Pastry, Custard Cream & Fruit – What more do you need?

The word tart derives from old French ‘tarte‘, which means flat pastry.  It may be blasphemy, but when I think of French pastry, the tarte supersedes the quintessential croissant (which deservedly reigns if made perfectly).  More interesting and sophisticated, the tart most likely is a derivation of the original workhorse, the pie (or in old English ‘pye‘).

Passed from the Pharaohs, to the Greeks and Romans, then to Medieval England and France, and essentially throughout all of Europe and the Near East, the original primitive pie recipe eventually transformed into various offshoots, both savoury and sweet, giving birth to one which is this open-faced, fruit-filled custard reposed in a cradle (or ‘coffyn’) of tender crust.

There are several different recipes for pastry dough.  I love a soft, slightly denser, but still flakey version.  As for the custard, go British: one cannot skimp on the number of eggs, and heavy cream is a prerequisite for those who like to live dangerously.  Everyone has their version of custard – I like mine using flour instead of corn starch.  As for the fruit, well, it depends on what’s in season – and nothing is more wholesome than apples, though I confess that nectarines give it a fragrant twist.

In keeping with peace across the channel, so to speak, this recipe is a marriage between French pastry and English cream.  Who could ask for a better combo? The process may seem involved, as in any marriage, but you will enjoy the product, just like the kings of past!

Apple Custard Tarte Recipe

Pastry Cream:

11/4 cup milk (or 1/2 cup milk + 3/4 cup cream)

1/3 cup sugar

3 tbsps flour+1tbsp milk (blended separately)

3 egg yolks (4 if you’re like yellow)

1 tsp vanilla

Pastry Crust:

11/4 cup flour

1 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

8 tbsp cold butter, cubed

1 egg yolk

Apple filling:

3 Granny Smith apples (or your choice of semi-sweet+sour) – sliced

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 stick butter

Juice and zest from one large lemon or two small lemons

1. Prepare crust: Combine all dry ingredients. Rub/cut diced butter cubes into flour mixture until uneven small and large crumbs. Add egg yolk.  Gather dough together, press, and make into disk.  Plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.

2. Prepare apples: Toss apples in sugar and lemon juice and zest. Over stovetop, melt butter at medium temperature until slightly brown.  Pour in apples. Sprinkle with salt and cook for five minutes, or until apples are slightly soft (but still are firm). Set aside or refrigerate.

3. Prepare custard:

Mix flour sugar and eggs together in a small bowl.  Heat the milk/cream mixture until just below boiling. Pour into the flour/egg mixture and stir.  Place back onto stove and simmer at low heat, stirring continuously, until you see the mixture thickening.  Depending on how thick you wish it, remove from stove at your perfect consistency.  Pour into a clean bowl.  Cover custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Putting it together:

Remove dough and let stand until it is slightly soft. Preheat oven to 375°F.

  1. Roll out dough and press into a rectangular fluted metal pastry dish with removable bottom.  Cover with aluminum foil, weighted down by pie weights (I use uncooked beans).  Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil, then another ten minutes or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool. Remove custard from fridge.
  2. When crust is cooled, pour custard until 1/2 filled.
  3. Individually place apple slices into custard.

Serve with some whipped cream.  Delicieux!

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