Butterscotch Brulee Tarts

Butterscotch Brulee Tarts


Very belatedly is one of my Bake Off recipes that didn’t get much screen time, compared to the Apple Rose Tarts – but it might actually edge ahead of them in the taste stakes. This post is for my beautiful and talented sister Georgina, who’s been waiting patiently for this recipe ever since Tart Week. Go follow her on Twitter ( @Georns ) – she says/tweets cool stuff!

When the Bake Off began airing, I was interviewed by the local BBC radio station, and was asked what my favourite food from childhood was. My answer was the Butterscotch Tart we had for school dinners. (I should point out at this stage that my mother was Kitchen Supervisor at the central kitchens that supplied the meals for all the schools in the local area – a fact which earned me by turns admiration and resentment at school, depending on the menu of the day – and occasionally both at once when the menu was particularly divisive.) I also had a great fondness for Butterscotch Angel Delight, although its appearance on the dinner-table was rare,  because it was everything our regular puddings at home weren’t. Packed to the gunnels with flavourings, colourings and preservatives and – most deliciously decadent – it came out of a packet! Such a NORTY pudding! *sighs wistfully*

ANYHOO – These tarts are very simple – a pastry shell filled with a flavoured custard. For the Bake Off, however, I jazzed it up a little by adding pecans to the pastry, and just a drop of scotch to the filling, which really turns this nursery pudding into something altogether more grown up. As a final flourish, I decided to brulee the tops to add some crackly crunch. Now bruléeing caster sugar with a blowtorch can be tricky – it only takes a second to go from caramelised to burnt, so I was really pleased to discover ‘Brulée Sugar’. It sounds really fancy, but it’s easy enough to make yourself. and involves the alchemy of sugarwork!

There’s a theory out there *waves hand vaguely* that one of the characteristics of sugar is that it yearns to return to its previous form – which goes a long way to explaining why it is important to wash the sugar crystals off the side of your pan with a wet pastry brush when boiling sugar. It doesn’t take much for the whole lot to crystallise and then there’s no recovering – you just have to start again.

SO – going along with this theory, if the end result (brulée) is essentially melted sugar, then isn’t starting with sugar in crystals (granulated or caster) just making life difficult for yourself? If you started with a sugar that used to be melted, it would be so much easier to return it to that state, because that is the state it would ‘want’ to be in! It might sound bonkers (sentient sugar!?) but I was impressed with the speed at which it dissolved into golden caramel under the flame of the blowtorch. So here’s how we do it!

Brulée Sugar

  • Sprinkle some caster sugar into a heavy-bottomed pan – exact quantities aren’t important, what you’re aiming for is a thin, even layer.
  • Heat gently until the sugar melts and turns a dark golden brown. NB It won’t melt evenly, so a certain degree of swirling is needed. DON’T STIR – or it’ll crystallise (see above)
  • When all the sugar crystals have melted and you have just a clear caramel, pour it out onto parchment or silicone sheets and leave to cool and set.
  • When completely cooled, break up into small pieces and either blitz in a spice grinder/food-processor or pound in a mortar. The texture doesn’t have to be completely smooth powder – a few chunks here and there add a nice texture to the finished brulée.
  • Keep it in a small jar, making sure the lid is secured tightly – moisture will make it harden into a solid lump.

This is a great make-ahead dessert, because you can just assemble it all at the last minute: pour the custard into the cooked pastry shells, sprinkle with brulée sugar, apply flame and serve at once. However, if there’s going to be any length of time between making and serving, consider also chilling the custard-filled tarts in the fridge, uncovered. A slight skin will form on the custard, and this will form a barrier between the custard and the Brulée Sugar. I didn’t do this when making these tarts to photograph, and as you can see from the picture (if you look closely), I faffed about so much taking the pictures, the moisture from the custard is causing the sugar of the brulée to dissolve, and the custard is starting to show tiny cracks.

