus Wareing’s Classic Custard Tart
The original recipe for this tart was my grandmother’s, and I made it for Queen Elizabeth’s 80th-birthday lunch in London. I think it’s as close to perfection as any custard tart can be.
|1½||cups all-purpose flour, sifted with a pinch of fine table salt|
|1¼||sticks (10 Tbsp.) chilled unsalted butter, diced|
|⅓||cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar|
|~||Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated|
|1||large egg, lightly beaten, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten|
|9||large egg yolks|
|⅓||cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar|
|2||cups heavy cream|
|1||whole nutmeg, for grating|
- Make the dough: In a large bowl, gently work the flour and butter together until the mix looks like bread crumbs. Stir in the sugar and lemon zest, then add the 1 beaten egg slowly to form a dough. Gently shape it into a ball and flatten slightly into a disk, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before using. The dough is very fragile, and handles best when chilled but not hard.
- Prepare the crust: Place a buttered 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll out the dough until you have a circle about 3 inches larger in diameter than the tart pan. Place the circle between two sheets of floured waxed paper and chill for half an hour, then use it to line the tart pan, letting the surplus dough hang over the edges. If there are any cracks in the dough, press them together with your fingers. Chill the pan and dough for half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper and weigh it down with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 10 minutes or until it starts to turn golden-brown. Remove the paper and the weights, and brush the dough with the 2 beaten egg yolks; this will seal the dough and prevent the filling from making it soggy. Return to the oven to bake for 5 minutes longer. Leave to cool.
- Turn the oven down to 300 degrees.
- Make the custard: Put the 9 egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cream and mix well, then strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a heavy saucepan. Warm over low heat until just tepid (about 98 degrees), stirring all the time. Pour into a pitcher.
- Assemble the tart: Put the cooled pastry shell, still in its pan on the baking sheet, on the middle shelf of the oven. Slowly and carefully pour in the custard, filling the shell as full as you can, right to the very top. Grate nutmeg liberally all over, to cover the custard completely.
- Bake the tart for about 45 minutes or until the custard looks set but not too firm — it should have a slight, even quiver across the top when you gently shake the baking sheet. Leave to cool to room temperature, then remove from the pan by carefully sawing the excess pastry away from the outside edges. Cut into wedges with a sharp knife to serve.