So, this might look like an unassuming little custard tart, but it is–like Jem and the Holograms–truly, truly, truly outrageous. Trancendent, even. Marrying the dusky sweetness of maple with nutmeg’s tingling spice, this is bar none the best way to eat either, and inspires absolute devotion from first bite. To wit, a recent evite invitation: “And if Luke doesn’t make that tart thing then we are no longer friends.” How could you not love a dessert inspiring such demands?!
First appearing in Melissa Clark’s lengthy disquisition on pie crust in the NYTimes several years ago, this recipe has been championed by several in the blogosphere already, notably the delightful Deb of Smitten Kitchen. Though I’ve made no real changes to the recipe, it is simply too good not to share. If homemade pie crust freaks you out and store bought grosses you out, then bake it in a pretty dish without. This is too good to let pastry fear stop you.
This particular iteration was enhanced by the fresh nutmeg that friends brought me back from Zanzibar. So fresh that they came with flames of bright red mace still licking their hard, brown shells. I must say it did add a little extra zing, but this is amazingly delicious regardless of your nutmeg’s provenance (providing it’s freshly grated, of course). So, please, I beg you, MAKE THIS NOW. Amazing flavor and raucous accolades await.
Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie
Melissa Clark, NYT
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 9-inch tart crust
Par-bake tart crust: Prepare your favorite pie crust, roll, and put in a 9″ pie plate or a 10″ tart pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line chilled pastry shell with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until beginning to set. Remove foil with weights and bake 15 to 18 minutes longer or until golden. If shell puffs during baking, press it down with back of spoon. Cool on wire rack.
Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees. (I have forgotten to do this several times and while everything will survive, the custard won’t be as beautifully silky as it is baked at the correct lower temperature.)
Prepare filling: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce maple syrup by a quarter, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and egg. Whisking constantly, slowly add cream mixture to eggs. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a cup or bowl with pouring spout. Stir in salt, nutmeg and vanilla.
Pour filling into crust and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. You may have a little extra. Just pour it into a little oven-safe ramekin and bake off with the bigger version. Bake until pie is firm to touch but jiggles slightly when moved, about 1 hour. Let cool to room temperature before serving.
Just prior to serving, I like to ring the tart with freshly whipped cream flavored with a touch of maple and vanilla. Be sure, though that it is totally cool before hand or the cream will melt.
Notes & Variations
It should go without saying that real maple syrup is the order of the day, here. Give Aunt Jemima the day off and go for the good stuff. Either Grade A or B would be fine, though I might suggest saving your B for other uses as the syrup is reduced anyway and provides a very concentrated flavor already.