A classic bake but can be difficult to get right. Crisp and light sweet shortcrust pastry filled with a smooth nutmeg and vanilla flavoured creamy custard.
Start by making the pastry. Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attached. Add the chilled butter and blitz for only a few seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix the egg yolks with the water in a small jug and with the motor running, pour the liquid in a steady stream and allow the dough to come together. Take from the mixer, pop into a plastic bag and chill for at least half an hour.
Once the dough has firmed up and rested take from the fridge and I prefer to roll out between two sheets of plastic as then no additional flour is required. Roll out the pastry to about the thickness of a £1 coin then use a 10cm cutter to cut out 9 circles. Re-use trimmings as necessary.
You may find it easier to mould the pastry cut out circles around the end of your rolling pin and then lower this into the muffin tin. The pastry will then fit perfectly and there is no danger of it cracking, splitting or putting your fingers through. Pop the tray of pastry into the fridge to firm up whilst your oven comes to temperature. Heat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade (fan) – 375 degrees f.
Once to temperature line each of the cups with a paper bun case (slightly smaller than a cupcake case) then fill with either rice, lentils or baking beans. Pop straight into the oven and bake “blind” for 14 minutes.
Take from the oven and have ready a baking sheet. Hold onto those little paper cases and lift the pastry shells from the muffin tin. The pastry will adhere to the paper but you need to do this whilst the pastry is hot otherwise the paper cases will release themselves from the pastry and the shells will stay in the tin. Place the pastry shells onto the baking sheet and then once cooled slightly you can remove the paper cases and lentils. Pop the pastry shells back into the oven to completely bake through for just 2-3 minutes more. Take the pastry shells out of the oven and immediately drop the oven temperature to 140 degrees c (fan) – 284 f. I even leave the oven door open for about 30 seconds to allow some of the heat to escape.
To make the custard filling place the cream, milk, sugar, butter and vanilla in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring all the time. It needs to be heated only to the point where the sugar and butter dissolve so when there is no gritty feel to the bottom of the pan when stirred with a wooden spoon – take it off the heat. Don’t let it boil.
In a 1 pint jug beat the two eggs then pour over the warm milk mixture in a thin steady stream. Grate over about half of the nutmeg and mix this in too.
Pour the mixture into the little pastry cases, filling them as full as you can. You may find it easier to fill the cases once the tray is in the oven then there is no chance of them spilling but be careful – don’t burn yourself. Sprinkle over more grated nutmeg then bake for just 13-15 minutes.
Take from the oven when the centre of each tart still has a slight wobble when you move the baking sheet – the custard will firm up as it cools. An overbaked custard is rubbery and tough.
Allow to cool to room temperature – delicious
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