Hello dear reader. Do you watch the BBC’s Great British Bake Off? A bunch of amateur bakers are being given various challenges to see which of them will be crowned “Best Baker” at the end of the series. It’s a show I’ve dipped in and out of in previous series but this year I’m quite hooked and have been avidly watching every episode.
Did you see the custard tart fiasco last week? It was pastry mayhem, curdled custard, oven catastrophes and as for getting the darn things out of the muffin trays, well let’s just say a couple of contestants served up deconstructed (no lets be honest – disintegrated) custard tarts.
So, it’s not like me to laugh at other people’s misfortunes – I think that is a pretty mean thing to do. However, once I’d stopped laughing(!), my first thought was “wow – I never knew custard tarts were so difficult to make” and my second thought was “I must have a go”.
The judges are Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood & for this challenge the contestant’s were baking using Paul’s recipe, which Paul told us should look like this…
There are only two of us here, so I didn’t want 12 huge custard tarts, so I decided to half Paul’s recipe. This means messing around with half gram measurements. No problem – I have great digital electronic scales. I try to switch on said scales & first PROBLEM of the day – batteries run out & no spares. I should have just gone with the whole recipe there and then but I persisted in the half recipe using my rubbish little mechanical scales. The dough seemed quite sticky but I thought that would be rectified once it had been in the fridge for half an hour. I was WRONG!
Chuck it out & start again with full recipe measurements. Success! It is still quite a sticky dough but at least workable this time around.
Rolled it out and got my largest cutter. I need an 11cm one. I measure my largest & it is only 9 cm. I use it anyway and find the circle of pastry only half fills the muffin mould – PROBLEM! I scour around the kitchen & dining room trying to find something around 11cm in diameter. Glasses, bowls, side plates, plastic lids – everything is either far too large or far too small & the sink is piling up with slightly floury mismatched circular-shaped crockery. I ditch the muffin mould and get out my bun trays. The tarts are going to end up very shallow but hey ho – not much else to be done. I can see the pastry is a bit thick in places but darn it, I’m not going to refrigerate and re-roll AGAIN! Of course, now I’m using bun trays, I have far too much pastry for the 12 tarts stated in the recipe and end up with 24 (remember all that wasted time at the start trying to half the recipe to six??).
Next up is the custard, which seems to go scarily smoothly and a short while later the pastry cases are full, dusted with nutmeg, and ready for the oven.
There is some custard left over in the pan and I bring it to the boil to thicken it for a little apres-lunch treat. It doesn’t thicken! PROBLEM – if boiling it in a pot doesn’t thicken it, how will cooking it in the oven work?! I envisage taking my cute little custard tarts out to find them still swimming. I sigh deeply, then look around the kicthen at the absolute mess of flour and left over pastry not to mention a sink piled high with dirty dishes. Sigh again.
HOWEVER the kitchen is now filling with the gorgeous aroma of pastry baking with a hint of nutmeg in the air. Mmm, I start to relax. The timer goes and I bravely peek in the oven. WOW – they look good. Some are a little too brown on top where the custard has bubbled up but mostly looking OK. I nervously slide the trays out, expecting the custard to still be swimming around – but no – it is set with that lovely gentle wobble! Wowee.
I leave them for 10 minutes before trying to remove from the trays. I expect that they might fall apart when I try to lift them – you know that deconstructed/disintegrated thing we saw on the show – but no problems – they all come out beautifully. The ones cooked in silicone are a little soft, so they are definitely best cooked in metal trays. I bite into one – oh my – it is delicious. The pastry is a bit thick but is crisp and crumbly. I look at the base of one – not bad – almost all the same colour throughout – an “even bake” as Paul and Mary would say. There is a bit too much pastry for the amount of custard (due to the bun tray substitution earlier) but I wolf down another two anyway – you know they might just be worth all that stress!
So, would I make them again? Yes but with some amendments. I think I would use my own sweet pastry recipe (sorry Paul!), which is not quite so sticky a dough. Also, I will wait until I have the correctly sized cutter for moulding muffin-sized tarts, or perhaps I’ll just go for a full-size custard tart in a flan tin and then there won’t be any faffing around with cutters – just the “simple” lining of a flan tin!
The GBBO contestants are back again tonight and their challenges this week are traybakes and tuiles. I’ve never attempted a tuile, so I promise not to laugh if there are any problems, well not much anyway! Tell you what, if I do laugh, then I challenge myself to make tuiles this week!