baked custard & date grand marnier tart

Homemade Custard Tart is another sweet obsession of mine. I'm still discovering custard tart inspiration in my dreams and travels. The portugese and italian ones are amongst my favourites, along with Bill Granger's simple and scrummy Chocolate Custard Tarts from his Open Kitchen recipe book. I'd love to hear about your favourites in comments below.

This one, a frenzy of custard, cream and sweet orange is just lovely -  a delightful afternoon tea offering or sophisticated dinner party dessert. 

As I adore dates and you know how I feel about oranges, I’ve happily settled on my recipe today. However please feel free to substitute the dates for pitted prunes or other dried fruits (and liqueurs) you love. You can also top with toasted nuts after baking, if your heart so desires. By all means, experiment with your custard tart creations, whether individual serves, one large round or a long rectangular beauty.  Get creative or get classic -  just remember, good quality vanilla pods make all the difference to your custard.

Ingredients - For filling: 250 grams (1 ½ cups) pitted dates, chopped into small pieces ❤ ¼ cup boiling water ❤  2 tablespoons Grand Marnier Liqueur  For Almond Pastry: 185 grams (1¼ cups) plain flour ❤ 55 grams (⅓ cup) pure icing sugar  ❤ 30 grams (¼ cup) almond meal ❤ 125 grams unsalted butter, chilled and chopped coarsely ❤ 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked ❤ 1 orange - rind zested finely plus fruit segments for serving (optional) For Vanilla Custard ❤ 300ml thickened cream ❤ 3 eggs ❤ 150 grams caster sugar  ❤ 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped ❤ icing sugar & double cream, for serving

prep time: 15 mins cook time: 1 hr 10 mins (plus resting) serves 8

Method - Grease a deep loose-bottomed round tart tin or springform cake tin, 26cm in diameter. Chop dates into small pieces finely and cover with boiling water to soften. While dates are soaking, prepare the almond pastry.  Sift flour and icing sugar together into your mixer bowl.  Add almond meal and mix until combined, or use your fingertips. Add chopped cold butter and mix/process until fine crumbs form.  Add egg yolk and orange zest and mix only until dough just comes together.

Scrape bowl down to gather pastry together and knead briefly into a ball, flatten into a round disc with your hands. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C (350°F/Gas Mark 4). Roll pastry out onto a floured piece of baking paper, until you achieve a smooth, rounded 5mm-thick circle, ready to use for lining the bottom of your tart tin. Trim edges until neat and prick all over with a fork. Blind bake until just starting to colour (approx 15mins), before removing baking paper and weights. Finish baking pastry shell until golden (approx 5mins).  Cool completely.

While pastry is cooking, add the Grand Marnier to the softened dates. Process until the dates form a smooth paste.  Spread paste evenly over the cooled pastry shell with a flat knife (an icing palette knife is handy) and set aside.

To make the vanilla custard, warm the cream in a saucepan until it almost reaches boiling point. Remove pan from heat before it boils and allow to cool just a little, say 4-5 minutes. While waiting, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a medium sized jug or bowl. Slowly whisk in the warm cream and pour this custard evenly and slowly over date filling.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until set in the centre and starting to turn golden.  Remove and allow to cool to room temperature. Dust generously with icing sugar. Serve with orange segments and double cream in neatly cut wedges. 

For Grand Marnier fans - check out their website when you get a chance. For fellow citrus buffs, the process of creating Grand Marnier’s famous wild orange essence from handpicked, under-ripe Caribbean oranges is well worth a read. Their gastronomy link has some fab recipe inspiration too. Not to mention those irresistible long drinks definitely worth pouring with friends over the weekend.  Enjoy your Grand Mojito (oh and tarts!) MFK friends.  x