I wasn’t sure whether making another tart so soon after the chess pie was a good idea. I’d ended up throwing half of it away. Although it was edible, it just didn’t get eaten, and I thought that giving something so sugary to the birds might do them some permanent mischief. The flan parisien came about because it was the picture that stopped my husband on his flick through Edd Kimber’s Patisserie Made Simple.
A flan parisien is custard baked in a shortcrust pastry case or, to be French about it, crème pâtissière (I’m still not Bake Off enough to call it crème pat) in a pâte brisée case.
The first thing to do was to make a decision about the size of my tart. The recipe in Patisserie Made Simple is for a deep 23cm tart made using a cake ring or springform tin. I don’t have any cake rings and, to be honest, didn’t really fancy Googling the term to find any. Who knows what I could come up with. I do have springform tins, but they all have really high sides, much higher than the sides of your average custard tart. My loose-bottomed tins were better height-wise, but I didn’t have any that had the required 23cm diameter. I decided to risk a 20cm loose-bottomed tin and to make two-thirds of the recipe.
I started with the pastry. Plain flour mixed with a bit of salt and a bit of sugar rubbed together with cold, diced butter. As ever, I used the pastry blender to get to the breadcrumb stage.
I dripped in cold water to bring the mixture together, made it into a ball, wrapped it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge.
I was pretty organised (for me) when I made the custard. I measured out all of the ingredients, separated the eggs that needed to be separated, and put several clean bowls onto the worktop – you can never have too many. Just in case I had curdling to deal with, I also half-filled the sink with cold water.
The first thing to do, according to the recipe, was to boil milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan. You then add the boiling milk to eggs plus extra yolks, sugar and cornflour which you’re supposed to whisk until smooth while the milk is heating up. I whisked my eggs, sugar and cornflour first. I didn’t trust the milk not to boil before I had a smooth mixture, and I didn’t want to be flying around the kitchen waving an eggy whisk in the air whilst trying to stop my milk from boiling over. It has happened before, it’s not a particularly pretty sight, and there would be swearing.
Once I had a smooth egg/sugar/cornflour mix, I heated the milk, cream and vanilla. The recipe gives you choice of using either a vanilla pod, or vanilla bean paste. I couldn’t find a vanilla pod in Tesco, so I used paste. Actually, I was surprised to find that Tesco had vanilla bean paste, but there it was. I even had a choice of brand.
When the milk started to boil, I took it off the heat and poured it onto the egg mixture. I did this as slowly as I could, and I whisked as hard as I could to avoid any lumps. Once all the milk was in, I poured everything back into the pan and stirred until the mixture thickened. I put the custard into one of my clean bowls, pressed a layer of foil onto the surface – I know you’re supposed to use clingfilm, but I didn’t have any and foil was the next best thing – and left it to cool.
I took the pastry out of the fridge, rolled it out and lined my cake tin with it. There was a bit of patching up to do around the edges, but nothing too drastic. I put the custard into the pastry case and baked it at 160º fan for an hour. No blind baking with this recipe. When I took the tart from the oven, the top was brown and the custard still had a slight wobble. Just as it was supposed to.
I left the tart to cool, tidied up the edges and held my breath while I released the cake tin. The pastry held and I had a tart. I even managed to get it off the bottom of the tin and onto a plate in one piece. Well done me.
Was it worth it?
The flan parisien was lovely. Creamy and comforting, with custard that’s much thicker than your usual English egg custard – a really good thing in my mind. It certainly impressed my mom. She put her order in for one for her birthday. My husband was a fan too. He put an order in for more from Edd Kimber. I was just relieved to find that I could still make pastry and I could still make custard, which, after the half-eaten chess pie, I’d begun to doubt.