Yorkshire curd tarts with a twist

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My take on this great British classic is certainly not fully authentic – but in my opinion no recipe should be so precious that it can’t cope with being tinkered with!

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These tarts might veer more towards the wonderful pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts), as I like a deep golden surface with a few darker bits, but the use of the curd cheese and the cooking method certainly gives the Yorkshire curd tart vibe.

For these tarts, I use lemon zest, rum and vanilla which add a fabulous flavour to these tarts, and I finish with a dusting of icing sugar and nutmeg. I usually throw in some currants – soaked overnight in the rum is even better! – but for the batch in the photos I had no currants left, so simply left them out.

If you don’t have the moulds I refer to below, you can make them in mince pie tins – just as you would make mince pies or jam tarts – or a larger tart tin: just bake until deep golden on top (or a touch darker if you can) with a slight wobble to the filling.

A shortcut version

I’ve given the recipes for making the curd cheese and the pastry, but for a speedier and easier version you can use commercial curd cheese (or even plain cottage cheese) and bought shortcrust pastry.

For a more traditional Yorkshire curd tart, omit the rum and vanilla.

Making curd cheese

You can buy curd cheese, in which case you need about 140g of it to give 4 small tarts. If making the cheese, it is best to make the cheese a few hours before or, ideally, the night before.

I make different sorts of cheese a lot with my students at school for using in various dishes: there’s always a sense of wonderment when a simple, versatile cheese can be made in moments from just milk and lemon juice. Honestly, witnessing protein denaturation and coagulation in action never gets boring!

If you make the cheese, the remaining whey is perfect used in place of buttermilk for scones, pancakes or soda bread. It is also great as the basis for a marinade for chicken…fried chicken anyone?

No need to bake blind!

I use small perforated tart rings which, I think, makes the tarts looks more elegant. You can buy them in silicone or metal: I have a selection of both types and each works perfectly well.

With these tart rings that there is no need to bake blind: just sit them on a sheet of parchment on a metal baking tray and they will cook through perfectly with the filling inside for the 20 or so minutes it takes to cook the tarts.

Recipe: Yorkshire curd tart – makes 4 small tarts

Curd cheese (or use 140g bought curd cheese):
  • 800ml full fat milk (Jersey is ideal)
  • juice of 1 lemon (save the zest for the filling)
Pastry (or use about 160g bought shortcrust)
  • 80g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons icing sugar
  • 20g lard
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 1 medium egg yolk (you can freeze the white for meringue or macarons)
  • a tablespoon or so of cold water to mix
  • the cooled curd cheese (or 140g bought curd cheese)
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 medium egg yolk (you can freeze the white for meringue or macarons)
  • 20g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons currants, optional
  • a little grated nutmeg
To finish:
  • 1-2  teaspoons icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 170°C(fan)

(1) If making the cheese: put the milk into a medium pan and bring just to it simmers gently. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and stir slowly a few times. You will see lumps (the curds) start to form before your eyes and float among the liquid (the whey). Leave to cool.

(2) Place a clean cloth in a sieve over a bowl and pour over the contents of the pan. Leave until the whey has dripped through into the bowl below. This whey can be chilled or frozen, but empty the curds into a small bowl for making the filling.

(3) If making the pastry: put the flour, sugar, salt, butter, lard and egg yolk into a food processor. Blitz a few times to break up the fat. Add a little water at a time, pulsing gently until it forms a soft dough. Scrape out onto clingfilm or foil and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Assemble the tarts:

(4) Cut the pastry into four equal pieces and roll out thinly. Line the moulds, pressing against the sides. Trim and chill until ready to fill. You don’t need to be very delicate here so a bit of pushing and easing into place is fine!

(5) Make the filling by whisking together the cheese, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, rum, whole egg, egg yolk and butter until fairly smooth.

(6) Scatter the currants over the bases (if using) and spoon over the filling: it won’t come right to the top. Grate over a little nutmeg.

(7) Bake for about 20 minutes: you want a golden-brown appearance on top, perhaps a few even darker bits, with a bit of a wobble.

(8) Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack: a fish slice is best here. Carefully slip off the tart rings and leave to cool fully before chilling.

(9) When you are ready to serve, mix the icing sugar and nutmeg and sieve over the tarts. If you prefer them warm, heat for about 10 minutes at 140°C

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

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