You know how I have a bad recipe book habit? I bought a copy of Peyton and Byrne.
Don't get me wrong; this is a lovely book. Great photos, clear text, sensible design. But I wonder about the recipes; Peyton & Byrne has a recipe for egg custards that I looked at and thought "what?" as it required 2 whole eggs, 4 yolks, and only 60ml of cream. No, no, no. It'll make the custard very eggy and have a strange, bouncy texture. Way too much egg to cream. A proper egg custard is one of the prerequisites for a good recipe book but I couldn't imagine this working tremendously well. Still, there's no reason why I couldn't tweak the recipe a little...
So I doubled the cream with the same amount of egg. So far, so normal; but I'd had a thought about some rhubarb that I'd bought that morning. A blob of stewed rhubarb in the bottom of an egg custard. Could that work? Rhubarb and custard is a time-honoured traditional dish, of course.
Next I made some ginger shortcrust; normal 2:1 shortcrust with a teaspoon of ginger added to it, and (after chilling) rolled out on icing sugar for (i) crispness and (ii) a tiny touch of sweetness.
For pastry novices; two parts flour (200g) to one part butter (100g). Rub together to a sandy texture, no big lumps, then sprinkle a tablespoon of water over it and mix in using a flat, rounded knife. Add a bit more water and carry on mixing, and it'll come together in a soft ball; overdo the water and it'll turn to mush, underdo and it'll be too stiff. Wrap in cling, fridge for 30 minutes, then roll out to desired thickness; in this case, 2mm thick, and cut into 10 circles to fit my (buttered) muffin tin.
Into the muffin tin, into the oven for blind baking, there we are.
Except everybody has an off day. It didn't work, for two reasons: I didn't fill the shells with baking beans/rice whatever and I didn't chill the pastry before putting it in the oven. I could have got away with either, but not both; in the end my pastry shells started sliding down the sides of the tins like Nora Batty's tights, and ended up looking very flat, wrinkled and sad.
After a tiny amount of swearing I redid the pastry and using fairy cake cakes as liners inside the tart shells I filled them with rice to support the structure. This time it worked; 15 minutes at GM4 and the shells had picked up some colour. Picked out the rice, filled with custard, blobbed in a teaspoon of stewed rhubarb with honey, and BAM; ended up with these little bundles of joy:
These are so good. Faint ginger notes, crisp pastry, zingy rhubarb and slightly bouncy custard. Bloody lovely stuff. Made ten, there were five left when we went to bed, I expect there will be two left by the time I get home tonight. The thing to note here is: pastry is capricious, but simple enough so that if you cock it up you can re-do it without too much faff. And making pastry interesting is not difficult.
I'd better write an article on pastry, I suppose; it isn't as scary as people so often think, but at the same time you need to treat it with respect.
Also, the book has some great looking recipes in that I have no doubt will work superbly. And - oh, such an important point - it is all about British Baking. There is much to be said for proper patisserie, but I think there is much to be said for picking a Chelsea bun over a Danish.
Minor edit to add: the non-rhubarb egg custards look like this:
Interesting bubble structure and this doesn't have the sense of fragility that a great egg custard often has. But it is still very, very tasty.