Date Custard Tart with a Pistachio Crust

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In spite of all the pre-planning in the world, my usual baking endeavours still entail some degree of dilly-dallying beforehand. Well, not this time. I was standing in the kitchen, and knew I wanted a tart. A good tart with a finely baked crisp crust, and some sort of fudgy, gooey middle. Something with depth and exuberance and sin all round.

Put simply: I’ve been sooo into dates recently. Nothing really beats a huge, gooey medjool date. Peel one open and you get an untidy split down the middle, unveiling a thin seed and bountiful, sweet, sticky flesh. Yum. So… Date, custard, pistachios? A combination you would perhaps find in a specialty baking store, and a combination I almost haphazardly threw together. A combination that works.

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Little Maddie was all too keen on having her nose pressed up against the side of the tart shell. I look at her differently now, especially after finishing Eating Animals by Foer. I personally hold many strong views on meat-eating now, but that’s a whole other story that deserves its own section or post.

The crust itself is made of just a few things, and is completely eggless– roasted pistachios, flour, butter, sugar and salt. Et Voila. All you really need is a food processor, otherwise you could really just buy ground pistachios and mix the rest in by hand. And the custard? Another story of ease.

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Dates smushed in the middle of a dense custard, offering perfect contrast to the hard exterior. The crust is buttery and flaky, holding little resistance to any give, thanks to the lack of eggs. What I like is that you can eat this tart alone hot or cold, or with ice cream/ cold whipped cream. I had a thin slice straight out the oven with a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream, which was absolute heaven. The next day, I tried it cold as I put the remains in the fridge, and that was equally sublime. The custard was more set, but if you prefer it a little more warm and watery, all you have to do is microwave it for a couple of minutes.

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Date Custard Tart with a Pistachio Crust (makes 2 9-inch round tarts, or one 9-inch round and one 4×11-inch rectangular, adapted from here)

 

Ingredients:

For the crust:

290g (around 10oz or 2 cups) roasted, de-shelled pistachios (salted/unsalted)

260g (2 cups) plain flour

225g (1 cup) white sugar

pinch salt (not needed if you’re using salted pistachios)

250g (2 sticks+13g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

 

For the filling:

9 medjool dates

300ml heavy cream

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste, or 2 tsp vanilla extract

2 heaping tbsp greek yoghurt (can substitute with more heavy cream or sour cream)

4 egg yolks

3 tbsp sugar

 

Directions:

In a food processor, grind your pistachios until you get a coarse meal. Chuck in the flour, sugar and salt, and pulse until everything is well incorporated. Tip the mixture into a large bowl and whisk (or mix with a wooden spoon) everything, making sure the pistachio meal is evenly distributed in the dry mix. Add the softened butter, get your hands in and mix everything together. This shouldn’t take too long. The dough will be easy to break apart, yet dense and moist. Put the bowl containing the dough into the fridge for 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).

After 20 minutes, take the dough out and ready your tart tins. Greasing isn’t necessary because all the butter in the dough does just the job, but if your tart molds are old and not very trustworthy, then go ahead and give them a light greasing. Break your dough in half (or store half in the freezer if you’re just making one tart) and press into your tart mold, making sure to have a thick enough layer on the bottom and sides. Bake the tart for 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar for 5 minutes straight, or until visibly light, runny and fluffy. Whisk in the cream, yoghurt and vanilla. Once the tart crust is half-baked, remove from the oven and press in you (de-seeded) dates as shown in the picture above. The heat of the oven will soften them even more, making the insides even gooier, if such a word could exist. Pour the custard on your tart(s), then put back carefully in the oven and bake for another 10-12 minutes. Check the tart at 10 minutes– the top might have some soft brown, caramelised patches. The tart should still hold a little wobble when nudged at the side.

Remove from the oven and set on a heatproof mat or stand to let cool for a while before cutting. Eat hot with ice cream, or store in the fridge for a while, before tucking into it cold.

Pistachio Fudge Bars

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Not sure if any of you can tell, but I’ve been a bit down with the pistachio bug lately. It’s almost unhealthy. A few mornings ago, I was relishing one of my favourite, unbeatable toast combinations: homemade pistachio butter, honey and coarse sea salt. Curiosity arose from this delicious ritual, and I researched recipes with the dominant theme of pistachio (and other random facts, such as how these guys have a 14% saturated fat content, and a chemical named aflatoxin may be found in poorly harvested kernels. Did you know that the pistachio tree can survive in 50C weather? Anyways). I decided, the toast fiend that I am, to kick the current bar/brownie game up a notch.

Anything, my friend, can be turned into bars.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI can see how this recipe may come across as inaccessible. It’s true, the main component of these bars is pistachio butter, but I insist that you try making the stuff at home. It’s like bread. Make a loaf at home and you’ll never turn back to the packaged stuff. I’m lucky enough to have a supply of this divine concoction at home, since my mum occasionally makes a batch, and what you essentially do goes as follows: you roast a large batch of pistachios (around 200g is enough for this recipe, and you will have quite a bit leftover, which is perfect!), skin the babies, and grind for a good while in a food processor or other professional grinding device (cough a blender cough) with sugar and salt to taste. If any of you have experience making any sort of nut butter, then you know that the procedure is simple and completely worth it. This nut butter will make all your mornings golden and glimmering. It makes Skippy cower in fear.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

The little air bubbles you see are thanks to a bout of carelessness; I recommend dropping the pan containing the batter before actually baking it, in order to rid your batter of excess air bubbles. Yes, mistakes are abound in this one woman kitchen.

