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Sunday, 3 January 2016

Apple Custard Tarts


A new year brings new year resolutions, but I'd like us all to stop right there. Before you say it, can we all just skip the no more sugar plan and bake on, let's carry on with sweet deliciousness, because I always believe and what everyone else should too is that we all deserve a little bit of it now and then, just in moderation - that's what I say! So, as every other foodie blogger and recipe book writer releases their sugar-free, raw and just about everything else 'free from' (namely just because it's January), I'm saying try my apple custard tarts. They're not sugar free or anything else in that league, but what they do is bring us something familiar; comforting and nostalgic at a time of year when change is happening all around us. 


One change for me is my camera. Yes. I've finally moved away from point and shoot and jumped to the DLSR Canon club. And you're saying what you took you so long? Well, I agree it took me awhile. I'm all very new to this and like everything else, it needs lots (and I mean lots) of practise. But I'm already getting to grips with it, this being my first 'proper' attempt with aperture and all that... and I have to say I'm pretty happy with the outcome. Bear with me though as I experiment - I'll get the hang of it eventually.  


I came up with this recipe when first thinking how to use up some much unloved puff pastry that had been hanging out in our fridge since the start of Christmas (don't worry it was still perfectly useable!) Then interpreting the way you fill muffin tins ready for portuguese tarts sprung to mind. Instead here I blind bake the pastry, like you would shortcrust and they turn out all beautifully flaky still, allowing them to be the perfect case to hold a multitude of fillings. I lightly spiced my apples and loaded my creme patisserie with vanilla to create a lovely hum of flavour notes. 


The tarts need no accompaniment, great just as they are, but be sure to eat them on the day of making or the next at a push (they go soggy after a while). If you're eating the rest the following day you could warm up some maple syrup to brush over the apples if in need of a little revival. 

Apple  Custard  Tarts

Ingredients:
Makes 9

For the custard
3 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
20g cornflour
250ml milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract/paste

For the pastry cases
3 tbsp caster sugar
300g all butter ready-rolled puff pastry 
Vegetable oil spray to grease the tin

For the apples
2 eating apples or cooking ones if you have them
25g unsalted butter
70g dark brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 star anise

Method

To make the custard, first whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl with the caster sugar for a few minutes until thick, creamy and light, then whisk in the cornflour. Pour the milk into a medium sized preferably non-stick saucepan and add the vanilla. Put over a high heat and bring to the boil. Then once the milk has come to the boil, turn off the heat and pour the milk in a slow steady stream over the egg mixture, whisking constantly. 

Return the mixture back to the pan and whisk continuously over a medium heat, making sure you scrape down the sides and the bottom to eliminate burning and lumps. Once it releases a bubble or two and it has thickened take it off the heat. Pour the custard into a wide bowl and place cling film over the top to stop a skin forming. Allow it to cool to room temperature and then once cooled remove the cling film and pour it into a large piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle. Put in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ Gas 4.  

Now to make the pastry cases. Dust the work surface with half of the caster sugar and place your ready rolled sheet of rectangular pastry on top of the sugar surface. Dust the top of the pastry with the remaining sugar and roll a rolling pin over to press the sugar into it.  Tightly roll the pastry up, from one horizontal side to the other, making a log shape. Cut the roll into equal sized pieces so you have 9 in total, roughly 3cm wide each. Discard the ends. Take a 12 hole muffin tin and grease each hole lightly with vegetable spray. Place each piece spiral side up into each hole of the tin and use your thumb to push the dough outwards so that you evenly line the base and sides of the tin. 

Prick the base of each one with a fork, then line with a small piece of baking paper or foil and add ceramic beans to each. Blind bake them for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden and cooked through (check by lifting one out of the tin). Remove each one from the tin immediately otherwise they will start to stick by the sugar caramelising in the tin. Leave to cool on a wire rack before filling. 

To prepare the apples; peel, core and slice both and place into a pan along with the butter and sugar over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then add the spices - cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise.  Turn down the heat and simmer for around 5 minutes until the apples are soft but still holds their shape. Remove from the heat, leave to infuse for a few minutes with the spices and then remove the star anise. 

Drain the apples from the liquor, but reserving a few spoonfuls for later. To assemble the tarts, pipe enough chilled custard into each pastry case so that it reaches the rim. Then top with 3 apple slices and drizzle over a little of the reserved syrup liquor to glaze them. Serve straight away or store in the fridge for later. 

What  I  was  Baking  to...

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