This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we continue cooking with the gorgeous Donna Hay, and our theme for the week is Easy Entertaining ... or, put another way, how to entertain effortlessly without finding yourself crying over spilt custard.
Now let me begin by telling you that I actually love to entertain. The nurturer in me, the one who loves to feed others, enjoys nothing more more than a group of friends or family around my dinner table, and the opportunity to fill them with as much food as I can manage. There is no amount of effort that seems like too much trouble to me.
Where it all goes off the rails for me is dessert. No matter how much I love to cook and entertain, I hate making dessert. There are people I know who see this part of the meal as the opportunity to really shine, to pull out all the stops and go for something truly spectacular ... I'm not one of them. Dessert terrifies me. It definitely has to be something which can be made the day before, so that a fall-back position can be found if it all goes wrong. So dessert at my house will usually be some homemade ice cream or sorbet (one of the few things I'm actually quite good at, thanks to the trusty ice cream machine), maybe a pavlova (yes, on a good day, I can manage to turn out a passable pav, though I've had my failures there too), or a simple fruit platter. Anything else really ... forget it. My hands down favourite dessert is a Citron Tart - never made one, as there is way too much that can go wrong with that. Second favourite dessert is my Dad's steamed pudding - never made that either, since there is the terrifying possibility that it will be either under cooked or over cooked, and worse still might completely fall apart when turned out of the pudding basin. And that would just be downright embarrassing, especially when you're going for that "Ta Dah" moment.
So, although there were literally dozens of "Easy Entertaining" meal ideas I could have chosen from any one of my Donna Hay books (in fact nearly everything Donna produces fits that criteria perfectly), I thought that I might challenge myself, and Donna, to see if she could come up with an easy entertaining dessert idea that I could manage to put together without it all going horribly wrong. It had to be suitable for preparing the day ahead; it had to be easy enough for even a "dessert-dunce" to create; and it needed to look spectacular, or impressive, or at the very least pretty. And, I've got to say, between us we very nearly pulled it off ...
Flicking through my copy of Marie Claire Dining by Donna Hay (now published as Donna Hay Entertaining), I came across her recipe for Portugese Custard Tarts. The recipe sounded achievable (even for me) ... store-bought flaky pastry, so no making pie crust (always a bonus); the custard filling seemed simple enough; and I could see that these could be made the day before - in fact you could even make the tarts the day before you want them, and make the custard the day before that if you wanted. Recipes which can be broken down into several prepare ahead stages are always winners for me. They sure looked kind of cute ...
... and, in fact, they also tasted pretty good just like this too, but somehow these just seemed like a little treat to enjoy with a cup of coffee, and not quite dessert. A little something else was needed. And then I cast my eye over the punnet of fresh strawberries I'd just brought home from the market, and remembered back to the Honey Roasted Strawberry Compote I made a while back to go over French toast. I also remembered my lovely friend, Beth, at OMG! Yummy recently making some roasted fruit with pomegranate molasses, and thought that swapping out the balsamic vinegar in my compote for some pomegranate molasses, and adding a shot of orange liqueur, would make a wonderful topping for these little tarts and magically transform afternoon tea into dessert.
The only thing that prevented this from being completely effortless was having to clean the oven afterwards ...
... 'Nough said. I know you won't make the same mistake.
Roasted Strawberry Custard Tarts Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Donna Hay
from Donna Hay Dining
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
2x sheets ready rolled puff pastry, thawed
for custard filling
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 egg yolks
1x vanilla bean
for strawberry topping
1x punnet strawberries
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as cointreau (I used "44")
To make the custard filling, put sugar and water into a small saucepan, set over low heat, and stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Increase heat until syrup is boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Place cornflour in a medium sized bowl, and add just enough of the milk to mix the cornflour to a smooth paste. Once completely dissolved, slowly add the remainder of the milk, whisking constantly. Whisk in the egg yolks. Slowly pour in the sugar syrup, again making sure that you whisk constantly to avoid curdling the eggs.
Return everything to the saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add both seeds and bean to the saucepan. Set pan over gentle heat, and stir constantly until the mixture thickens.
Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl. Allow to cool slightly, then cover the surface of the custard with a piece of plastic wrap - this will avoid a skin forming on the surface of the custard. Now leave to cool completely, leaving the vanilla bean in the custard to allow maximum flavour to be infused from the bean. (You could easily do this a day in advance.)
To make the tarts, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F), and lightly grease a muffin or patty tin. Cut pastry into 10cm (4 inch) circles, and use to line the muffin or patty tins. Remove vanilla bean from custard, and spoon custard into the pastry shells, no more than 2/3 full. Bake in the preheated oven until the custard is golden and firm - about 20 minutes, depending on the depth of your tins and filling. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before removing tarts from the tin and leaving on a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the strawberry topping. Cut strawberries in half (or quarters if they are very large), and place in an ovenproof dish which is only just big enough to fit all the strawberries snugly but in a single layer. Drizzle over the honey, pomegranate molasses and orange liqueur, and stir gently to combine everything. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C (350 degrees F), until the strawberries have softened slightly, but still retaining their shape, and juices have begun to run and become syrupy. Remove from oven and cool completely.
To complete the tarts, arrange two or three pieces of strawberry in the centre of each tart and drizzle over a little of the strawberry syrup. Serve immediately.
If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see all the fabulously "easy entertaining" dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.
I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand. Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats. This month, Sweet New Zealand is hosted by my very lovely friend Mairi at Toast.
I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollam.