This is a pistachio fudge bar. ‘Fudge’ because of its texture and prominent pistachio flavour. Dense, squidgy, with a slight chew around the edges, the pistachio offering an earthy, naturally sweet touch. I topped it with a simple dark chocolate drizzle to highlight these notes and add a chimerical flair to the otherwise plain pistachio base.

Pistachio Fudge Bars (makes 16 in an 8×8-inch pan)

70g all-purpose flour

2 eggs

113g (half a cup, or one stick) melted, unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

120g (around half a cup) pistachio butter

190g light brown sugar

half a teaspoon of salt

Preheat your oven to 177C (350F). Grease and line an 8×8-inch baking pan and set aside. In a large bowl and with a wooden spoon, mix together the pistachio butter and sugar. The mix should look clumpy, but will come together after a few seconds of mixing (see above). Add the melted butter, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. The mix should be sticky and easily drop off your spoon. Add your flour and salt, and mix until combined. That’s it! That’s all there is to it. Pour the sticky gloop into your greased and lined pan, and drop the pan onto your counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles. Pop it into the oven for 18-20 minutes. My batch was done after 18, so check it at this point. A wooden skewer inserted into the middle should come out dry, but the presence of little clingy crumbs at the tip are fine.

Let the pan cool on a cooling rack. Meanwhile, melt 70g of milk/dark chocolate in the microwave, using 20 seconds bursts and mixing in between, to prevent the chocolate burning and causing an unnecessary temper explosion in the kitchen. Put the melted chocolate into a small ziploc bag. Once the bars are cool, snip the tip off one of the two corners of the ziploc bag and drizzle the chocolate all over the cooled bars. Slice the batch into 16 equal pieces. These bars can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. Store remaining in the fridge and reheat whenever necessary, or store them in the fridge after the bars have cooled, if you wish.

Orange Yoghurt Pancakes with Pistachio Maple Sauce

There are few things in this world which get me like breakfast.

It’s the comforting push of the espresso button on my Nespresso machine, the warm streaming guzz. The silence in the air when I’m by myself, early in the morning, papers nestled on the table. Toaster’s on, get the butter out. Usually, it’s these 5-minute affairs, with toast and butter and honey, or any other topping combination you can think of, and morning’s set just about right. But come the weekend, something a little more.. lascivious demands to be made. I’m not talking Eggs Benedict or Crepe Suzette here (might get to either at some point in my life, kind of, maybe, hopefully), but Sunday’s always full of lazy reading and crude TV humour and, well, pancakes. With bags full of citrus fruit and a fresh tub of yoghurt at home, I guess you could say I knew what I had to do. Orange and yoghurt it was. I played around with orange in this recipe, one of my favourite cake bases by far, so check that one out in keen.

I think the magic of this recipe lies in the yoghurt, which makes everything supremely moist, and… this bloody good sauce! Once you go green, you’ll always be keen. In the language of pistachios, I mean. Ok, that was pretty bad.

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Oh, I can’t stop thinking about this sauce. It’s a revelation. Smooth sweet, buttery, with a hint of tang, complementing the orange flavour perfectly. The main component is pistachio butter, but if you do not have that, don’t fret! Any nut butter you have on hand is perfect for this recipe– natural peanut or almond works perfectly, for they have the same consistency. The only thing is flavour preference. Someone near and dear to me hates pistachios and I have nothing against that, so work with your palate! As for the pancakes, just be sure not to overmix the batter and let it rest for 5 minutes, before proceeding with the ladling, and you’re good to go. Each pancake is soft, on the thinner side, and very well-aerated. Stack two or three and eat in mini triangle stacks, with the sauce and fresh fruit.

Orange Yoghurt Pancakes with Pistachio Maple Sauce (makes 10-12)

For the pancakes:

150g whole wheat or all-purpose flour (I used a mix of both)

1/2 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

110g yoghurt (avoid using greek, but if you must, thin it out a little with a drizzle of milk)

1 egg

100ml milk of choice (I used whole, but feel free to use almond milk; I imagine it would be lovely here)

90ml freshly squeezed orange juice (round about the amount yielded from one small orange) and the zest of one orange

For the pistachio maple sauce:

2 tbsp nut butter of choice (I used pistachio butter, mmm)

2 tbsp milk

one tsp yoghurt

one tsp maple syrup

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, yoghurt, orange zest and orange juice. Pour the wet into the dry mix and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, slowly stir everything together. Mix until just combined, and there are still small lumps in the batter. Let rest for 5 minutes. Preheat your pan on the stove to medium heat. Hold your hand above the pan to see if it’s hot, and once so, grease with a knob of butter.

Using a quarter-cup measurement or two tablespoons, ladle the batter onto the pan. The large amount of leavening in this recipe means you will see little air bubbles pop up quickly. Once you see a fair bit of bubbles strewn randomly on the surface, go ahead and flip. The other side will take much shorter; around 20 seconds on average.

Let the cooked pancakes rest on a paper towel or in an oven preheated to 160C, if you’re cooking for a few people in the morning. If not, these pancakes freeze and reheat wonderfully. Just cook  a batch, let them cool for 15 minutes, then place in a single layer on a baking tray and pop into the freezer. An hour later, take the pancakes off the tray and put them all into a ziploc bag.

Make the sauce. In a small bowl, mix all the sauce ingredients together. Adjust according to taste– for a tangier finish, add more yoghurt, for a sweeter one, add more maple syrup. The stated quantities makes enough for 2, so if there are more, then adjust the ratio. To serve, place a stack of two or three (or more) onto a plate, drizzle on some pistachio maple goodness, and add fresh fruit for textural and flavour contrast.