Strawberry Custard Tarts

I can’t help but replay the very first scene of ‘Nigella Lawson talks dirty‘ parody video on YouTube in my head when I think of tarts. The video begins with her saying, “I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’m a complete tart.”

Her recent cocaine addiction scandal has lead to the resurfacing of this video. So I thought, why don’t I put my berry custard tart recipe to good use to cheer the occasion. It’s also a brilliant Christmas dessert for those seeking festive ideas. They can be topped with any type of berry. Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, or however far your imagination goes.

This recipe was actually my handsome knight in shining armour last Christmas after my attempt at whipping meringue for my Christmas pavlova went horribly wrong. After some panic in the kitchen, I managed to whip up a dozen custard tarts that tasted surprisingly good.

Pastry making is notorious for being difficult and time consuming. For the inexperienced baker, there is nothing more intimidating than pastry making. It is easy to resort to frozen supermarket frozen ones but if you have the time to spare, it is truly rewarding making your own pastry from scratch. The recipe I’m sharing today is incredibly straight forward. No fancy pants equipment or baking experience required, just a little bit of patience and love.

Keeps for a day and a bit in the fridge
Total time: 1.5 hour

Short crust pastry
2 1/4 cup plain flour, sifted
3 tbsp caster sugar
185g butter, chilled and chopped into 1cm cubes
1 large egg yolk
3 tbsp cold water

1. Chill flour, sugar and butter in a bowl for a few minutes prior to making your shortcrust pastry. This is an optional step but doing so will result in a supposedly softer, flakier crust.
2. With a food processor/stand mixer with paddle attachment/hand mixer, process mixture on low speed until it resembles breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a mixer, you can also use a rounded edge knife or pastry blender to cut and blend the butter into the flour until it is fairly blended. Gently use your finger tips to rub flour into the butter, working quickly and tossing the mixture every so often to incorporate air.
3. Add egg yolk and chilled water. Process until dough is just combined. It will look quite similar to biscuit dough.
4. Turn dough onto a clean surface and knead until just smooth. Overworking the dough will result in a tough pastry. Shape dough into a ball, cover with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 180C/160C fan-forced. Roll pastry out until 4-5 mm thick. Cut with a large-ish round pastry cutter. Gently line a non-stick muffin tray with pastry. Take care to not break your pastry. With a fork, poke a few holes at the bottom to allow air to escape. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
6. Bake tart cases in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool before filling with custard.

Rich vanilla custard
1 egg
2 egg yolks
A little under 1/2 cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla paste
1/3 cup custard powder
2 cups milk
1/2 cup thickened cream

1. While tart cases are baking, prepare your custard. In a medium saucepan, whisk egg, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla paste together. Slowly stir in custard powder. If you don’t have any custard powder, you can substitute with corn flour/cornstarch. Gradually add milk and cream whilst stirring continuously. Do not worry if there are any small clumps of cream floating on the surface.
2. Place saucepan over medium heat. Keep whisking until mixture boils and thickens which will take roughly 8-10 minutes. Allow mixture to boil for 1 minute, whisking the whole time.
3. Transfer custard into a heatproof bowl. Cover with cling film and set aside to cool before refrigerating for at least an hour until the custard is chilled and nicely set.
4. Dollop 1 large tbsp and a bit onto pastry. Arrange sliced strawberries onto the custard and brush with glaze.

Topping & glaze
250g strawberries
1 tbsp apricot or strawberry jam
1/2 tsp boiling water

1. Combine jam and boiling water together. With a pastry brush, gently brush strawberries with jam.


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