After weeks of writing about my visit to New York City and indulging in a bit of food nostalgia, I was in danger of mourning the lack of a theme for this week. Well, never fear - I've found one! For some wholly unexplained and unasked for reason, this week has turned out to be a perfect storm of deadlines, drama and to-do lists.
Though I consider myself rather spontaneous, and even pretty level-headed in a crisis, I'm not really the sort of person that thrives on mayhem and madness. In fact, as I get older, my aversion to drama only increases; the more hectic my surroundings, it seems, the greater my desire to get back to basics, to focus, to simplify.
On days like today, my first impulse is always to brew a cup of strong tea, take a long walk, find a good book, and spend time in the kitchen with mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and a few honest, uncomplicated ingredients. The fewer, the better. It's for days like today that this recipe was designed. Really.
I made these tartlettes a few weeks ago, but didn't think to share them precisely because they were so simple. Making use of the scraps of dough and the dregs of heavy cream leftover from my more showy Dark Chocolate, Cherry and Almond Pie, these little pastries felt almost...utilitarian. The fact that they were delicious, and even a bit wholesome, seemed entirely beside the point. I made them, we ate them, and then forgot them - until today, when a quick look through my photos provided a much-needed reminder of the beauty of simplicity.
These were the last of a summer of pies, so perhaps I could be forgiven for nearly forgetting them in my excitement at finally being reunited with my favorite Rhubarb Crumb Pie, or in discovering the voluptuously fruited, rustic charm of a Mixed Berry Galette. Not every pastry is a sleek, decadent blue-ribbon beauty queen like the Dark Chocolate, Cherry and Almond Pie, and after the is-it-a-pie-isn't-it-a-pie confusion of the Indiana Apple Dessert, these tiny tarts seemed almost childishly simple and straightforward. In fact, were it not for the frenetic pace of this week, these little pastries might have been entirely neglected. And that, to put it simply, would be a shame.
1-2-3 Blueberry Custard Tarts
For 3-4 small tarts:
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk (2% or richer)
Blueberries, as desired
Pastry crust for 3-4 tart tins (the recipe I used is here)
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Fill pastry-lined tart tins with as many blueberries as desired (remember, more berries = less room for custard!). Set aside. In a small bowl, combine egg, sugar and cream. Stir until well blended. Pour over blueberries, taking care not to over-fill the crust (filling will settle a little during baking). Place tart tins in the center of oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned and filling appears set. Remove and allow to cool completely before serving.
A few notes: These tarts get their name from the ratio of ingredients used to form the custard base - one part beaten egg to two parts sugar, and three of heavy cream or milk. Those are the basics, pure and simple. You can pair the custard with any pastry base or simply pour it into a lightly greased baking dish or ramekin. Similarly, you can pair it with any fresh fruit - blueberries, raspberries and blackberries work particularly well - or flavor it with cocoa, coffee, or essences.
The custard produced by this recipe is a bit eggy - think Portuguese Egg Tart, rather than flan or creme brulee - since the egg-to-dairy ratio is large, and there's no lengthy stovetop cookery involved. This happens to be just the way I like it, but be warned that it's no milky blancmange or panna cotta. It is, however, smooth, rich and satisfying - and, above all, simple.
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