Monday, 1 October 2007

Vanilla Tart

I have a confession to make – my name is the Caked Crusader and I am a Vanillaholic. I think vanilla is the greatest flavour there is; nothing can ever be ‘too vanilla-ry’ (yes, I have just made that word up) for me and it breaks my heart that in banking & finance, vanilla is used as a term to mean bland, straightforward and basic – the opposite of exotic.

This tart ticks all the boxes as it’s really a vanilla-heavy version of a custard tart. Pastry always has a classy elegance to it and when it’s made with icing sugar and an egg yolk, is incredibly soft and smooth. I admit this is not a cake – I don’t want you to think that I have abandoned cakes - it’s served in the same way that you would serve a cake so I think I’m allowed to admire it. This tart is beautiful with a cup of tea or as a dessert. I have made it as one large tart but it would be lovely as smaller, individual tarts:

The smell of the tart baking drove me half out of my mind – delicious vanilla and cream and buttery pastry. I almost attacked it with a fork as soon as it came out of the oven! It’s like a slice of sunshine – both the pastry and filling are golden and bright:

This isn’t one to make when you’re pushed for time as there are several stages to the process. However, don’t confuse that with it being complicated – if you glance at the ‘how to make’ section you’ll see that there’s nothing difficult or fiddly to it at all.

I love rolling out pastry. I think pastry is a bit like small children and animals – if it smells fear in you it will give you a hard time; handle it confidently and it will be easy as pie! Of course it helps if you have the largest rolling pin in the world to tame it with – this was an awesome Christmas present from my equally awesome nephew. To give you a sense of scale, that is a LARGE egg next to it:

How exciting a sight is this? Answer – very! This is the vanilla pods helping the cream to become something even more delicious; you can already see the vanilla seeds dispersing. I am very pleased at how clean my hob looks!:

For the pastry
200g plain flour
100g unsalted butter, diced
25g icing sugar
1 egg yolk

For the tart filling
568ml double cream
2 vanilla pods
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk (i.e. in total 4 egg yolks and 3 egg whites)
75g caster sugar

How to make:
- Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until you get the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the icing sugar then add the egg yolk.
- Gradually work in 2-3 tablespoons of cold water until the dough comes together and is soft and smooth. Add the water one tablespoon at a time as you probably won’t need all three. If you add too much water and the dough becomes sticky, sprinkle in an extra pinch of flour.
- Make the pastry into a ball. Place it on a sheet of clingfilm and then press it down so it becomes discus-shaped – I find this makes it much easier to roll out as the pastry doesn’t crack around the edges as much. Then wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking/greaseproof paper. This means you don’t need to flour the board and I love this method as you’re not introducing more flour to the pastry and unbalancing the mix. Clingfilm works too.
- Roll the pastry out to line a 25cm tart tin. The tin needs to be at least 2.5cm deep to hold all the filling.
- Prick the pastry base with a fork and chill for a further 20 minutes. This helps to limit the pastry shrinkage on baking.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/Gas mark 6.
- Line the pastry with baking/greaseproof paper and baking beans and blind-bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 8-10 minutes until the pastry is a light golden colour. Leave to cool.
- Lower the oven temperature to 150°C/fan oven 130°C/Gas mark 2.
- Pour the cream into the saucepan and add the vanilla pods (cut the pods in half lengthways first to allow the seeds to mingle with the cream).
- Bring slowly to the boil then leave to cool – this is when the vanilla will really infuse the cream and the smell in the kitchen is lovely!
- Beat the eggs, egg yolk and sugar. Add the vanilla cream mix – pour it through a sieve to ensure you thoroughly remove the vanilla pod.
- At this point, I added a dash of vanilla extract – this is optional.
- Pour the mixture into the pastry case and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the custard mix is very softly set. Mine took about 45 minutes. The custard continues to firm as it cools so don’t over bake it.
- Remove from the oven and cool in tin.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.


Merf Gustav's Keeper said...

apparently the answer to the oft sung football terrace question of 'who ate all the set vanilla tart ?' is me.

at least according to the Caked Crusader when explaining to colleagues why there is none for them today.

check her mothers fridge is my advice to them, not my innards

Soo said...

Now who am I to believe: The Caked Crusader (a superhero who might deceive about many things - but could only speak truthfully about baking) or someone who ate all the vanilla tart?

Not everyone knows this but knitters are particularly motivated to random acts of kindness towards raccoons by vanilla tart. I fear this week will be pretty unproductive.

Deborah said...

I, too, never understood why vanilla is supposed to mean "boring." There is nothing boring about this tart!!

Team Knit ! said...

I too love vanilla above all other baking flavours. That it is a synonym for 'bland' is a travesty that was obviously perpetuated by artifical vanilla exstract! I can't wait to try this tart.....
- Julie

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering does anybody have a recipe for vanilla tart that has a kind of gelatine base?

I had it in Cape Town at a hotel, it is the best vanilla experience I have ever had