A Custard Pie in the face
It’s Sunday and so it’s the day for getting back to my wonderful Hummingbird book.
I decided to have a go at making a Custard and Cinnamon tart. I’m not sure why, as my record for making custard currently stands at : Custard – 5, Partyspanner – 0… and I can’t even remember the last time I made pastry.
It was certainly a challenge.
First to make the pastry base. The recipe calls for softened unsalted butter, which..isn’t that just wrong? I thought pastry needed to be kept very cold and that the butter should be positively icy before it is added to the flour, so I was slightly sceptical.
Apart from the soft butter, the usual principles of pastry making were applied. ie mixing the flour and butter to a breadcrumb texture before adding the sugar and an egg to make a dough. The ball of pastry is then lightly kneaded before going into the fridge to rest (yeah, I bet it’s knackered) before being rolled out onto a lightly floured surface.
So, I rolled the dough, GENTLY, to a thickness of 1/4 of an inch and wider than the tart tin and then tried to lift if off. It stuck. It stuck tight. So I scraped it all back up into a ball again, floured the surface again and started rolling again. I turned the pastry and flipped it regularly to stop it sticking and then folded an end around the rolling pin before transferring to the tart tin.
So. I scraped it all back up again – all the while knowing that I’ve basically blown it. Pastry is like me with PMT – it requires the minimum of touching, likes to be cold and completely falls to pieces if it feels “got at”.
I finally managed to get the bloody stuff rolled and into the tin, all the while knowing that I’m fighting a losing a battle, and I’ve still got the custard to make (along with a full roast dinner for the company who are arriving to dine with us)
The pastry case now heads into the fridge for another rest (seriously, pastry is the laziest of all food stuffs) before being blind baked – which basically means that the tin is lined with baking paper and filled with baking beans before going into the oven for 12 minutes.
After the blind bake, the paper and beads are removed and the case is baked for a further 15 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and golden.
I have pastry left over and so what do all good cooks make with left over pastry?
The jam tarts join the pastry case in the oven and are baked for a good 20 minutes, or until the pastry has browned and the jam is bubbling slightly.
Now onto the custard. *shudder*
I adore home made custard, but for some reason I can never get it right. The custard splits, or just refuses to thicken and so I was nervous.
I heated some whole milk and vanilla essence to boiling point while making a custard paste using egg yolks, flour, sugar and salt (eh?)
Then add a small amount of the hot milk to form a liquid and add the custard liquid to the milk and vanilla
And then the whole lot is heated gently while stirring continuously, until it thickens and is not lumpy.
Yes, well I stirred it madly, and heated it gently and it was lumpy and horrible and awful and terrible.
I carried on, BRAVELY, and whipped the egg whites (seperated from the yolks earlier) into soft peaks and it a fit of pique (see what I did there?) I used the cookbook itself as a heat defuser as I folded a small amount of the beaten egg whites into the lumpen custard mess.
I transferred the
bloody mess mixture into the rest of the egg whites and folded both together weeping.
The photos dry up a bit here as I was feeling completely disconsolate – but I poured the final mix into the cooled pastry case and refrigerated.
Ugh. Lumpy and weirdly…wobbly, I really thought I had a complete disaster on my hands.
In Jam Tart News, they had baked and cooled and were looking – well, like jam tarts should.
I then got on with the rest of the meal and had a lovely evening…all the while, in the back of my head the Custard Tart tickled and called “I’m an embarrassment. Lumpen and mishapen. You didn’t buy a back up dessert you IDIOT!”
Filled with trepidation I took the tart out of the fridge and in a stunning piece of recipe bastardisation, I grated nutmeg over the top instead of cinnamon. It just felt…right.
BUT! something miraculous (or probably chemical/scientific) had happened to the tart as it rested and chilled in the fridge. The lumps disappeared. As I cut a slice, the filling had a mousse-like quality and although the pastry was tougher than it should have been it was cooked through and NOT A COMPLETE ABORTION.
Amazingly, everyone loved it. To be fair this was after a couple of glasses of wine, but even the non drinkers seemed to really enjoy it.
Ah Hummingbird..you frightened me with your complicated recipe, but I see, once again that you truly are the King of all my cookery books.