Custard Tarts with Prunes

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These are delicious tarts adapted from a classic prune and Armagnac tart from France. They work beautifully with any stone fruits in summer and equally well with dried fruits plumped in alcohol. The poached pears will also work very well in this recipe.

This tart requires a bit of effort and can be tricky to get right, but if you would like a recipe in your repertoire that will earn you the greatest compliments every time you bake it, this is one to perfect. The difficulty with this recipe is to produce egg yolk custard without it curdling. You are looking for a fairly high ratio of fruit to custard, pouring a small pool of custard around fruit protruding from the tart. Bake the tarts on the top shelf of the oven and if your oven has the option to heat both the top and bottom, set the top element on high. The temperatures given are approximate, and more than any other recipe in this book, you will need to find the temperature and timing that works for your oven. Make sure you keep note of your cooking times and temperatures so that when you get it right, you can repeat it again and again.

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Ingredients

Egg Wash

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25 ml (¾ fl oz) pouring (whipping) cream (35% fat)

Custard

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 45 g ( oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 415 ml (14¼ fl oz) pouring (whipping) cream (35% fat)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways

Method

Put the prunes in a bowl and pour over the brandy. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 24 hours to soak.

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.

Make the egg wash by mixing the egg yolks and cream together in a bowl until well combined. Brush the egg mixture on the base and sides of the tart shells and bake for about 4 minutes to seal the shells — the shells are sealed when the egg wash has dried into a shiny glaze. This will stop the custard soaking into the shells resulting in an unappealing soggy shell.

Place 4 or 5 pieces of drained prune in the base of each pastry shell. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

To make the custard, put the egg yolks and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the bowl and mix on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until combined. Remove the egg yolks from the mixer, pour in the cream and stir in by hand using a whisk. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Pour the custard mixture over the prunes in the pastry shells and fill to the brim. Slide onto the top shelf of the oven and bake for about 5 minutes — at this stage the tarts will be slightly golden on top and just starting to set. Gently shake the baking tray, the custard should be starting to firm around the edge of the tart shell. The custard must not boil, if it boils it will spoil the texture. Reduce the oven temperature to 110°C (225°F/Gas ½) and open the door, holding it ajar with the help of a wooden spoon if needed. Leave the tarts to cook for a further 20 minutes in the cooling oven. Check the custard has set by giving the tray a light shake.

These tarts are best eaten about 2 hours after baking, once they have reached room temperature.