Tag Archives: nutmeg

The real Yorkshire tart (and a bit of magic!)

Curd cheese and whey

Overall, it’s has been a pretty good start to the New Year. We finally managed to buy our house after nine months of grueling negotiation and waiting. Work has been pretty kind so far allowing me to stick to a relatively ‘normal’ schedule (read no hundred hour weeks yet – touching wood, of course!). And I managed to run for an unprecedented forty minutes on the treadmill yesterday!

Humble beginnings

But I have to admit that baking has been a bit on the back burner these last two weeks. Partially due to house-related tasks, but also because it’s actually taken me this long to clear my home of the sweet offerings remaining from Christmas. By “clear”, of course I mean “eat”. So even looking at a stick of butter has just been a bit too much lately.

Bubble, bubble...

Too much, that is, until today. Spurred on by the good tidings of 2013 and the suggestion of a dear friend from the UK, I have decided to take the plunge, to finally come to grips with my namesake: The Yorkshire Tart.

Have strainer, will strain

A traditional Yorkshire tart is essentially a baked cheesecake. Crisp pastry gives way to a creamy filling, with hints of nutmeg and lemon, and dotted with plump currants. Curd cheese is needed here and so I began this escapade by Google-ing sellers of curd cheese in the New York area. Rapidly realizing I would be down twenty dollars if I went the ready-made route, I quickly discovered that it’s actually pretty simple (and ridiculously economical) to make your own. In fact, you only need two ingredients: milk and lemon juice.

2013-01-13_16-20-46_573So out I went to purchase two pints of full fat milk and a nice organic lemon (the zest is also needed for the tart). First, I needed to bring the milk to a gentle simmer. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I actually found this the hardest part. Making sure the milk is hot enough without scorching is a bit of a challenge. I decided to take the milk off the heat when I could just see small bubbles rising under the ‘skin’ of the milk. Once simmering to my satisfaction, I added four tablespoons of lemon juice and – hey presto – lots of satisfying curdling happened. Take that, Little Miss Muffet!


After an hour or so of cooling, I drained the curds through some cheesecloth over a bowl and, with a bit of amateur engineering, rigged up a system by which I could continue to drain the curds in the fridge overnight. The next day I had a good amount of curd, which really did taste just like cheesecake, and a pint of two of liquid whey, which can apparently be used just like buttermilk in scones, pancakes or soda bread.

Making the tart itself is very simple and I promise that you will get an extra kick out of eating it knowing that you performed a little bit of cooking magic along the way!

Oven ready

A simple slice

Yorkshire Tart

Adapted from a recipe by the Hairy Bikers

Make the curd cheese the day before:

To make the curd cheese, heat 2 pints/1.2 liters whole milk in a saucepan over a low heat until it very gentle simmers. Remove from the heat and pour in 4 tbsp lemon juice, stirring twice as the curds form. Set aside and cool for 1 hour.

Line a sieve with muslin and place over a large bowl (if you’re using a bouillon strainer like me, you may fine it helpful to balance the bottom of the strainer on an upturned ramekin placed in the bottom of the bowl). Pour the curds and whey into the sieve and allow to drain in the fridge overnight.

The next day, make the tart:

To make the pastry, add 2 tsp caster sugar to 6 oz/175 g all-purpose flour, and rub in 3.5 oz/100 g cold butter. Combine to a dough with 1 beaten egg. Roll out and line a pie dish, pricking the bottom with a fork. The filling will sit quite low in the pie, and so you may wish to trim off any excess pastry to the inner edge of the dish.

Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.

Cream 2.5 oz/65 g caster sugar and 2.5 oz/65 g butter together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 beaten egg. Stir in all of your curd cheese, the zest of half a lemon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 2 oz/50 g currants. Mix well until combined.

Spoon the curd into the pastry base and spread to the sides. Bake for 30-35 mins, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling sets. When I baked my tart, the filling wasn’t browned after 35 mins. It is normal to see Yorkshire tarts that are both browned and pale, so don’t worry if yours looks like either of these.

