The past few weeks have passed in a blur of work related activity, which although positive, has left me in a constant state of ‘catching up’. Mindful that I have been unable to post for a couple of weeks, I decide to set aside a morning to be in the kitchen. With only a couple of hours to spare, I want to share a favourite dessert recipe that is quick and easy when you are pushed for time. I often make these crème brûlée tarts the day before a dinner party and love how simple they are to prepare in advance. There is no baking involved and they will sit quite happily in the fridge overnight.
I will readily admit kitchen disasters can often occur when I am distracted, or in a rush. I forget to put the sugar in, or the butter, or misread the recipe. Sometimes for no obvious reason, a recipe I have made successfully countless times, goes inexplicably wrong. Sometimes there may have been too many glasses of wine involved, although not usually in the morning. It has taken me many years to finally acknowledge that excessive consumption of wine while cooking may have worked for Keith Floyd, but not for me.
On this particular morning, it is nothing more than my mind being elsewhere that causes two of the tarts to slip from my fingers and decorate the kitchen floor like an abstract painting. As I look down in dismay at my handiwork, I recall that Massimo Bottura created Osteria Francescana’s famous dessert ‘Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart’ when his pastry chef had a similar kitchen disaster. Bottura decided to pay a culinary tribute to imperfection and put the ‘deconstructed’ dessert on the menu. Fortunately I have three tarts left to photograph, as I am not sure I would get away with a dropped tart as easily as a renowned Michelin star chef.
- 260g digestive biscuits
- 130g unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra for greasing
- 4 egg yolks
- 80g caster sugar
- 1 vanilla pod
- 500ml double cream
- 5 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- Lightly grease 5 x 10cm loose bottom tart tins
- First make the base by placing the digestive biscuits in a food processor and blitz until you have fine crumbs (you can put the biscuits in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin if you don't have a food processor).
- Add the melted butter to the crushed biscuits and stir well. Divide the biscuit mix between the tins and press into the base and sides. Refrigerate while making the custard filling.
- Slice the vanilla pod in half and remove the seeds. Add to a food mixer bowl along with the egg yolks and sugar and whisk until thick and creamy.
- Place the cream in a small pan and heat until just boiling. Pour the cream into the bowl with the egg and sugar mixture with the mixture on slow and whisk until incorporated.
- Return cream and egg mixture to the pan and heat gently, stirring all the time until it starts to thicken, taking care not to overcook the custard.
- Remove the tart case from the fridge and pour in the custard. Cool and then chill for at least three hours, ideally overnight in the fridge. The uncaramelised tarts will keep in the frideg for up to two days.
- When you are ready to serve the tarts, remove from the fridge and sprinkle each with a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Caramelise with the blow torch and serve straight away.