Given that my blog sings the praises of the nutmeg, it stands to reason that I should advise you all to go out and drink more eggnog at this time of year. Not only does it have a wonderfully charming name, but this beverage is the ultimate form of edible central heating, and showcases the musky warmth of my favourite spice, with its extraordinary power to transform and enrich dairy-based concoctions. It’s undeniably rich, being a mixture of milk or cream, sugar, spirits and whipped eggs, but a little dram is ideal for those lingering winter nights, particularly if you’re the kind of person who likes your desserts drinkable and enriched with booze.
However, this comforting combination has potential outside the shotglass, too. A little eggnog whipped into a frenzy with milk, sugar and espresso forms the ‘eggnog latte’ beloved of famous high street coffee chains. I started thinking about using the luxurious combination of dairy, eggs and spice in a recipe, seeing as it’s essentially a custard. The classic English custard tart, with its signature sprinkling of nutmeg, echoes many of the flavours of the drink; these tarts go one step further in decadent deliciousness, taking inspiration from warmer climes.
These caramelised, flaky little morsels take inspiration from rich, frothy spiced eggnog. They are a version of the Portuguese pasteis de nata, a vibrant yellow custard tart with an irresistibly flaky, buttery casing and a gloriously sumptuous golden centre, burnished in patches from the heat of the oven. To the silky custard filling I’ve added the traditional eggnog flavours – whisky (or bourbon or rum, depending on your preference), aromatic wisps of fresh nutmeg, the warmth of cinnamon, and some citrus zest for festive flair. Nutmeg works beautifully in custard, its woody musk adding depth and richness, and these tarts have all the succulent, melt-in-the-mouth quality of a tumbler of eggnog.
These tarts would be perfect as a treat alongside a glass of eggnog for maximum festive indulgence, although they are also delicious on their own or with a cup of strong tea or coffee. You could vary the alcohol involved as you choose, or experiment with adding different spices to the mix – vanilla and ginger would work well. A few raspberries dropped into the custard before baking also gives glorious tangy, fruity tarts that would cut nicely through an accompanying eggnog.
This is a sponsored post in partnership with thebar.com, a one-stop online resource for drink and cocktail recipes organised by themes and ingredients. For Christmas cocktail inspiration, including winter warmers and favourites with a festive twist (like Jingle & Tonic or Mistle Sloe Gin!), check out their fabulous Christmas cocktails selection.
Eggnog custard tarts (makes 12):
- Butter, for greasing
- 250ml whole milk
- 4 strips of lemon zest
- 2 strips of orange zest
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus extra for finishing
- Pinch of salt
- 35g plain flour
- 200g golden caster sugar
- 90ml water
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2-3 tbsp whisky, dark rum or bourbon, to taste
- 300g ready-rolled puff pastry
Grease a 12-hole muffin tray with butter, then put in the fridge to chill.
Put the milk in a saucepan with the lemon and orange zest, cinnamon stick and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and leave to cool a little. Remove the zest and cinnamon stick.
Put the flour in a small bowl. Whisk a third of the milk into it to form a loose paste. Heat the remaining milk in the saucepan to boiling point, then stir in the flour paste and cook over a medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened (this should only take a minute or so). Turn off the heat and set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 230C (fan oven).
Put the sugar in a small pan with the water and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and boil for around 5 minutes or until thickened to a light syrup. It should reach 108C on a sugar thermometer, and reach the ‘thread stage’: you can test it by removing a spoonful of the syrup, letting it cool for a minute, then pinching it between your finger and thumb quickly – it should form tiny threads.
Whisk the syrup into the milk mixture. It will look slightly lumpy.
Put the egg yolks in a large bowl and strain over the milk and syrup mixture, whisking constantly. You will end up with a bright yellow custard. Stir in your chosen alcohol, tasting to get the balance right. Set aside.
Unroll the pastry sheet, remove the greaseproof paper inside, then roll it tightly back up again. Slice the pastry roll into 12 discs, then put each one into a hole of the muffin tin, swirl side up. Using your fingers, press the pastry outwards into the holes of the tin, so it just pokes over the top of each hole. Ensure there are no gaps or holes.
Pour the custard mixture into the pastry cases, leaving a 1cm gap below the top. Grate a little fresh nutmeg over each tart.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the custard is slightly caramelised in places. Cool the tarts in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove gently (using a knife helps to lever them out of the holes) and leave to cool on a wire rack. Grate over a little more nutmeg to serve, if you like.