Headed to a dinner with friends, a ‘pie night’ in celebration of all things dough entombed! My contribution is more held than encased, technically not a pie at all. But entrusted with the sweet ending to the meal, I decided a tart would be a fitting and lighter end to things.
I’m not sure where my recipe comes from. Each time I make it I reach more into my head than the bookshelf. That’s not to say it’s mine. Recipes don’t work that way. Still, the result is good, simple, delicious … and well worth a try.
What you need
A quantity of sweet shortcrust pastry
2 large lemons
250 grams castor sugar
200 mils of thick cream
As for the shortcrust, I make my own by feel which is not much help here. There are a lot of good recipes around. I recall a ratio of 1/2/3 (I part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour) that I picked up somewhere along the way. On that basis, if you take around 125 grams of sugar and 250 grams of butter (at room temperature), and mix it together with an egg, you‘ll end up with a gooey, buttery mixture. Don’t over mix at this point. There’s certainly no need for an electric mixer, just you and a wooden spoon will do. Once there are no major lumps of butter remaining, add in the flour (plain), around 400 grams, and half a teaspoon of baking powder. You can also add a dash of milk if it all looks a bit dry. Mix together lightly with your wooden spoon then tip the whole thing out on the kitchen bench, liberally dusted with flour.
About now, you set your oven to 200C.
From here you just work the dough together with your hands, your palms mainly. It’s a light touch you need. It should come together without too much effort. If it’s too sticky, just work in a little more flour. Again, don’t over do the kneeding. The more you work shortcrust dough the ‘shorter’ the pastry gets and the harder to roll out in one piece. Once you’ve got a nice firm ball of dough stick it in the fridge for 10 minutes. Then roll it out with your rolling pin and line a flan tin—one approximately 25 cm across and 3 cm deep will do the job.
You can bake this off for around 20 minutes. Most recipe books talk about baking the pastry ‘blind’. That is, once you’ve got the dough lining your flan tin, add in a piece of baking paper and fill it with rice or dried beans or something of that nature to keep the sides of your pastry case from falling in as it bakes. I’ve never bothered too much with this. The pastry seems to hold it shape for me without too much trouble. But there you go!
While the pastry is doing its thing in the oven, zest and juice the lemons and lime. Use a fine zester, not your monstrous carrot grater. You don’t want to be biting into unruly pieces of rind. That’s just unpleasant! Set this aside.
Mix together the castor sugar and the eggs with a small balloon whisk until well blended, again all by hand. Electric mixes just make more mess to clean up. Add to this the juice and zest and then the cream. Blend it all together well.
By this time your pastry case should be nicely done. Take it out of the oven and reduce the heat to 150C. Pour the filling into the pastry case. Take it easy. Ensuring the mixture doesn’t overflow the edges is crucial. In fact, don’t worry too much if you can’t use all of the mixture. This is not the time to test boundaries!
Stick the flan back in the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the custard is set. Overcooking will mean the custard starts to boil around the edges and separate. Not good!
Once it’s done, cool in the flan tin for around 30 minutes, dust liberally with icing sugar and serve with piles of thick cream. The more the better really!