Ginger Brûlée Tarts

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The idea behind this tart came about many years ago when I was travelling through the Indian Himalayas. It was here that I first tasted the flavours of masala chai, the spiced sweet milky tea that is drunk in all chai shops in India. At first I wanted to make a custard flavoured with these spices and years later, when the Bakery opened its doors, I did, only by then it had morphed into a chai spiced brûlée. Although we call it the ginger brûlée tart, it actually contains some of the spices commonly used in masala chai and is a popular favourite at the Bakery.

This tart filling is one of the most challenging in the book — the brûlée filling is easy to overcook and easy to undercook. This version of the filling uses pouring cream with a 35 per cent fat content, which results in a softer filling than the one we produce at the Bakery, where we use a cream with 45 per cent fat that is often hard to find in shops.

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Ingredients

  • 720 ml (25 fl oz) pouring (whipping) cream (35% fat)
  • 5 cm (2 inch) piece ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 cardamom pod, bruised
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 80 g (23.4 oz/1.3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra for burning
  • 1 quantity sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 11.2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped

Method

Put the cream into a saucepan over high heat and add the ginger, cardamom and cinnamon stick. As soon as it boils, remove from the heat, pour into a large container or bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator overnight for the flavours to infuse.

Reheat the infused cream in a saucepan over medium–high heat, bring to simmering point, then remove from the heat. Set aside until needed.

Place the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl and use a whisk to combine. Add the sugar and continue whisking for about 30 seconds, or until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the warmed cream through a fine sieve, discarding the spices, then pour the cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking well to combine.

Put the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water, and continue stirring with a whisk for about 10–15 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and thick, scraping down the sides of the bowl regularly with a rubber spatula. It is important to keep stirring at all times or the mixture will curdle. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk briskly for about 2 minutes to cool it quickly. Over the next 1 hour, whisk the mixture every 10 minutes until cooled. Use a rubber spatula to clean the side of the bowl thoroughly and place plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture; refrigerate overnight to set.

Follow the instructions to roll out the pastry and use it to line twenty 8 cm ( inch) round fluted loose-based tart tins. Set the pastry cases in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Blind bake the tart cases in a preheated 200°C (400°F/Gas 6) oven for 20–25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Pipe the custard into the tart shells with a piping (icing) bag fitted with a plain nozzle — you should just slightly overfill the filling in each one. With a small pallet knife, scrape the custard to be flush with the top of the tart shell. Place in the refrigerator to set for 4 hours.

Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon caster sugar over the top of each tart and burn with a blowtorch to caramelise the top. Sprinkle a few pistachios on top to serve.

Variation

If you prefer, you can omit the blowtorch step and serve the tarts simply with the ginger custard — just sprinkle a few pistachios directly onto the custard to serve.