“Supremely elegant, custard tarts are the perfect interplay between crisp pastry and just-set silken custard,” says Anna Higham.
Her recipe is inspired by Marcus Wareing’s, which Higham says “pretty much every London chef uses”.
In this version, the custard is infused with toasted hay – pet shops are a great place to get hold of some.
(Makes 6 individual tarts)
For the sweet pastry:
350g plain (all-purpose) flour
100g icing sugar
225g cold unsalted butter, diced
Pinch of salt
3 eggs: 3 yolks, 1 white
For the hay-infused cream:
600ml double cream
For the custard:
140g egg yolks, from about 7 eggs
50g caster sugar
450g hay-infused cream
200g tayberries, plus 100g per tart
100g icing sugar
1. To make the pastry: Combine the flour, icing sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and blitz to fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and mix until the dough is starting to come together. Turn out onto a work surface and knead firmly, just enough to bring the dough together. Wrap in cling film and chill until firm.
2. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of 2–3mm then cut out 15cm circles. Press into six 10cm tart cases, pushing the pastry into the edges. Chill the lined tart cases for 30 minutes in the fridge or freezer.
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Trim the excess pastry to give a neat finish. Line each tart with scrunched-up baking parchment, fill with baking beans and bake for 12–15 minutes until the top edge is starting to colour. Remove the baking beans and return the tarts to the oven for a further five minutes or until golden brown. Brush the insides with beaten egg white and leave to cool, still in their cases.
4. To make the cream: Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the hay on a baking tray and top with a cooling rack to help weigh it down. Toast in the oven for about 20 minutes until it smells very fragrant. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a saucepan over a low heat until it is starting to steam. Add the toasted hay and cover tightly. Leave to infuse in the fridge for three to four hours or overnight. Warm the cream gently then strain through a sieve, making sure to really squeeze out the hay to capture as much flavour as possible.
5. Preheat the oven to 115°C with as low a fan as possible. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Slowly whisk in the warm hay-infused cream to combine. Pass through a fine sieve. Pour into a saucepan and heat gently until the custard reaches 40°C.
6. Place the tart cases on a baking tray and pour in the warmed custard. I like to put the tray in the oven before doing this so that I can fill the tarts as high as possible without spilling the custard on my way to the oven. Bake for 20–25 minutes until the tarts have that gentle wobble. Leave to cool before removing from the tart cases.
7. Blend 200g of tayberries with the icing sugar and pass through a fine sieve. Use this purée to dress the remaining tayberries and to cover the surface of the tarts just before serving.
The Last Bite: A Whole New Approach To Making Desserts Through The Year by Anna Higham, photography by Kim Lightbody, is published by DK, priced £22. Available now.
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