Spiced vanilla crème brûlée tart

Graham Hornigold’s spiced crème brûlée tart is an inviting prospect for any dinner party. It takes some skill to pull off, but the wobbly custard filling, perfect pastry and crisp brûlée topping are well worth the effort.

First published in 2018
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Spiced vanilla crème brûlée filling

Sweet pastry

To glaze

  • icing sugar


  • Rolling pin
  • 20cm pastry ring
  • Baking spray
  • Pastry brush
  • Baking beads
  • Blowtorch


To begin, make the pastry. Cream together the butter and sugar very lightly – do not overmix, or you will add too much air to the pastry
Gradually add the eggs, mixing well between each addition. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all the ingredients are uniformly mixed
Add the flour and salt and mix until you have a combined dough. Flatten out slightly then rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
Scatter a light dusting of flour on your work surface, remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to a thickness of 3–4mm, rotating regularly to ensure the pastry does not shrink in an uneven fashion
Trim the pastry into a disc slightly larger than the tart tin, taking care not to over-trim which requires tricky patching up. This will make it easier to line the case and minimise the risk of tearing
Spray the inside of a 20cm pastry ring with baking spray, then very lightly dust with an even layer of flour
Lightly spray a baking sheet and lightly dust with flour. Place the pastry ring on top
Roll the pastry round the rolling pin and drape over the pastry ring. Gently mould the pastry into the ring
Roll some of the pastry trimmings into a ball and use to gently press around the edges of the tart base for a nice even finish. Make sure the pastry is flush against the case all the way around
Run a knife round the edge of the ring to cut away any excess pastry. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour to chill
Preheat the oven to 210°C/gas mark 7
When the pastry has chilled, prepare a blind baking mixture. You can use baking beads, rice, or even flour for this. Line the tart base with heatproof cling film with plenty overhanging the edges of the tart. Fill the tart with baking beads, rice or flour, and gently bring the overhanging cling film over the top to encase the filling
Blind bake the tart case until the edges start to turn a light brown colour. Turn the oven down to 195°C/gas mark 5 and cook for a further 15 minutes, until the case is a nice rich golden colour
Remove from the oven, remove the blind baking mixture and lightly brush all over with beaten egg yolk. Return to the oven for 2 more minutes to seal – this stops the filling soaking into the pastry during cooking
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool completely before filling
Preheat the oven to 140°C/gas mark 1
To make the vanilla crème brûlée filling, add the cream to a saucepan
  • 300g of double cream
Scrape the vanilla bean paste into the pan and stir. Bring the cream slowly to 60°C, or until steaming (but not simmering) if you don’t have a temperature probe
Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks in a separate bowl until pale and thick – it’s important that you whisk as soon as the eggs hit the sugar, or the acidity of the sugar will start to ‘cook’ the eggs and they will become slightly lumpy. Whisk in the ground cloves
Pour a small splash of the warmed cream over the yolks and mix well to temper the eggs
Pour the rest of the cream into the eggs and stir with a heatproof spatula to combine. Return the mixture back to the saucepan and place over a low heat. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to 75°C
If you don’t have a thermometer, drag your finger across the spatula – when it’s thick enough to leave a line in the custard, it is ready. Pour into a bowl, whisking until cooled slightly, then transfer to a measuring jug
Place the blind-baked pastry case on a lined baking tray. Carefully pour the custard into the case almost to the top, then move the tray to the oven shelf. Carefully pour in the rest of the custard so it almost reaches the brim
To remove any air bubbles, use a blowtorch to quickly go back and forth over the mixture and remove any air bubbles on the surface. Bake for 25–30 minutes until the tart starts to set and has a slight wobble in the middle
Gently remove, allow to cool slightly, then place in the fridge to set
To create the brûlée topping, remove the baking paper from the tray and evenly dust the surface of the tart with icing sugar
  • icing sugar
Gently run a blowtorch over the tart, ensuring you don’t hold it over any one place for too long. Rotate the tray as you work
Once you have a nice even caramel, dust over another layer of icing sugar and blowtorch again
Repeat the process one more time, then transfer to a serving board. Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve
First published in 2018

Graham Hornigold’s expert pastry skills have been refined in some of the best restaurants and hotels in London, effortlessly adding delicate, refreshing touches to dessert menus. Previously group pastry chef at Hakkasan Group, he now travels the world with his pastry consultancy business Smart Patisserie (as well as producing the best doughnuts you've ever tasted under the Longboys brand).

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