Leave to cool for at least 30 mins before serving. It is best enjoyed at room temperature or chilled.



The Joy of Custard

Before we go anything further I think it’s really important that we talk about custard. Described by Delia Smith as the “traditional English sauce”, custard is a mandatory item on dinner tables and dessert menus up and down the country.

Where I come from, custard is more than just a sauce. It’s a religion. We dream in custard. When we order a ‘pudding’ after dinner, it’s the custard we are really looking forward to; the pudding is just for show.

There were two custard camps when I was growing up. Those that bought ready-made and those revered few who practiced the art of homemade. My family falls mainly into the first camp, purchasing the bright red and blue boxes of Birds-Eye pre-made (not powdered, but the “real stuff” where half the fun is the “squelching” noises it makes while being squeezed out) or Marks & Spencer’s own with real vanilla for special occasions.

My grandma on my Dad’s side was the exception however, conjuring up a delicious home-made jug-full for almost every Sunday lunch. “She makes ‘er own” we would say, one eyebrow raised with pride and an almost mystical awe.

My lovely grandma passed away only a few weeks ago and I am determined to become a disciple of homemade custard in her memory. Now that Fall’s refreshing breeze is returning to NYC, the time certainly seems ripe to start my training.

This week, however, I felt that the weather was still just a little too warm for a bowl of steaming sponge and custard, and so I decided to make a dessert that was much loved in my household when I was growing up: a custard tart.

I felt that there was no one I could turn to for a lesson as fundamental as making a custard tart than dear Delia, and so it is her recipe that I have adapted below.

Custard Tart

Adapted from a recipe by Delia Smith

First the pastry:

Sift 5oz plain flour with a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add chilled cubes of 1 oz shortening (or lard if you can get it) and 1.5 oz butter. Gentle rub the fat into the flour, lifting the mixture up high all the time to give it a good airing. Then, sprinkle in about 1 tbsp ice cold water and bring the mixture together with a knife. Finish off with your hands.

Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C) and pop a baking sheet in to preheat on the center shelf.

Roll the pastry out into a circle on a surface lightly dusted with flour, giving it quarter turns to keep its round shape. The size should be 1 inch larger than the diameter of your tart tin.

Transfer the pastry to the tin. Fold the pastry over the rolling pin to do this in one piece (I failed miserably at this which is why my pastry case looks more like a patchwork quilt, but it was still quite delicious so no need to worry if you experience a similar disaster!). Take a sharp knife and trim the surrounding pastry, brush the whole surface with some beaten egg and prick the base of the tart with a fork.

Place the tart on the baking sheet in the oven on the center shelf and bake for 20 mins, until the pastry is crisp and golden. Check after 4 minutes to make sure the pastry isn’t rising up in the center. If it is, don’t worry, just prick again a few times with a fork and press it back down with your hands.

While the pastry is baking, take the time to grate 1 and 1/2 fresh whole nutmegs and soften 1 tsp butter.

Once the pastry case is out of the oven, adjust the temperature to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C).

Now, the filling:

Now, place 1 pint (570 ml) single cream into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Break 3 eggs and 2 egg yolks into a heatproof jug and beat lightly. Add 2 oz (50g) caster sugar and mix with the eggs using a balloon whisk (I used a fork…). Try not to beat too vigorously as you don’t want lots of bubbles. Pour the hot cream over the beaten eggs and add 1 tsp vanilla extract and half the grated nutmeg. Whisk all the ingredients together again briefly.

Now, place the pie shell (still in the tin) back on the baking tray with the oven shelf half out and have ready the rest of the nutmeg on a plate or piece of foil.

Carefully pour the filling into the pastry case – it will be very full – and scatter the rest of the nutmeg all over, and dot with the 1 tsp softened butter. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the filling is golden brown, firm in the center and slightly puffed up.

Serve either warm, or as Delia and I both prefer it, cold.