I wasn’t supposed to do any more cooking – especially not baking.
It was the week before moving house and the plan was to eat through the last of our leftovers, not make anything new. But then I saw Bon Appétit’s recipe for Extremadura Almond Pie – or rather the photo. It revealed a custard tart two inches deep, its filling the pure gold of egg yolks, as fudgy as cooled magma. Indeed, this Spanish-inspired dessert features nearly a dozen eggs, an ungodly amount of sugar and butter, plus almond flour – which I just so happened to need to use up before our move.
And so, dear reader, I made the dessert. It was exceptional. We ate the last slices the morning we moved out and I like to think they gave us the moral fortitude and physical strength to confront the 50-odd boxes all our worldly possessions had been stuffed into.
It is a slightly laborious dessert – the crust is so butter-enriched it becomes a little finicky to roll out and the filling requires making simple syrup before mixing with the eggs and almond flour, then blending. For my tweaks, I added vanilla and grated nutmeg to the filling, plus the zest of a large orange, which made it feel just that bit more festive.
But my finest adaptation was serving it with Szóló Dolce. I have an abiding love of tokaji and challenge anyone who thinks they don't like sweet wines to try this. It’s not just that it is ridiculously perfumed and complex (tasting notes veer from citrus to stone fruit, sweet spices to honey); it also has a surprisingly fierce undercurrent of acidity, which makes it the ideal foil for this tart, which is so over-the-top sweet, teeth-sticking and rich. Together, the two are a ravishing duo – one that’s worth making time for, no matter how impractical.
Almond Egg Custard Tart
Adapted from Bon Appétit
For the pie crust:
320g flour, plus additional
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
225g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
8 teaspoons iced water
For the filling:
500g caster sugar
9 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Zest of 1 orange
240g ground almond flour
Crème fraîche, to serve (optional)
1. First, make your pie dough. Add the flour, salt and sugar to a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter pieces and, working quickly so they don’t warm up too much, use your fingertips to rub and roughly mix into the flour, until the flour has a sandy texture but there are still some larger, shaggy pieces of butter left.
2. Drizzle over the iced water, using a fork to distribute through the flour mixture. Start kneading the dough in the bowl (it will look very dry and crumbly at first) until it starts cohering. Transfer to a work surface and knead several times more, until smooth. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for an hour.
3. Butter your pie dish and lightly flour it (before tapping out any excess flour over the sink). After the dough has chilled, transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out into a circle until it is around ¼-inch thick. Gently roll the dough onto your rolling pin to transfer to the pie dish, unrolling over the dish and gently pressing until flush with the sides. Prick the bottom of the dough several times with a fork and then transfer to the freezer for 1 hour.
4. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 190°C. Next, make a simple syrup for the tart filling. Add the sugar and 250ml water to a saucepan and place over medium heat. Heat, stirring frequently, for roughly 5 minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl; leave to cool.
5. Remove the pie dish with the dough from the freezer. Line with a large piece of parchment paper or foil, leaving plenty of overhang, and add pie weights (or dried beans). Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until just set and lightly golden. Remove the parchment paper and pie weights.
6. In a large bowl, add the egg yolks, egg, nutmeg, salt, vanilla, almond extract and orange zest, and whisk to mix. Add the almond flour and cooled syrup and whisk until fully incorporated. Transfer to a blender and blend for 1 minute on high, or until light and airy. Pour into the crust.
7. Turn the oven down to 180°C and bake the tart for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the heat again to 150°C and bake for another 30-40 minutes, or until the tart is set, the filling is deep golden-brown on top and there is only a slight jiggle in the centre when you shake it.
8. Leave the tart to cool completely (it will fall apart if you try to slice it when it’s still warm). Once cool, slice and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche, if preferred.