Did you know that Custard Tarts have been around in Britain since the 14th Century? Along with such ‘delicacies’ as peacock, heron, stuffed suckling pig, jellied egg, and rabbit, custard pies filled with dried fruit and bone marrow are said to have been served up at the Coronation of Henry IV in 1399. Thankfully, the fruit and bone custard tart of yesteryear are not the custard tarts that we are used to nowadays, but they were a type of custard tart nonetheless.
Even before then, a type of custard tart was being made. In Medieval Italy a Dariole was made by forming a deep pie dough, filling it with flour and then pouring in an egg, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and rose water mixture. The pie was then baked, with the custard being stirred at regular intervals whilst in situ in the pastry case until it was set.
In her 1769 book, ‘The Experienced English Housekeeper’ (‘for the use & ease of Ladies, Housekeepers, Cooks &c’ to give it its full title 😀 ) Elizabeth Raffald included a recipe for an orange flavored egg custard tart using puff pastry rather than the shortcrust pastry that is more often seen in Britain. By the 1920’s custard tarts with shortcrust pastry crusts were a ‘staple’ British dessert and they featured in Mrs Beeton’s ‘Household Management’ book with the addition of a meringue topping. Interestingly enough, by this time, in the US, custard was being touted as being a ‘health food’. Mrs Beeton went along with this listing custard in her section on ‘Invalid food’.
So, as I’m not feeling too great today, I’m going to bake myself a batch of these sweet vanilla and nutmeg custard tarts and curl up in front of a roaring log fire. As I eat them one by one, whilst watching box sets on netflix, I will be blissful in the knowledge that I am eating healthily and that their presence is helping me on my road to recovery 😉
I hope that you enjoy!