Anyone who knows me is aware of my complete lack of patriotism and love for the United States. By no means does my indifference constitute hatred, more so an inability to connect with the history of the country and "what it means to be American." My love for apple pie notwithstanding, I also find myself with no particular affinity toward the culinary history of the US. This may be because the country is so young, and is, though the phrase is quite hackneyed, a melting pot of its immigrant cultures. My own wandering nationalism aside, I do enjoy a proper picnic, and the Fourth of July is a perfect holiday to enjoy the company of friends, family, and good food.
Loathe to miss an opportunity to cook something with a pinch of history, I chose to whip up a custard tart - decorated, of course, in stars and stripes. Egg custard tarts are actually a quintessentially British dish. In fact, it was chosen as the dessert in the Queen's 80th birthday baquet six years back. Known as doucettes or daryoles in Medieval times, they were also served at the coronation feast of Henry the IV. The recipes often included mutton and bone marrow, combining sweet and savoury in a distinctly medieval way. Milk was also swapped for almond milk to make the tarts permissible during Lent. Egg custards stuck in the culinary culture of East Anglia in particular, and have evolved only slightly from their ancient recipes. As in my tart, many egg custard tarts now have elaborate fruit toppings, often glazed with sugar, showing the influence that French patisserie had and has on modern cuisine.
Happy Fourth, dear readers. Here's a picture of Ronald Reagan on a velociraptor to celebrate. Find the recipe after the jump.
- 250g flour
- 150g butter
- 100g sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- Zest of 1lemon
For the custard
- 125 g sugar
- 1 pint milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 250 ml whipping cream
- Fruit and confectioners sugar for topping
To make the shortcrust:
In a large bowl, mix the flour and sugar, and rub in the butter. When completely worked in, add the egg yolks and zest and mix till combined. Add enough ice water to just bring the dough together, and shape into a disc. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate at least 30 minutes
When chilled, roll out and line a tart pan. Blind bake for 15 minutes or till golden brown.
To make the filling:
Bring the milk to a gentle boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan, then remove from heat. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until it is a light yellow color. Add the flour and mix well. Slowly add the scalded milk, whisking continuously. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, as a double boiler, and stir continuously till the custard becomes thick. Remove from heat and allow to cool, covering the surface with clingfilm.
To assemble the tart:
Whip the whipping cream to create whipped cream and fold into the cooled custard. Fill the crust with the custard cream mixture, and top with fruit and confectioners sugar. Serve immediately.