Fennel seed custard tarts

Fennel seed custard tarts
  • Serves icon Makes 6
  • Time icon Hands-on time 30 min, plus infusing and resting. Oven time 50 min

A custard tart is a wondrous thing – but chef Joe Laker’s version has to be the best we’ve tasted. Fennel seeds are a fantastic inclusion in sweet recipes, offering up fragrant aniseed flavour without being overpowering. A dusting of whizzed-up seeds on top gives the tarts a beautiful pale green finish, while the infused cream ensures every bite delivers a sweet hint of anise.

Joe Laker is the chef-patron Counter 71 in Shoreditch, London, where he serves up a meticulous tasting menu of over 10 courses (including this tart) to just 16 diners. The cooking focuses on seasonal British produce-led cooking, and Joe’s time spent in Michelin- starred kitchens ensures every dish is perfectly crafted.

See all our custard tart recipes here.

Nutrition: Per tart

Calories
849kcals
Fat
66g (36g saturated)
Protein
11g
Carbohydrates
52g (27g sugars)
Fibre
2g
Salt
0.5g
Calories
849kcals
Fat
66g (36g saturated)
Protein
11g
Carbohydrates
52g (27g sugars)
Fibre
2g
Salt
0.5g

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra to dust
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2g salt
  • 150g unsalted butter, chilled and chopped
  • 2 medium free-range eggs

For the filling

  • 60g fennel seeds
  • 600g double cream
  • 9 medium free-range egg yolks (see Tips)
  • 75g caster sugar

Specialist kit

  • 6 x 10cm loose-bottomed fluted tart tins

Method

  1. Begin by making the pastry. Put the flour, ground almonds and icing sugar in a stand mixer with a beater attachment. Mix until well combined, then add the chopped butter with the motor running until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the salt and one of the eggs and mix at a medium speed just until a dough forms (add a tiny splash of water if you need to). Flour your work surface, then tip out the dough and briefly work with your hands until smooth. Form into a rough square, wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or ideally overnight: see Tips).
  2. Put the fennel seeds in a large dry frying pan and toast over a medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant and beginning to brown (3-5 minutes). Put a third of the toasted seeds in a saucepan (reserve the rest) and pour in the cream. Bring the cream to the boil, then remove from the heat, cover and leave to infuse for 2 hours (or see Tips).
  3. Once the pastry has rested, heat the oven to 160°C fan/gas 4. Lightly flour your work surface and cut the pastry into 6 equal portions. Roll out each piece of pastry until it’s 4-5mm thick. Use the pastry to line the tart tins, gently pushing the pastry into the flutes with a small ball of excess pastry. Trim away any overhang (see Tips), then line with foil or baking paper and fill with baking beans or dry rice. Blind-bake the pastry cases for 15 minutes, then remove the beans/rice and paper and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes more until golden brown all over. Beat the remaining whole egg, then brush inside the pastry cases with it. Return the cases to the oven for a final 2 minutes, then set aside to cool. Turn the oven down to 95°C fan/gas ½.
  4. Strain the fennel-infused cream into a clean pan on a scale – stop when you have 500g. Put the pan over a low-medium heat and gently bring it to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until smooth and pale. When the cream comes to the boil, remove from the heat and pour a little of it into the eggs, using a rubber spatula to stir it all together and temper the eggs. Gradually pour the rest of the cream into the eggs, stirring constantly with the spatula. Don’t use a whisk as you don’t want to incorporate as any air into the mix.
  5. Transfer the custard to a large jug. Put the tart cases on a large baking tray, then carefully and slowly pour the custard mixture into them, filling them to the top. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes – they’re ready when set but still with a wobble when you gently shake them (they will set further as they cool). If they’re still too liquid at this stage, continue to bake, checking at 5-minute intervals.
  6. While the tarts bake, put the reserved toasted fennel seeds in a small blender or spice grinder and whizz to a fine powder. Once the tarts have set, put the fennel powder in a fine sieve and use it to liberally dust the top of each tart. You can either wait for the tarts to set at room temperature, or put them in the fridge to speed up the process – but let them come back to room temperature before serving.

delicious. tips

  1. Get-it-right tips from the delicious. food team:
    Resting the pastry overnight helps reduce the chance of it shrinking as it bakes – so it’s worth doing if you want the sharpest, most professional looking tarts. You can also infuse the cream in the fridge at the same time as that will bring out the fennel flavour.

    If you don’t have time to rest the pastry for more than 2 hours, it’s better to leave a little pastry overhang when blind-baking, then carefully shave off the excess pastry with a fine grater once it’s firm.

    Using a ball of raw pastry to push the pastry into the flutes when you’re lining each tin helps ensure you don’t tear the dough with your nails.

    Brushing the inside of the tart with egg, then baking it until dry and shiny, helps to keep the pastry crisp once the liquid filling is added to the tart case.

    If your oven shelf is stable and you don’t trust yourself carrying a tray of filled tarts, put the pastry cases on the baking tray, then put the tray on the partly pulled-out oven shelf. Holding the edge of the shelf in one hand to make sure it doesn’t wobble, fill the tarts with the other hand, then carefully slide the shelf back into the oven.

    If you prefer, you can use this recipe to make one large tart in a 20cm tart tin – roll out the pastry in one piece and increase the oven time to 30 minutes. Take the tart out of the oven when there’s still a slight wobble in the middle as it will firm up more when cool.

    Don’t waste it:
    Any overhanging uncooked pastry you cut off the tart tins can be saved and re-rolled to make cheese twists, jam tarts or turnovers.

    Lightly beat the leftover egg whites, then freeze in portions in labelled freezer bags. Use for meringues, mousses or cocktails.

Recipe By

Joe Laker

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