Could I have one of these please? They look fantastic. The pictures are great.I want to make these but without the egg yolk, so I guess that will mean more cornflour. Is the custard very thick? Also I am not lucky enough to get ready made pastry here, but I do have a roll of phillo in the freezer. Guess where that is going :-).ReplyDelete
Thank you so much, Sunita. I'm not really a very proficient baker, so I'm not entirely sure about leaving out the egg yolks. You would certainly need to increase the cornflour, but I couldn't hazard a guess at the ratio to milk. The final consistency is like a creme patisserie so I guess if just googled eggless creme patisserie you would find something suitable.Delete
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh my god!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! these are just looking fab fab fab :) :) I really cna't control myself to eat it.ReplyDelete
Candy Shapes Cookie
Thanks, Aleesha. Self-control is very difficult around these. Not going to say how many I ate!!Delete
They sound lovely! Custard tarts in all their forms are so good. Pannacotta is pretty much my go-to dessert Or trifle - it's hard to muck up a trifle.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Alicia. You're right, custard tarts are delicious and I don't know why I've never made them before. Will definitely be making them again. Never been brave enough to try making panna cotta, as I'm terrified of it not turning out. I'm not so sure you can't muck up trifle - I've tasted some pretty bad ones, which is why to this day I don't really like trifle.Delete
You are so correct, Donna has so many great recipes and many are quick to put together. I had not seen this recipe, love the simple elegance of these tarts. Drooling here now :-)ReplyDelete
Tina, I think that's the thing I like best about Donna's recipes - absolutely everything is incredibly easy, and with just a little bit of attention to presentation is perfect for company too. These were lovely little tarts - dressed up with some strawberries, perfect for a dinner party dessert, but equally left plain would be perfect for a tea party.Delete
Lovely tarts, Sue...I especially love what you've done with the strawberries. I've had my share of oven disasters.....scraping burnt caramel from the oven bottom (after the flames went out) makes for a very steep learning curve ; )ReplyDelete
Thanks, Zosia - yikes, burnt caramel all over the bottom of the oven ... all of a sudden I'm counting my blessings :-)Delete
Your tarts are looking so tempting! I like it how you always make little changes to suit your own, and they always turned out wonderful! Using the pomegranate molasses and strawberries are brilliant!
If I am your guest, I would be very happy indeed!
I'm not sure when is Thanksgiving in NZ, but here's wishing you, Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you so much, Joyce. I love to make little tweeks to recipes to either suit my tastes or what I have on hand - actually, I really can't help myself. You would always be so welcome as my guest.Delete
It's a bit of a shame really, Joyce, that we don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in New Zealand - it always seems like such a wonderful tradition.
those look amazing and your addition of the strawberry must have brought this to the next level!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Mireille. The addition of the strawberries was actually quite a simple touch, but roasting them really intensifies their flavour, and strawberry and custard is a great flavour combo.Delete
Beautiful tarts! Brilliant idea to top with roasted strawberry when the custard spilled :) . I believe your tarts are more delicious than normal custard tarts.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Joy. You could really dress these tarts up with any kind of berries. I think little bunches of currants would look really pretty too when they're in season.Delete
This post has me laughing. First because we are two peas in a pod when it comes to dessert. I always feel that dessert has to be this over-the-top wonderful thing...you know...to end on a high note. But I am not a baker by any means. In fact I hate baking! Dessert stresses me out. I am also laughing over your excellent segue into the cooks tip about overfilling the pastry.ReplyDelete
Your little tarts look like a million bucks! Seriously. They look like a professional dessert chef made them.
Michelle, clearly we are "dessert-angst soul-sisters". I always feel exactly the same way - I always feel under pressure to come up with some kind of spectacular show-stopper, which is really just another way of setting yourself up for failure. I remember once , many years ago, making a dessert for a dinner party that actually took three days to make. It actually, somewhat rarely, turned out to be a great success, but by the time I served it I was so stressed out about the possibility of it not turning out that I could hardly eat a mouthful!! I've never made anything like that again - it just wasn't worth it. Thanks you for being so kind about my strawberry tarts though :-)Delete
Oh, Sue...that sounds like something I would do. Let's not do that anymore and make these instead!Delete
Thank you for linking!
Oh my gosh, your addition of the strawberries is genius!!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Pam :-)Delete
These look so pretty! Wow. And yeah, what Pam said!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Beth and thanks for taking the time to stop by.Delete
What a beautiful dessert! So creative.ReplyDelete
Joy's Book Blog
Thanks, Joy :-)Delete
Adding the strawberries makes these just the perfect little dessert bite. Perfect too with a cup of tea. ;-)ReplyDelete
Thanks, Deb - I loved them with an afternoon coffee too :-)Delete
I do love a portugese tart, I'm rather astonished that noone else has thought to add fruit before. A portugese take on a fruit flan. Inspired genius. They look great.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Louise. It was definitely Portuguese custard tart meets fruit flan - a delicious marriage :-)Delete
I have been wanting to attempt a dairy free custard but hadn't thought of putting it in a tart shall. how wonderful mixing two great tastes and then adding those strawberries. wow. I am a dessert person and my meals serve to support the finale. I am often asked to bring dessert as opposed to bringing a main dish. During the past few years I have made a conscious effort to work on my main dishes and it has paid off.ReplyDelete
Wow, Heather - I totally admire your commitment to dessert. Can't imagine anyone ever asking me to bring dessert, but maybe I could rustle up something for afternoon tea.Delete
I always enjoy reading your posts, Sue. I love to entertain and nurture people with food as well but like you, I do not enjoy dessert making. I find it too precise and almost always extemely messy (as you mentioned with the custard).ReplyDelete
I love that you added the strawberry compote to these custard tarts. I think that was really great thinking on your part! The strawberries really added that pop of color and turned these into very exquisite little treats!
I think this recipe would also make a lovely treat to take for a special morning tea.ReplyDelete
wow these look divine bet your guests were in heavenReplyDelete