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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Friday, September 16, 2005

SHF: Dark Chocolate Custard in Almond Shortcrust Tarts

This edition of Sugar High Friday, hosted by Elise of Simply Recipes has the theme of custard. Now, I like custard well enough, but I'm not overly crazy about it. I find it can be a bit goopy and bland tasting for me, but the boyfriend just adores the stuff, and custard was one of the few things that my dad enjoyed cooking for himself. I think it was a comfort food for him, and I have strong memories of him standing by the stove carefully stirring his pan of bright yellow mixture.
I think many people still think that custard comes from a box, and you just add milk and get that lurid orangey/yellow bland-tasting goop. In fact, when talking custard with my Aussie grandmother and I mentioned something about all the egg yolks it needed, she looked surprised and said "What? No custard powder?". No. No custard powder; possibly that's why I'm not such a huge fan of it, having had that experience as a child! :-)
Some years back my mum discovered a recipe for the Italian style custard you make to fill profiteroles, to make a croquembouche, which is her signature cake-making item. It's full of egg yolks and cream, and very thick and rich. It's a million times better than the boxy stuff, and I like it well enough in the little bigne but again I would't want to eat an entire bowl!

I initially didn't think I'd have a chance to enter this edition of SHF, as I knew I'd be pretty flat-out doing stuff for my friend's hen's party (tomorrow!), but when I looked through "Bill Granger's Open Kitchen" and spotted all the biscuit and cake recipes I wanted to make, this was the one my mum specifically requested. She thought something unctious and chocolatey would be good for a group of women, and I heartily agree. The photo of them was gorgeous, and I actually tried to replicate it in my own photo below. After she chose it, I realised it would fit exactly with the SHF theme I had decided I couldn't do. So, don't things work out well?

They're very easy to make, especially as the small amount of cornflour stabilises and thicken the mixture, so you don't have to stand there for years, stirring over a low flame hoping to God that it doesn't split or curdle. The taste is thick, rich and full of bitter dark chocolate and yet this is the short-cut custard version, that still avoids using that box of Custard Powder!

Bill suggested using sheets of frozen puff pastry for the bases, but I was concerned that making them in advance and freezing them would affect the texture of the pastry too much. I knew they wouldn't end up crisp and flaky, so I chose to use the sweet almond shortcrust pastry from the Bakewell Tart in Nigella's How To Eat. And I think the result is so much better than frozen puff pastry. The almond shortcrust has a nice sweetness that cuts through the bitter chocolate custard, and the texture is cake-like and a bit crumbly. It's just a perfect combination. In fact, on Sunday when I made these, A. was spending a quiet day on the couch with a blanket and the Foxtel remote, and I offered one of the tart cases which I'd botched up, in a bowl topped with the still warm chocolate custard. His response:

"Oh no. These are awful! Terrible! You can't serve them up to people. I'd better eat the rest....."
A ringing endorsement from a real custard fan!

Check out the roundup of all custard recipes here:
Read on for the recipe:

Dark Chocolate Custard in Almond Shortcrust Tarts
Adapted from Bill Granger and Nigella Lawson

3 egg yolks
55g (1/4 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
185ml (3/4 cup) cream
125ml (1/2 cup) water
150g (1 cup) dark chocolate, grated or chopped finely

Almond Pastry:
175g plain flour, sifted
50g ground almonds
65g icing sugar
130g butter, diced
1 egg yolk

Make the pastry by hand, in a free-standing mixer or processor as you like. Sift the flour, a pinch of salt, the ground almonds and sugar into the bowl and combine. Add the diced butter and combine. When it looks like fine crumbs add the egg yolk to make a soft, but not sticky dough. Do not overprocess. You may need to add a few drops of ice-cold water if some crumbs of pastry remain at the bottom of the bowl. Wrap the disc of pasty in paper or plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.

While it is resting preheat the oven to 200C and make the custard. Place the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the cream and water and whisk again. Pour into a saucepan and place over the medium heat. Stir until the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted. Leave to cool.

