What’s the Best Way to Make a Traditional English Custard Tart?

As baking enthusiasts, you probably have a list of favorite pastry recipes. But, have you ever tried making the traditional English Custard Tart? If not, you are missing out on a delightful experience. This classic sweet treat is a creamy, custard-filled pastry with a hint of nutmeg that is baked to perfection. It is a delicious symbol of English cuisine that dates back to the Middle Ages. In this article, we’ll share with you the best way to make a traditional English Custard Tart.

Starting with the Pastry

Any great tart begins with the pastry. For this traditional English Custard Tart, you’ll be creating a simple but deliciously crisp and buttery shortcrust pastry. This type of pastry is perfect for tarts as it maintains its shape well during baking, ensures a firm base for the custard filling, and provides a delightful contrast to the creamy custard.

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  • 225g plain flour
  • 125g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of salt

To make the pastry, place the flour, butter, sugar, and a pinch of salt into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and pulse again until the dough starts to come together. You should not overwork the dough as it will make the pastry tough. Once your dough is ready, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for about half an hour.

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Preparing the Custard Filling

The custard is the heart of this tart. Making the custard is an art which involves gentle heating, continuous stirring, and perfect timing to get that luscious, creamy texture. The custard for an English tart is traditionally flavored with nutmeg.


  • 4 large eggs
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
  • 500ml double cream
  • Nutmeg

Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla seeds in a bowl until well combined. In a pan, heat the cream until hot but not boiling, then slowly pour over the egg mixture, whisking constantly. This process is called tempering, which slowly heats the eggs without scrambling them. Make sure not to rush this step or you’ll end up with sweet scrambled eggs instead of a smooth custard mixture.

Assembling and Baking the Tart

Once the dough has thoroughly chilled, you can proceed with rolling it out and lining your tart pan. Ensure the pan is well greased so the tart is easily removable after baking.

Take the dough out of the fridge, roll it out on a floured surface to about 3mm thick and line your tart pan. Trim any excess dough and prick the base with a fork. Put it back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Take the tart shell out of the fridge, line with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and parchment and bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden.

Once your pastry shell is ready, it’s time to add the custard. Pour the custard mixture into the tart shell and sprinkle with nutmeg. Reduce the oven temperature to 130°C and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the custard is set and slightly wobbly in the middle.

The Magic of Patience

The hardest part of this recipe? Waiting. After your tart comes out of the oven, it will need time to cool and set properly. The custard continues to cook from the residual heat even after it’s out of the oven, so it’s important to give it time to finish. If you cut into it too soon, your custard might not be fully set and will likely spill out of the tart.

Leave your tart to cool in its tin for at least 2 hours, or even overnight if you can. Once cooled, it will be ready to slice and serve.

A Recipe Worth Mastering

The traditional English Custard Tart may not be the fastest or easiest of pastries to make, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort. With its rich, creamy custard, crisp pastry, and hint of nutmeg, it’s a treat that is sure to impress. And once you’ve mastered this recipe, you can experiment with adding your own flavors or twists to make it your own. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or just starting out, making a traditional English Custard Tart is a culinary adventure worth undertaking. Enjoy the process and the delicious outcome.

A Celebration of Flavors and Texture

The English custard tart is a celebration of flavors and texture. From the creamy custard filling to the crisp pastry, every bite is an explosion of sweetness and richness. The nutmeg’s gentle spiciness balances the sweetness and adds depth to the tart’s flavor.

The process of making this tart can be therapeutic. Mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, and watching the tart bake and turn into a golden beauty can be a joyous experience. It’s not just about the end product, it’s about the journey, too.

Remember, the egg yolks play a vital role in the custard filling. They give it that rich, creamy texture and beautiful yellow color. When adding sugar, do it gradually to prevent the mixture from becoming too sweet. The vanilla extract adds a subtle flavor that complements the tart’s overall taste.

The tart pan is equally important. Its design helps give the tart its shape and ensures even baking. Make sure to grease it well before pouring the custard mixture. Once the tart is ready, it is essential to let it cool at room temperature. Cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the custard.

Conclusion: The Art of Making a Traditional English Custard Tart

Creating a traditional English custard tart is an art. It involves precision, patience and a deep appreciation for the process. This tart recipe isn’t just about the ingredients but the love and effort you put into making it.

And the reward is worth every minute spent. Cutting into the tart, seeing the creamy custard filling, and biting into the crisp, buttery pastry is a pleasure like no other.

From the initial steps of making the shortcrust pastry to the tedious process of preparing the custard filling, and finally, the anticipation as you wait for it to bake, making a traditional English Custard Tart is a journey that every baking enthusiast should embark on.

Even though it takes a bit of time and practice to master, the result is a baking sheet filled with beautifully baked custard tarts. After all, the best things come to those who wait.

As you begin your journey with this authentic English dessert, remember to enjoy each step. Whether you’re whisking the eggs, rolling out the dough, or patiently waiting for the custard to set, take delight in these small moments. And when you finally take the tart out of the oven, you’ll realize that trying this English custard recipe was indeed a fulfilling and enriching experience. Enjoy the process, and most importantly, enjoy your homemade traditional English Custard Tart.

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