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Custard Tart

(recipe, Marcus Wareing)


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Introduction

The original recipe for this tart was my grandmother's, and I made it for Queen Elizabeth's 80th-birthday lunch in London. I think it's as close to perfection as any custard tart can be.

Ingredients

    Dough
    1. 1½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted with a pinch of fine table salt
    2. 1¼ sticks (10 Tbsp.) chilled unsalted butter, diced
    3. ⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
    4. Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
    5. 1 large egg, lightly beaten, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
    Filling
    1. 9 large egg yolks
    2. ⅓ cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
    3. 2 cups heavy cream
    4. 1 whole nutmeg, for grating

    Steps

    1. Make the dough: In a large bowl, gently work the flour and butter together until the mix looks like bread crumbs. Stir in the sugar and lemon zest, then add the 1 beaten egg slowly to form a dough. Gently shape it into a ball and flatten slightly into a disk, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before using. The dough is very fragile, and handles best when chilled but not hard.
    2. Prepare the crust: Place a buttered 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll out the dough until you have a circle about 3 inches larger in diameter than the tart pan. Place the circle between two sheets of floured waxed paper and chill for half an hour, then use it to line the tart pan, letting the surplus dough hang over the edges. If there are any cracks in the dough, press them together with your fingers. Chill the pan and dough for half an hour.
    3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
    4. Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper and weigh it down with pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 10 minutes or until it starts to turn golden-brown. Remove the paper and the weights, and brush the dough with the 2 beaten egg yolks; this will seal the dough and prevent the filling from making it soggy. Return to the oven to bake for 5 minutes longer. Leave to cool.
    5. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees.
    6. Make the custard: Put the 9 egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cream and mix well, then strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a heavy saucepan. Warm over low heat until just tepid (about 98 degrees), stirring all the time. Pour into a pitcher.
    7. Assemble the tart: Put the cooled pastry shell, still in its pan on the baking sheet, on the middle shelf of the oven. Slowly and carefully pour in the custard, filling the shell as full as you can, right to the very top. Grate nutmeg liberally all over, to cover the custard completely.
    8. Bake the tart for about 45 minutes or until the custard looks set but not too firm — it should have a slight, even quiver across the top when you gently shake the baking sheet. Leave to cool to room temperature, then remove from the pan by carefully sawing the excess pastry away from the outside edges. Cut into wedges with a sharp knife to serve.