Butterscotch Brulée Tarts

Pecan Pastry
215g plain flour, plus additional for work surface
50g finely ground pecans
3.5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
190g unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
ice water

  • Combine flour, ground pecans, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Blitz briefly to mix.
  • Add the butter and process until like breadcrumbs.
  • Add water until the pastry comes together
  • Knead gently into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

90g unsalted butter
100g dark Muscovado sugar[1]
100g Demerera sugar
120ml double cream

  • Place butter  and brown sugar in a heavy bottomed pan.
  • Stir continuously over a medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Cook mixture to rolling boil only (about 5 minutes) 106°C
  • Remove from heat and immediately stir in 120ml cream and set aside to cool.

Custard Filling
250ml milk
50g dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp flour
1tbs cornflour
3 large egg yolks
1 tbs whisky (optional)
Extra thick double cream – although ordinary double cream is just fine, as is no cream at all – depends how firm you like the custard to be.

  • Heat milk.
  • Mix yolks with sugar and flour.
  • When milk is hot, remove it from the heat and pour onto the egg/sugar mixture, whisking vigorously. NB A whisk really is the best utensil for this job – the wires agitate the mixture whilst the gaps allow it to move through the liquid without (too much) sloshing over the sides of the bowl.
  • Pour the mixture back into the pan and continue to heat, whisking, until it thickens.
  • Stir in 120ml butterscotch. Add 1 tbs scotch (whisky)
  • Cover with plastic wrap. Cool

To serve, fold in cream if required.

Overall Method

  • Make pastry and blind bake tart cases – 200°C, 180°C Fan. If you’re using muffin tins, then bake for 10 minutes with beans in (use plain white paper muffin cases to hold the beans – I used patterned cases once, and the colours on the outside of the cases bled into the insides of the pastry caes – Lawks!), then 5-10 minutes without. Larger shaped tarts will take slightly longer for each baking.
  • Make butterscotch.
  • Make custard filling.
  • Fill tartlet cases, chill
  • To Serve: sprinkle with brulee sugar and blowtorch until melted and caramelised.

[1] I use this mixture of sugars because I like the dark butterscotch taste it produces – which might not be to everyone’s taste. Think of it as the butterscotch equivalent to 70% cocoa chocolate and milk chocolate. If you think this might be too intense a flavour, use 200g (total) of Demerera sugar instead.

12 Comments on “Butterscotch Brulee Tarts”

  1. nellycakes says:

    I bow down to your amazing knowledge! I learn something new and interesting with every visit to your blog. Love it, Sentient sugar! 😉

  2. Love the sound of these, one of the Baker Brothers did something similar on telly last night with passionfruit in the custard. I keep meaning to invest in a blow torch for brulees!

  3. stasty says:

    Yum Yum Yum, dying to make these some time.

  4. zoe says:

    these look and sound delicious.
    i too also learn something everytime i come here, and your writing is always fun and make me laugh.

  5. These look great and not a soggy bottom in sight.

  6. Your brulee sugar tip is amazing – will definately try it as I often get the burnt bits on my brulee. Creme brulee is my fave dessert but never thought to put it in a tart – this is one awesome plan 😀

  7. Lovely! – We called it toffee cream tart at school, it was always topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings! My mother was a dinner lady, so the recipe has been handed down to me and is a fave with hubby.

  8. Paula Goble says:

    Great baking, great writing. I Love them both (and i love butterscotch too. Just Saying)

  9. Fabulous sugar alchemy!

  10. Chris Dexter says:

    Just made a big version of this – so one big tart. Its sat in the fridge chilling. My first time at sugar magic. Loved it. A lot harder than I thought it would be. Thanks for the recipe.

  11. Robin Newquist-Ames says:

    This sounds divine. I have a question though. What kind of scotch whisky do you recommend? Highland, Islay, Speyside, cheap blended etc?

    • MAB says:

      Wotchers Robin!
      My recommendation is … whatever you like to drink.
      If you’re the one eating them, put in them the whisky you like. If you’re making them for someone else, put in whatever you think is the nicest whisky.
      The quantity is so small, to the lay person it won’t make much difference whatever you choose.
      Hope this helps!
      MAB 😀

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