Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ginger brûlée tarts

Photo credit: The Quiltmaker

The head notes to this recipe in Bourke Street Bakery cookbook says these tarts, especially their fillings,  are one of the most challenging items in the book, so how could I resist? The challenges I faced were more to do with locating my tiny loose-bottomed tart tins (I found two, with several extra bases), remembering to replenish my stocks of cinnamon quills and achieving an evenly browned rather than spotted blackened crust with my blowtorch. 

Given the lack of tart tins (the recipe provided quantities for 20), and the warning about their difficulty, I decided to treat this as a practice attempt and made only four. I also used leftover sweet shortcrust pastry rather than making the recipe in the book, which I’ll do for the real thing.

They were fabulous, even with their charred edges and acrid sugar. I do love a good masala chai, and these were inspired by chai on the author’s travels through the Himalayas.

 Adapted from the larger quantity in Bourke Street Bakery, pp264–5

Note: don’t get up the morning of a dinner party expecting to whip these up for dessert! They need to be started two days ahead, or you might get away with one if you skimp on either or both the infusing and custard-chilling.

145mL pouring cream
2cm piece of ginger, finely sliced
1 cardamom pod, bruised
½ cinnamon stick
2 egg yolks
20g caster sugar, plus more for dredging and burning later
small chunk sweet shortcrust pastry, enough for lining 4 8cm tart tins
chopped pistachios for decorating

Heat the cream with the ginger, cardamom and cinnamon stick until it comes to the boil. Pour into a container, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Reheat to simmering point, then set aside.

Whisk egg yolks, then add sugar and keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved. Strain the spices out of the warmed cream, which is then whisked with the yolks and sugar to combine. Put the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (which mustn’t touch the base of the bowl), and keep whisking until your arm protests bitterly and the mixture is thick enough for tracks to be left in the wake of the whisk. 

This’ll be the most boring ten minutes of your life, so keep a companion handy to talk to and don’t be tempted to leave the whisking for even a few seconds. It’s okay to quickly change arms, but that’s all. Take the bowl off the heat and keep whisking for another minute or two to take some of the heat out of the mixture. Over the next hour, keep whisking every ten minutes until the mixture is totally cool. Press cling wrap to the surface to prevent a skin forming, and refrigerate overnight to set.

Line tart tins, freeze for 20 minutes, then blind bake at 200C for 20–25 minutes until golden. Allow to cool. Pipe the chilled custard into them, slightly overfilling, then scrape the custard flush with the top of the tart shell with a palette knife. Set in the fridge for 4 hours.

Sprinkle a teaspoon of caster sugar over the top of each tart and caramelise it with a blowtorch, somehow not blackening the tart crust edges as you do so. My caster sugar kept blowing itself into little balls that then became black blobs, but here and there were patches of perfect goldenness like an encouragement. Sprinkle a few pistachio fragments on top to serve, which I didn’t. Sprinkle pistachios, that is; I did serve, if marching into the Quiltmaker’s office and plonking it before her with a demand to sample and assess counts as serving. I think it does, and she didn’t seem to mind – she kindly took a photo in order to tweet about it, which I am now stealing as I neglected to take one of the finished item, as I am wont to do. Forget to take final pic, that is. And steal those of others to make up for my neglectfulness. But I consider the making of these tarts over several days penance enough.

So I shall make these again, probably in a quantity of ten, and serve with ice-cream. What ice-cream, I don’t know. Maybe a raspberry, as different enough to the custard and pretty besides, both advantages over a plain vanilla.

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