Roll out the cooled pastry and cut into rounds 10cm (4 inches) in diameter - yes, quite large - and place in a 12 cup muffin tin. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, until golden. Leave to cool and then remove from the tin and fill with the cooled chocolate custard. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Note: the Bill Granger custard recipe was for 18 tarts, but Nigella's pastry only made enough for 12. You could either cut each pastry round a little smaller, which would work, or do as I did and have bulkily swelling cups full to the brim with custard.


  • Hi Niki! These look fantastic! Your homemade pastry looks like it turned out a lot better than mine...

    Have fun at the hen's party tomorrow!

    By Blogger Kelly, at 9/16/2005 11:07:00 am  

  • Oh these look goooooood. Dark chocolate custard and almond shortcrust. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

    ps. I don't believe you when you say you botched up your first lot of pastry! ;-P

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/16/2005 01:36:00 pm  

  • ok...I don't even have time to read the whole post...but good lord! does that amazing!

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 9/16/2005 01:42:00 pm  

  • This same recipe (or one very similar, since yours isn't posted yet, Niki) is on the cover of Bon Appetit this month, too! But I think yours look tastier.

    By Blogger Nic, at 9/16/2005 02:51:00 pm  

  • this looks fabulous! i love almond and chocolate together :-)

    By Blogger tanvi, at 9/16/2005 03:46:00 pm  

  • But doesn't the chocolate demolish the balance between the pastry and the custard?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/16/2005 08:05:00 pm  

  • Kelly - The pastry was a bit fragile, actually which was why one of them crumbled as I tried to remove it!

    AG - No, really I did! Although I was wondering how I would be able to get a taste test beforehand, so it was most fortuitous!

    Stephanie - they do look pretty good, don't they. :-)

    Cin - and there are quite a few more baking recipes to come...Quite a few!!

    Nic - I've now seen the cover and it looks fantastic. I think their tart is probably pure chocolate ganache rather than custard, which makes my mouth water even more.

    Tanvi - it's a nice combination, and one that wasn't intended in the original recipe.

    Owen - I understand what you mean, but I think in some ways it actually enhances the custard. The 'custardy' taste comes through very strongly; to me there is a pronounced vanilla flavour even though I only used 1 teaspoon (but I did use very expensive extract). Also, the amount of chocolate isn't enormous, despite the colour. For me it actually tasted a bit too much like custard for my liking, so I'm happy to let others enjoy them tomorrow. I'd go for a chocolate mousse or ganache tart as my preference.

    By Blogger Niki, at 9/16/2005 09:59:00 pm  

  • Niki, these look gorgeous. I'm specially taken with the pastry with almond meal. I'll have to make it. By the way, I love custard made with the powder and tons of cinnamon.

    By Blogger Ana, at 9/17/2005 12:30:00 am  

  • Kinda irrelevant but they look like giant Pods!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/17/2005 02:42:00 am  

  • Great photo! Those look really yummy!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/17/2005 02:59:00 am  

  • Niki, those custard cups look gorgeous. I love dark chocolate and almond shortcrusts - fabulous choice.

    By Blogger Ruth Daniels, at 9/17/2005 01:32:00 pm  

  • The custard looks very dark, so I assumed the chocolate flavour would be strong. I hated custard when I was young, but eventually I discovered custard tarts dusted with cinnamon and then while roaming round the Iberian Peninsula I made the acquaintance of natillas in Bailen and pasteis de Belem in Lisbon. Mmmm.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/18/2005 04:55:00 am  

  • Jaysus, that looks amazing. I am so going to have to try to make those. Hey, I've added your blog on mine as an interesting link. I hope you don't mind. But if you do, just let me know and I will take it off post haste.


    By Blogger Stephanie, at 9/19/2005 12:45:00 am  

  • These look absolutely wonderful -- a chocolate tart in a sea of yellow! :)

    By Blogger Lori, at 9/19/2005 05:07:00 pm  

  • These look soooo good indeed! Just a perfect mouthful. I like the idea of almond shortcrust. Mmmmm..

    By Blogger Pille, at 9/21/2005 01:45:00 am  

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