I know winter is coming. And trust me, I am ready. I am prepared to be cold, I am anxious to watch all the winter movie classics as of today, I am fine by switching ice cold beers for hot chocolate and most of all, I am up for doing some winter baking. You can tell by my recipes published so far that my winter baking mostly includes making crispy cookies, with or without chocolate, nuts and sugar coating, but yesterday I was up for something different. I wanted to give fall one last fling (OK, next to last, I still have amaaaaazing frangipane apple tartlets to share) and make a tart filled with warm spices and plums.
I love plums in autumn baking just as much as I like apples or pumpkin, so I realised they have not been given justice on my blog. Therefore, I more than proudly present you my plum custard tart!
The tart has 3 components – crispy pie crust, custard filling and fresh plums. It all bakes together until the custard is set and the result is a gorgeous rich creamy tart filled with warm spices. The plums caramelise while baking and soften beautifully while drowned into the custard, infusing its subtle and gentle aromas. And let’s not forget about the perfectly crispy tart base that gives this tart a crunch and balances its texture. Your place is going to smell amazing having this goodness baking in the oven. Although it is best to cut it cold from the fridge, you know I couldn’t wait for it to cool down. This is no summer cheesecake, when the weather outside is frightful, I’ll have my dessert served warm, thank you.
While the tart is rich and decadent, the recipe is very straightforward. Meaning you only have one bowl and a few spatulas to clean afterwards. Really, does it get more perfect? Are you convinced yet to try the recipe? Please do, while there are still plums at the market and before we are inevitably obligated to switch to sugar frosting Santa-shaped cookies. And I am getting there slowly but surely, don’t you worry!
preparation time: about 30 minutes
baking time: 25 minutes at 180°C/350 F, about an hour at 165°C/325 F
baking pan size: Φ26 cm/10 in
Ingredients for the pie crust:
150 g cold unsalted butter
250 g all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
25 g powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
If needed: up to 2 Tbsp cold water, milk or cream
Ingredients for the custard filling:
200 ml cream*
200 ml milk
100 g granulated white sugar**
2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
60 g all-purpose flour
600 g fresh plums
1 Tbsp granulated white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
*I used thick cooking cream, lightly sweetened with 20% fat. If you like, use half-and-half or any other product you have on hand, but make sure it is more on the blank or sweet side (sour cream is not the way to go in this recipe) and bare in mind that the more fat in the cream, the richer the tart, so I wouldn’t substitute it for milk completely.
**I used vanilla sugar to make the custard. Whether you have homemade or buy it premade, I suggest using it because it adds wonderful warmness to the custard. Alternatively, use 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or scrape some vanilla bean paste to get the real deal. Click to see easy instructions on how to make your own vanilla sugar.
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350 F. Prepare a round Φ26 cm/10 in baking pan or any other baking pan of similar size. Make sure it has high sides because this is not a shallow tart, it has a pretty generous layer of custard. If the pan is not non-stick, rub the bottom and the sides with softened butter.
2. Start by making the pie crust. Cut cold unsalted butter into small cubes. Make sure the butter is really cold (it shouldn’t melt when touched by hands) because the colder the butter, the flakier the crust. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and powdered sugar over butter cubes and start rubbing the butter into the flour using your fingertips. You will end up with crumbly mixture of little cubes of butter reduced into pea-sized chunks well coated in flour mixture.
3. Add an egg yolk and start putting the dough together. Depending on the size of the egg yolk, if the dough seems very dry and impossible to put together, add a tablespoon of ice cold water, milk or cream or as needed. Add gradually because it takes very little liquid to make the pie crust since it gets most of it moisture from the butter and the egg yolk.
4. Once the pie crust comes together, roll it out thinly into a circle big enough to cover both the bottom and the sides of your baking pan. For a Φ26 cm/10 inbaking pan, roll the crust into about 35 cm/13,5 in. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin and gently transfer over the baking pan. Very carefully push the crust inside the pan and press it all around the sides. If the crust breaks, no panic, just pinch it back together. Don’t stretch it too much though, because it will shrink during baking.
5. Use a fork to prick the crust all over the bottom and the sides so it bakes evenly and doesn’t puff up. You could use pie baking weights or a bag of dried beans to blind-bake the crust if you want. Honestly, I never do that. Put the pie crust into preheated oven at 180°C and bake for about 20-25 minutes.
6. In the meantime, make the filling. Wash and dry the plums. Depending on their size, cut them into 6-8 slices removing the pit as you slice them. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together a tablespoon of granulated sugar and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
7. To make the custard, pour milk and cream into a large bowl or a measuring cup. Add 100 g of sugar (and vanilla flavouring if you are using any), two whole eggs and an extra egg yolk and mix everything with a wire whisk. There is no need for an electric mixer, but you may use it if you like. However, this only requires mixing until the eggs are well incorporated into the milk and cream. Add flour and whisk everything until it gets smooth and homogenous.
8. After about 20-25 minutes in the oven, take the pie crust out. Leave the oven on and lower the temperature to 165°C/325F. By this time, the crust should be lightly golden around the edges, but don’t worry if it is not completely baked at this stage. Also, if you see it has puffed up around the sides, take a cup or a glass and press it around the edges to push the crust back to the sides of the pan and thin it out.
9. Arrange the slices of plums all around the pie crust. Sprinkle them evenly with the mixture of sugar and cinnamon.
10. Very slowly pour the custard into the pie shell over the plums. Make sure you don’t drizzle everything into one spot. Rather pour carefully all over trying to fill the gaps between the plums as good as you can.
The custard will not puff up, it will only set during baking. However, depending on the size of your baking pan, if you see that the filling has reached the very top of your baking pana fter pouring it in, it is a good idea to put the pan on another, larger baking sheet, just in case anything spills or you accidentally tilt the pan while taking it in and out of the oven.
11. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes. Baking time will depend on the exact size of the baking pan and the size of your plums, so I suggest checking on the tart after about 50 minutes. Gently shake the baking pan. If the filling is still pretty jiggly, continue baking and check again after few minutes. The custard should be set completely – if you swirl a pan slightly, it should not pour or drop, but as soon as you find it set, remove from the oven. It is OK if it looks a little wet in the very centre, it will set as it cools down. The important thng is that the custard is not liquidy. Overbaking might cause the custard to crack.
12. That is all – all you have to do now is wait (urgh, I know…) for about an hour and allow the custard to set. I encourage you to cool the tart completely, but you know I could never judge sticking your face into a warm cake as soon as you can. So enjoy the tart with a glass of white wine or a steaming cup of tea.