|Place of origin||Portugal, France, England|
|Main ingredients||Pastry crust, egg custard|
The development of custard is so intimately connected with the custard tart or pie that the word itself comes from the old French croustade, meaning a kind of pie. Some other names for varieties of custard tarts in the Middle Ages were doucettes and darioles. In 1399, the coronation banquet prepared for Henry IV included "doucettys".
Medieval recipes generally included a shortcrust and puff pastry case filled with a mixture of cream, milk, or broth with eggs, sweeteners such as sugar or honey, and sometimes spices. Recipes existed as early as the fourteenth century that would still be recognisable as custard tarts today. Tarts could also be prepared with almond milk during times of fasting such as Lent, though this was rather expensive and would have been available only to the well-off. Often, savoury ingredients such as minced pork or beef marrow were also added (the combining of sweet and savoury ingredients was more common in medieval England), but unlike a modern quiche the custard filling itself was invariably sweet. In Portugal the tarts are dusted with cinnamon; in Britain nutmeg is often used.
Modern custard tarts are usually made from shortcrust pastry, eggs, sugar, milk or cream, and vanilla, sprinkled with nutmeg and baked. Unlike egg tarts, custard tarts are normally served at room temperature. They are available either as individual tarts, generally around 8 cm (3.1 in) across, or as larger tarts intended to be divided into slices.
Britain and Commonwealth
Custard tarts have long been a favourite pastry in Britain and the Commonwealth. They are often called egg custard tarts or simply egg custards to distinguish the egg-based filling from the commonly served cornflour-based custards. They are sold in supermarkets and bakeries throughout the UK.
In the UK, the custard tart is regarded as a classic British dish. A version by Marcus Wareing was selected on the BBC television programme Great British Menu as the final course of a banquet to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's 80th birthday.
Variations on the classic recipe include the Manchester tart, where a layer of jam is spread on the pastry before the custard is added. Other versions may have some fresh fruit, such as rhubarb, cooked into the filling. Versions topped with elaborate arrangements of fruit show the influence of French pâtisserie.
Custard tarts in France – where they are known as flans pâtissier – are generally shallower and larger than British ones, and therefore served in slices rather than as individual items. Their filling may contain fruit, making them similar to clafoutis.
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