Flan Pâtissier or Flan Parisien, I don’t even know how to name it in English. It looks like it’s called flan tart in the state and custard tart in Europe. This dessert remind me a lot of childhood memories. As I’m writing these few lines, one is cooking and is developing one damn nice smell. It will be quite hard to wait until it’s completely ready. I remember when my mother used to do it, it rarely lasted more than one day. It can be eaten at any time during the day, without any hunger. I was literally jumping on that tart and fighting to get the biggest portion… And yet I rarely make it nowadays, if ever. And I cannot even excuse myself saying that my mother’s custard tart was a better one as she was using powder.
Well it’s very simple to do, plus it will allow me to explain two basic recipes of pastry. Custard and puff pastry.
For the custard, no problem, it is a very simple recipe and an indispensable one. It is used in many desserts as mille-feuille and éclairs, and it is also a base for many creams like almond cream or Chiboust cream. It can be flavored in many ways, with chocolate or coffee, or even with alcohols. The recipe I use for the custard tart is a little bit different than the basic one, but the method is the same. There, I use fewer eggs per litres than in the traditional one (where I can use up to 12 eggs per litters).
For the puff pastry, it can be problematic. Several options are offered to you. The easy solutions would be either to buy an already prepared puff pastry at the shop either to ask your baker to sell you some “rest” of puff pastry (we do not want it to rise too much while cooking, do you?). The other solution would be to do it by yourself, and in this case you will have two recipes. The normal traditional one and the quick one. I will give you the recipe for the quick one. Why? First as we call it, it’s quicker to do than the traditional one, it’s easier and for the custard tart, it’s perfect.
This tart is served cold, so imagine how I feel right now, it’s just finished cooking, I’m writing this article, I really enjoy the smell that is spreading everywhere in my flat, and I can’t touch it at all. And you really have to wait, even if only to cut it, it’s much easier that way anyway.
So let’s start with the puff pastry. I take my recipe from the Roux brothers [Here is their very good recipe of a lemon tart]
Quick Puff Pastry
For one custard tart
Preparation time: 1h15 total
Resting time: 1 hour total
Place the flour in a large bowl (or on your working table) and make a fountain. In the center, place the soft diced butter and salt. With your fingers, work all ingredients together until the dough start to be “sandy” (by that I mean when the pieces of butter begin to be half crushed). Then pour over the ice water and incorporate it little by little to the dough. Stop working when you obtain an homogeneous dough but still with some very small pieces of butter.
Now, the most important part. The layering. It’s what will give to the puff pastry its name.
On your slightly floured working table, roll out the dough and give it a rectangular shape of 40 x 20 cm (approximately, all right?). Fold this rectangle into 3. This is the first “turn”. Only… 4 left. Usually it’s 6 turns. Remember, we don’t want it to rise too much while cooking.
After this first turn, make another one. Once again you will roll out the dough and shape it as a 40 x 20 cm rectangle. And once again you will fold it into 3. Now wrap it with cling film or parchment paper and place it into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
After this first rest, make another 2 turns as described above. And place it in the refrigerator for another rest of 20 minutes.
Now the final steps. Give one last turn to the dough. Then roll it out and give it the shape of a slightly bigger disc than your tart mould. I’m sure you know what I mean. Normally there is no need to grease your mould, but if it’s an old one, or if it’s scratched, it would be safer to do so. Now, line the mould with the disc of puff pastry. Cut everything that comes over the edge of the mould and prick the bottom of the puff pastry with a fork to prevent it rising too much.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes and take the opportunity to make the custard.
For one tart
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan large enough. If using vanilla pod, split it into two lenghtways, scrape the seeds and add everything to the milk. Remember to strain the milk when pouring it into the eggs mixture.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar. Add the Maïzena or the corn starch. The mixture must be homogeneous and smooth. Set aside.
Add half the boiling milk into the eggs mixture and whisk avoiding excessive frothing. Do not forget to scrub the sides and the bottom of the dish. Now pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and stirring constantly with a whisk, bring it slowly to a boil (the cream grip and burn very quickly at the bottom of the saucepan, take care). As said before, do not forget to scrap the sides and bottom of the saucepan. Let boil for 1 minute and discard.
*: I make my own vanilla sugar. I place the scrapped vanilla pods in a jar with caster sugar and I wait until the aroma spread. In the case you are using your homemade vanilla sugar, of course don’t use anything else.
The Custard Tart
For 2 starving person or 8 normal servings
Preparation time: 1h30 if you are making your own puff pastry, otherwise 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 to 40 minutes
Preheat your oven to 180°C.
Pour the still hot custard inside the puff pastry (which is in the tart mould, remember?). Place into the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove once cooked and allow it to cool down completely. Refrigerate.
You can, if you wish, also add sultanas or dried prunes. I love it with sultanas, my wife not. So today it’s just a plain custard tart.
I loved it when I was young, and I still love it. I’m pretty sure that your kids will love it as well.