Friday, 14 June 2013

Recipe: Chocolate & strawberry custard tart

Chocolate and strawberry custard tart, as made by EJ
For me, June is the season of strawberries, every year, we go strawberry picking on my birthday - and although the last couple of year's pickings have been slim (thank you, rubbish spring weather), there's nothing quite like a fresh Kentish strawberry :) As per tradition, Owen took me strawberry picking on my birthday, as fate would have it, I was also gifted punnets of the fruit by friends who know how much I love them - so with a lot of fresh strawberries to get through, you can expect to see one or two strawberry-based recipes here over the next few posts. The first - chocolate and strawberry custard tart.

The tart contains two layers of custard - it's half filled with baked set vanilla custard - and once cooled, a second layer of chilled, glossy chocolate custard fills the remainder of the case, to finish, the tart is topped with sliced strawberries. The case is a slightly sweetened wholewheat shortcrust pastry. Wholewheat flour adds a bit of a wholesome flavour to the tart - and with just a hint of icing sugar sweetening the pastry, it really allows the rich chocolate custard to become the dominant, but not overwhelming flavour here. In-fact, a less sweet than usual pastry case actually makes this rather rich tart moreish, unlike most sweeter versions. I wouldn't usually champion this as a good thing when it comes to a decadent desert, as this would usually signify some kind of compromise (such as the chocolate custard tasting a bit weak - which would be a total cop out), in this instance, the tart is indulgent and rich, but without a sickening sweetness, it's well balanced - and satisfying.


This recipe calls for a lot of egg yolks (they are used in both the custard and the pastry), it seems a shame to discard the whites, so you could try making some meringues if you have time. I use vodka in my pastry recipe - I learnt anecdotally a few years ago that substituting half the water in shortcrust pastry with vodka improves the recipe significantly. Apparently the alcohol doesn't promote gluten formation- which occurs naturally when you knead flour and water together. Gluten formation increases if the dough is overworked - and will make the finished pastry more solid. So adding vodka to the dough helps the pastry stay together, makes it easy to work with and prevents the cooked pastry from becoming too solid - you retain a little crumble. The science of gluten really is fascinating, I don't entirely understand it, but this article explains the sciency side of things in a really accessible way. 

Use a 28cm fluted tin with a loose base



For the shortcrust pastry case:
280g plain wholewheat flour
1tbs icing sugar
180g butter (chopped and chilled)
2 egg yolks
1tbs ice cold waterwater
1tbs ice cold vodka

For the vanilla custard:
1 egg
1 egg yolk
40g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
100ml double cream
150ml milk

For the chocolate custard:
2 egg yolks
1tsp cornflour
40g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
100ml double cream
150ml milk
100g finely grated dark chocolate (72% cocoa)

For the topping:
Sliced strawberries

To make the pastry case and blind bake it:
(these directions use a food mixer, for instructions for making shortcrust pastry by hand, see my mince pie recipe)

Pour the flour and icing sugar into the mixing bowl of a food mixer fitted with a beater attachment and combine in a couple of short bursts. Add the chopped chilled butter and beat on a low setting until the texture is breadcrumb-like. Add the egg yolks and continue to gently mix, pour in the water and vodka and beat on a low setting to form a dough.

Scoop the dough out of the mixer and form into a ball. Wrap with cling film and chill in the fridge for one hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 190C, or 180C (fan). 

Roll out the dough on a generously floured surface until it's approximately 5mm thick and a little larger than the fluted tart tin. Lay the pastry over the back of the rolling pin and lift it onto the tin, pressing it in, trimming the excess pastry at the sides. Prick the base with a fork, line with tin foil and fill with baking beans (or dried lentils). Blind bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 - 35 minutes.

While the pastry case is blind baking, prepare the vanilla custard.

To make the vanilla custard:
Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan, split the vanilla pod open and scrape the insides into the pan. Heat gently until simmering.

While the milk, cream and vanilla is heating, beat the egg, egg yolk and sugar in a food mixer (with a whisk attachment).

Keep the food mixer whisking the eggs and sugar on a low setting, remove the simmering milk, cream and vanilla mixture from the heat and slowly pour into the food mixer. Make sure the mixer is on as you add the hot liquid to the cold - and that it is poured gradually to help prevent the eggs curdling.

When the pastry case is ready, turn the temperature down to 170C, or 160C (fan), remove the foil and baking beans from the case. With the pastry case still in the oven, pour in the custard. Close the oven door and bake for 40 minutes until set and golden.

Leave to cool in the tin.

To make the chocolate custard:
Pour the milk, cream and grated chocolate into a saucepan, split the vanilla pod open and scrape the insides into the pan. Heat gently until simmering.

While the milk, cream and vanilla is heating, beat the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a food mixer (with a whisk attachment).

Keep the food mixer whisking the eggs and sugar on a low setting, remove the simmering milk, cream, chocolate and vanilla mixture from the heat and slowly pour into the food mixer. Make sure the mixer is on as you add the hot liquid to the cold - and that it is poured gradually to help prevent the eggs curdling.

Return the custard to the pan and heat gently for a few minutes to thicken, when the custard has thickened up to a good spooning consistency, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

When the chocolate custard has cooled to room temperature, transfer it to the fridge to chill.



Finishing the tart:
When the baked custard layer has cooled completely, spoon the chilled chocolate custard on top of the tart and spread outwards from the centre to fill the pastry case.

Top with the sliced strawberries just before serving.

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