Stephanie Alexander’s Baked Custard Tart

Thanks to my lovely chickens, I often find myself with an excess of eggs. Sometimes I give them away. Sometimes I try and find ways to use a few up. Recently I have made two versions of Stephanie Alexander’s Baked Custard Tart. She writes that it’s an old favourite and she’s right. I adore custard tarts and was curious to see how homemade versions differed from those wobbling, gelatinous tarts you buy in the shops. They’re very different as were both of my tarts.

The first was nice enough but fairly disappointing because it was so thin. I know I had to overcome the memory of the aforementioned shop versions but still, this was almost wafer thin.


The pastry was also very thin. I like thin pastry but this was kind of soggy as well, despite the requisite blind baking. The problem I decided was my aged tart tin – you know the kind. It has a removable bottom. I’m sure they have their place but this was just such a shallow, thin tart that I knew it could be better.

Amazingly, when I was about to go and buy something new, I found in the back of my plastics cupboard a silicon tart dish that was deeper and, apparently, forgotten since I bought it some time in the past. Aha! This would help immensely. And it did.

This time I made the same shortcrust pastry from Stephanie’s recipe but I added 2tbs of icing sugar. A plain tart base has its place but I thought it needed to be just a little sweeter, especially since the custard isn’t overly sweet itself. The custard is alarmingly simple and tasty – and beautifully yellow thanks to my fresh eggs. The result was magnificent!


I do struggle a little with shrinking pastry. When I’ve cut it off neatly at the surface with a swift rolling pin over the top, it looks lovely but as soon as I blind bake it, it shrinks from the sides and shrivels down most unflatteringly into the tin. This time I left a hint of overhang and after blind baking, it sat beautifully. No shrinkage at all, beyond just a little settling into the dish. And with the dish being a little deeper than the old tin, there was no left over custard. It filled the case perfectly and one hour later, it looked golden brown and perfect.

On slicing it, I still found the custard a little wet and watery at the bottom. Perhaps that was because I used skim milk with the cream and not full cream milk. I’ll try full cream milk next time and see how it affects the outcome.


And here is the recipe.

1 quantity shortcrust pastry (with 2tbs added icing sugar)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 cups cream
1 cup milk
3tbs castor sugar
freshly grated nutmeg (I forgot this bit!)

Line a 24cmx 4cm deep loose bottomed flan tin with pastry, cover with foil and pastry weights (i use old dried beans) and bake at 200C for 20 mins until golden
Remove pastry case from oven, remove foil. Brush with egg white and bake for another 5 mins to seal crust
Reduce oven temp to 160C.
Whisk eggs and egg yolks together.
Heat milk and cream, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Strain liquid over eggs and stir gently.
Pour into pastry case and bake for one hour. Check after 50mins.
Generously grate nutmeg over the top while tart is warm. Serve cold.

Of course now I write the recipe out I see Stephanie says to use a dish that’s 4cm deep. Obviously I missed that bit the first time around! It pays to read the recipe, doesn’t it?



5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Delly
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 10:13:03

    Yum yum yum yum yum!!! I love a good custard tart. the idea of making your own is such a good one. I am so trying this one.

    The wateryness can be an issue. We need to brainstorm why this is so. I think the use of skim could certainly be a place to start. There is certainly a place in cooking for full-fay milk. Nigella swears by it so it must be true.

    I’ll wait for my egg delivery form you before I make one.


  2. RoseRed
    Feb 15, 2011 @ 16:19:55

    mmm custard tart! I’m not great at pastry, I should practise more shouldn’t I??!! I also rarely pay attention to the dimensions of the suggested tin in recipes, sometimes to my detriment. It’s a bit hard on the tin storage drawer trying to fit in all the possible permutations.


    • Delly
      Feb 16, 2011 @ 13:10:41

      Rose Red – I have very rarely taken any notice the dimension of cake tins. However, I think I have finally got the message that it is actually worth noting. I’m a slow learner!


  3. David Hilyard
    Feb 16, 2011 @ 07:02:06

    Full steam ahead, never read the recipe! This looks sensational. Skim is the watery custard culprit, for sure – skim milk is basically just water with a bit of milk sugars and proteins, but you need the fat to help polymerise the custard strucure and absorb excess water.

    I bet it tasted great – custard that is not too sweet, but eggy with hints of vanilla and cinnamon is the bomb!

    Shop custard tarts are alarming confections, aren’t they?


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