2 November 2014

Pumpkin tart

I do enjoy a good bit of pumpkin carving at Halloween. And where there are carved pumpkins, there is pumpkin flesh to be used. My favourite thing to make with it is a pumpkin tart - essentially a variant on a custard tart, flavoured with pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon. It is a bit like an American pumpkin pie, but with a lighter, slightly French feel to it.

This recipe uses a sweetcrust pastry that I originally took from Giorgio Locatelli's great book on Italian cooking 'Made in Italy'. (Here I make it by hand rather than in a food processor. Although this takes a little longer, the resulting pastry is easier to roll). This sweetcrust pastry is relatively easy to make and is easier to work than pate sucre or pate sable, whilst still giving a good biscuity base for a sweet tart. This recipe will fill a shallow 28cm tart dish, and will give 8-10 servings.


For the pastry

225g plain white flour
110g cold unsalted butter
75g icing sugar
1 large egg

For the pumpkin custard

the spare flesh from two carved pumpkins, with skin, pith and seeds removed
grated nutmeg
ground cinnamon
140g caster sugar
2 large eggs
100ml double cream
80ml whole milk
25g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing and roasting
1/4tsp salt

To make the pastry

Like many pastries, sweetcrust pastry is much easier to work if made in advance and chilled.

Sift the flour into a bowl.

Use the butter straight from the fridge, and cut it into cubes.

Start to cut the butter into the flour with a cutlery knife, then rub it into the flour using your finger tips. Stop when the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add the icing sugar and combine gently with your fingertips.

Lightly beat the egg, and add to the bowl. Use a cutlery knife and then your hands to bring the pastry together. Be careful not to overwork the pastry or kneed it too much - unlike bread one does not want to develop the glutens too much in pastry. Once the pastry has been brought together, wrap it in clingfilm and roughly shape into a flat disc.

Refrigerate for at least an hour.

To make the tart

Preheat an oven to 200C (390F).

Place the pumpkin pieces in an oven tray with a knob of butter. Sprinkle with a little ground nutmeg and cinnamon. Cover with foil and roast for an hour, by which time the pumpkin should be soft.

Meanwhile, grease a shallow 28cm tart dish with butter.

Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin. Roll the pastry out until it will fit over the tart dish.

Place the pastry into the tart dish and gently press it into the edge of the dish. Use a rolling pin to trim the pastry off at the edges of the dish.

Cover the tart dish in clingfilm, then refrigerate for at least another half hour.

When the pumpkin is cooked, lower the oven temperature to 180C (355F).

Line the pastry case with crumpled baking parchment or oven-proof clingfilm, fill with baking beans, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper/clingfim, and bake for another 10 minutes. The pastry should be almost cooked. Allow the case to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, make the pumpkin custard.

Drain any excess liquid off the pumpkin, and puree in a mouli, or by pushing it through a coarse sieve.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, 1/4tsp salt, 1/2tsp grated nutmeg and 1tsp ground cinnamon.

Add the milk and cream to the sugar and spice mix. Melt 25g unsalted butter, and add this too. Gently beat the eggs and add to the mix. Finally add the pumpkin puree.

Use a stick blender or hand whisk to combine the ingredients thoroughly.

Carefully pour the mix into the pastry case, taking care not to let it spill over the edge of the case.

Place in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the custard is set.

Allow the tart to cool.

Serve with creme fraiche, or anything else that takes your fancy.

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