I used to love custard tarts when I was a kid. I’m not sure I’d had one as an adult (and certainly not as a vegan) and so I thought I’d come up with a recipe that was both vegan and gluten-free.
I’ve used buckwheat flour for this recipe, which is quite a firm and dense flour, particularly good, I find, for making gluten-free tarts. As with all gluten-free flours, it can be difficult to roll out into a tart tin, and you may find yourself needing to do some patch work.
The custard I’ve used is the Alpro custard carton, but you can use any ready-made vegan custard for this.
Agar agar is, in my opinion, an essential home staple ingredient. It is a vegan option when a gelatine is needed in a recipe and is used a lot in Japanese cooking. I’ve used it here to thicken the custard prior to baking to ensure that we get a set tart at the end. I buy my agar agar from Amazon in a 250g tub, which will last you a long time. They do sell smaller amounts if you prefer.
Finally, the sugar is caramelised at the end of cooking using a chef’s blowtorch. I shot a video of this, which I’ll include below. If you let the tart cool completely first and brulee it just prior to serving, you will be able to achieve a crisp topping. If you use the blowtorch and then chill it overnight, the caramel will soften and run. Either is fine and of course you can skip that process altogether if you don’t have a torch. One possible alternative would be to caramelise the sugar separately in a pan and then pour it on top of the tart.
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Prep time: 25 minutes. Cooking time: about 100 minutes, plus cooling time.
Makes 1 x 24cm (9 ½ inch) tart
For the Base:
225g buckwheat flour
50g chickpea flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp salt
80g unrefined sugar
75g ground almonds
125g vegan margarine
75ml plus 2 tbsp soya milk (or other plant milk)
For the Pears:
1 tbsp sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
1 knob vegan butter
2 large pears, peeled, cored and cut into 8 lengthways slices each
4 tbsp unrefined caster sugar
For the Custard:
1 x 500ml carton vegan custard
100ml vegan cream
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp agar agar
2-3 tbsp sugar
First make the pastry. Put the 2 flours, the baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, sugar and almonds into a mixing bowl and stir with a spoon until combined.
Now add the vegan margarine and crumble between your fingers until you achieve a fine breadcrumb texture. Once you have done this, pour in the soya milk and mix together. Finally, bring it all into a ball using your hands, knead a little to combine, but no too much, then cover and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
While it is chilling you can cook the pears. Heat the oil and butter together in a frying or sauté pan and cook the sliced pears, for about 5-6 minutes on a medium heat, until they have started to soften and brown. Now add the sugar and allow to caramelise for a few more minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Grease a tart 24cm (9 ½ inch) lose-bottomed tart tin with margarine and roll your chilled pastry to just beyond the size of your tin. Gently place the rolled pastry into the tin, making sure you go up around the sides as well. If the pastry breaks up, just patch it together in the tin and press down with your fingers to seal any gaps. Once you are finished, trim the edges and prick the bottom of the pastry several times with a fork. Now set the pastry aside.
To make the custard, put all of the custard ingredients, apart from the agar agar, into a saucepan and bring to the boil, whisk in the agar agar and simmer gently for 5 minutes, whisking often, to allow the agar agar to work. Now turn off the heat and allow the custard to cool slightly, whisking from time to time to prevent lumps or skin forming.
Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C/350F.
Arrange the pears in the pastry case and pour over any remaining syrup. Now pour the cooled custard over the pears and gently shake to level off.
Put the tart on a baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven. Cook for 90 minutes, or until browned and it wobbles slightly when shaken. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the oven, with the oven door ajar. Chill for a few hours, or overnight, to completely set, then sprinkle over the topping sugar and caramelise with a chef’s blowtorch.