Obviously, I am a big fan of the Great British Bake-Off so thought it was about time I had a go at baking something from the show. It’s Week 4 (Desserts) and the thought of a Custard Tart rather tickles my fancy. Therefore, taking the Custard Tart recipe on the BBC website I embarked on my first Paul Hollywood recipe (I’m much more of a Mary Berry fan).
I have already imprinted on my brain that a standard ‘formula’ for making short crust pastry is essentially 1 part butter to 2 parts plain flour, and then add an egg to the desired consistency (1 per 250g or so of flour with the addition of a little cold water where required). This recipe seemed to be along the same lines only partially replacing some of the dry ingredients (the flour) with a combination of ground almonds (for texture) and caster sugar (for sweetness).
I have to admit I made the pastry using a food processor rather than by hand (as suggested) because I find it quicker, easier and less messy – dry ingredients and butter in first and pulse until it becomes the texture of breadcrumbs; then put in the remaining wet ingredients and keep processing until it comes together in a single ball the consistency of fresh Play-doh. I had the pastry chilling in the fridge in no more than 5 mins, which meant I could then make it on time for my haircut with the prospect of finishing off the tarts once I got back.
On my return (a couple of hours later) I took the pastry out of the fridge and rolled it out to about 2-3mm thickness, before cutting out discs of pastry using a 10cm fluted round cutter. The recipe recommends an 11cm cutter to cover the depth of the muffin tray cup with some pastry overlap. However, 10cm is the biggest I have so it’s a case of making do.
I had already greased and prepared a muffin tray. If anyone saw the episode aired on 10th September 2013, you’ll remember that no-one seemed to be able to remove their baked tarts from the tray. The only competitor whose technical challenge didn’t seem to end in disaster was a competitor called Ruby. She had added strips of baking parchment to each cup in the tray that then enabled her to lift the tarts out with relative ease, so I decided I followed her example.
Once I had lined lined the muffin tray with the pastry (pushing it in with a blob of excess pastry to avoid making any holes) I moved onto making the custard filling. I gently heated the milk, whilst in a separate bowl whisked together the eggs and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Once both were ready I poured the warm milk onto the whisked eggs and stirred the mixture continuously. So far so good.
I did think the custard quantity in the recipe seemed high and my instincts were right (regardless of the fact that my tarts were slightly stunted due to my sub-standard pastry cutter). I poured the custard mix into the 12 pastry cases to the very limits of what they could possibly hold (putting my tarts straight into the zone of risk – risk of baking/boiling custard overspill) and I was still left with about 40% volume in the jug. Nevertheless I have now learned when making custard that it’s 100ml whole milk and 10g caster sugar to each egg yolk (must try to commit to memory too) so quite easy to scale to more appropriate volumes in future. I then sprinkled the top with ground nutmeg – which I will admit I dug out from the back of the cupboard, and despite having an expiry date of March 2012, it seemed OK so I decided to use it – before putting in the oven.
I baked for 10 minutes before turning the oven down 20°C and baking for a further 10 mins. I noticed that the custard filling of the tart in the bottom right corner was beginning to (what can best be described as) ‘writhe’ (picture that scene in Aliens where Sigourney Weaver wakes up in hospital and finds an alien wriggling around and trying to burst out of her insides). As much as I want the pastry to be baked through (no soggy bottoms), i also don’t want the custard to boil. So, basically I bottled it and took the tarts out of the oven probably 2-3 minutes too soon.
As a result, the pastry was not cooked through completely and the custard was on the borderline of baked, looking like all it would take would be a gust of wind to break through whatever invisible force was enabling it to hold a solid form. Still they were baked sufficiently to be edible, the custard hadn’t turned to scrambled egg, and according to my husband who ate 3 in succession, were very tasty.
Lessons learned for next time: Roll the pastry a bit thinner; and have the confidence to bake for 23-25 minutes.