Remember the board game Clue®? It was my favorite board game growing up and I always wanted to be Miss Scarlet. My version was from the 70’s and it used models or actor/actresses for the photos on the cards. Miss Scarlet was a beautiful Asian woman and I thought she was so exotic looking. Given I was not Asian or exotic looking, it made total sense that I wanted to be her in the game.
I still have the game with all the cards and pieces and keep hoping that Antiques Roadshow will come near enough to learn that it’s worth thousands of dollars. (What can I say? I’m a dreamer by nature!)
The woman who modeled for the Miss Scarlet card is Kedakai Turner. She has been married to the same guy since 1970 and who is he?? You may remember him as the guy who interviewed all the actors and actresses on Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton. Remember him?? Just a little bit of trivia before I talk about today’s flip.
Let’s talk eggs. I think eggs are the most versatile ingredient ever produced. What came first – the chicken or the egg? Obviously the egg. What other ingredient can be used to make breakfast, lunch or dinner AND is an ingredient in the majority of recipes? I can’t think of another, can you? Eggs can be savory, sweet, fried, boiled, poached, baked and scrambled and prepared hundreds of ways. How cool is that?
My Grandmother and Mother made egg custard pies a lot when I was kid. It was a dessert that was quick to put together and it only required a few ingredients that were always available. Given my Mom was the Dessert Queen; it wasn’t a recipe that I got overly excited about. I’d much rather have her chocolate pies or coconut cake.
I recently picked up an old recipe book in Foley, AL, entitled 300 Ways to Serve Eggs from the Culinary Arts Institute, 1941. Again, eggs have always been pretty cheap, especially if you owned laying hens. I’m not surprised that someone put together 300 recipes on eggs. Given that’s been 77 years ago, I bet there are 300 more recipes to add. Maybe more.
I decided to try my hand at making egg custard pie. After researching a bit, I decided to try the English version of egg custard tarts instead of a pie. I am attending a function tomorrow after church and thought they would be pretty for the occasion.
The origin of egg custard may surprise you. I found that before the English and Portuguese laid claim, the Chinese were the first to document using eggs in a custard form in Canton. Eventually the Brits did try their hand and it’s their version that I have tried to recreate.
I had thought to make a crème brulee top but honestly after dealing with the crust, I nixed it. I’m glad I did because the finished version is delicious. I think the hard caramelized top would have detracted from the lovely crème custard.
Instead of egg custard pie, I swapped the pie for tarts. The dough for these was new to me. I have not typically made any kind of crust that added egg or ground nuts but this English version did. I blitzed the almonds in my food processor until finely ground.
The dough was much wetter, obviously, but came together very easily. The challenge came when it was time to roll it out and cut the discs for the muffin tins. It took a lot of flour to prevent it from sticking and there were times I gave up using the biscuit cutter and just form the tart by hand in the tin. The whole time I kept thinking that they would never come out of the tin in one piece and was all the extra ingredients and fuss worth it? Well turns out it was. They did come out easier than my first thought and the taste…well it was buttery and the hint of almond was fantastic.
The custard portion I changed up just a bit. The original recipe called for whole milk but I used a combination of milk and half and half. The result was creamier and richer certainly. I’m so glad I forgot the brulee idea. It totally did not need the extra effort or flavor profile. The taste is like a pillow of vanilla cream with the sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Perfection.
I have no idea if this has sparked your attention enough to try yourself but I know one person who will be making this again….and often.
The Recipe: English Egg Custard Tarts (Makes 18 tarts)
1 ½ c. plain flour
½ c. ground almonds
½ c. sugar
10 T unsalted COLD butter (1 stick plus 2 T)
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Grind almonds in food processor or chopper until finely ground.
- In a mixing bowl combine flour and almonds.
- Cut cold butter into cubes and add to flour/almond mixture. With your hands or a pastry blender, mix in butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Stir in sugar last.
- Crack eggs into center of flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a soft dough. It will be a wet dough.
- On a lightly floured surface, form a disc with the dough. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes in the frig.
- After dough has chilled, roll out the dough on a floured surface. Using a large biscuit cutter, cut out 18 discs and line the muffin tins with the pastry circle. The pastry should be a tiny bit above the muffin tin edge. Set aside once tins are lined.
For the Custard:
1 ½ c milk
1 c half and half
7 egg yolks (reserve whites for something else)
½ c sugar
2 t vanilla
Nutmeg for sprinkling on top
- Warm milk in a saucepan until steaming – not simmering or boiling.
- Beat eggs yolks and sugar in a separate bowl until pale yellow and creamy.
- Temper some of the egg mixture with a little of the milk so that no curdling occurs. No use for scrambled eggs in your custard! Once tempered start whisking milk into egg mixture, creating little bubbles. Add vanilla.
- Transfer to a pourable cup. Fill each tart almost to the top of the pastry.
- Sprinkle each tart with nutmeg.
- Bake the tarts for about 25 minutes. After the first fifteen minutes, rotate tins to help with even baking and turn the temp down from 400 to 350. Cook remaining 10 minutes.
- You are looking for a very slight dome on the custard, indicating that it is baked. If the custard domes too much this indicates that you have over-cooked. I was able to remove from oven after the specified 25 minutes and they were cooked to perfection.
- Allow to cool for 30 minutes before trying to remove from tins. Otherwise you are going to have a mess and custard everywhere.
- Since this is mostly dairy and eggs, you will want to refrigerate if you are not planning to immediately serve. Remove from the frig and allow to sit for about 15 minutes at room temperature. Before serving, place in microwave for about 15 seconds and then serve.