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This dish has a touch of royalty to it as it was served for Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday by chef Marcus Wareing. The Custard Tart was a feature on the Great British Menu, wowing the judges and earning three 10 out of 10 scores. Since the series the dish can be found served at Marcus's restaurant in Knightsbridge, a place we have yet to try but really should soon.
It's pretty simple in conception. Pastry, custard and nutmeg, yes really! No fancy gimmicks here. The skill is in the making of the pastry and the timing of the cooking. With the pastry underway it's a blend of plain flour, butter, salt, sugar, lemon zest and beaten egg, kneaded together and wrapped in cling film to rest in the fridge before rolling out to create the tart base.
Key point here is to have the pastry at a fair thickness, the temptation is to go too thin and risk disintegration once the tart hits the oven. I draped the pastry inside the tart and over the edges ensuring the mix stayed flush against the rim of the flan ring. Once that's done it's back into the fridge for an hour to firm up.
This was a point that my luck began to take a hit. The blind baking stage comes at a recommended 10 minutes by Marcus, let me tell you now that's nowhere near enough time. My case was still raw and worse still gaps were beginning to appear. I did my best to patch up the gaps and lower the oven temperature to dry out the case in order to set it. It didn't look very good but the tart was sealed further by using a beaten egg yolk to brush the inside creating a seal and repeating the drying process. None of this was mentioned in Marcus's recipe.
In the video below the eagle eyed viewer will notice a vanilla pod fall out of Marcus's bowl as he pours the custard mix into a pan. This is yet another feature missing from the recipe, no mention of vanilla. For the filling I put together 9 egg yolks, caster sugar, vanilla (yes Marcus, vanilla!) and whipping cream which I beat together until combined and heated in a pan to just warm.
Asbestos hands come in handy for the next part as you fill the pastry case with the custard mixture and grate a shitload of nutmeg over the top with a microplane. At one point I became too over-zealous in my quest for nutmeg speed grating and dropped a small nutmeg into the tart......oops. Luckily I fished it out and covered the gap with more nutmeg.
All that's left is to cross your fingers and pray that you didn't miss any gaps in the tart and that you won't return to an oven freshly lined with burnt custard and crumbs. The smell coming from the nutmeg is incredible and can be detected streets away. The tart was actually holding everything that I'd put in it, maybe this wasn't going to be so bad after all.
After about 45 minutes the wobble in the middle had reduced to the point I was happy with. Bringing the tart out of the oven almost knocked me out with the smell of nutmeg, strong but pleasant at the same time. The appearance was amazing and uncannily like Marcus's. Tension followed as I had to cut the excess pastry off the edge of the tart without damaging it which is easier said than done. Fortunately no incidents followed and releasing the tart from the ring went without a hitch.
I served the tart at slightly below room temperature placing the rest in the fridge. By now the texture was looking promising and the pastry crisp.
So was it a dish fit for royalty or a trip to the tower? Well considering all the problems I had encountered with the pastry you would never have guessed that when the first slice came out it was like staring at the original. Everything about the presentation element I was delighted with and I have to say the taste matched it. Using whipping cream allows for a lighter texture so there's no heavy after-hit, speaking of light, the pastry is perfect. Light and with that hint of lemon it's ideal for a dessert.