I was telling my colleagues about one of my favourite treats from my Yorkshire days – curd tart. Our local baker, Thomas the Baker, who had branches around North Yorkshire and made some of the best pastries and breads you could ever hope to taste, sold curds in small single portions and in larger, more traditional sizes.
I’d often buy the smaller ones for lunch but a real Saturday treat was to buy the bigger ones, still warm, and enjoy them with a lovely strong cup of tea.
I haven’t had one of these tarts for years and quite fancy one, but you can’t seem to get them down here. A friend of mine is now married to a guy who own a big bakers in Yorkshire and I asked her to send me one in the post but she doesn’t think it will survive the journey.
But anyway, my colleagues didn’t believe me when I tried to describe the tart. It is, after all, made with what is effectively old milk and described like that I think it would be hard to get anyone to try it.
But here, in the interests of cultural understanding, is a recipe for curd tart (or ‘Yorkshire Curd Tart’ to give it its proper name). It takes a while to prepare, but if done properly it is beautiful served warm or cold. (There are much simpler versions of this recipe on the web if you search for them)
Once tried, never forgotten. They can be quite addictive – I was quite fat back in those days!
(Incidentally, Yorkshire Curd Tart is also known as Yorkshire Cheesecake and is reputed by some people to be the original source of the American Cheesecake.)
Preparation time overnight
Cooking time 30 mins to 1 hour
- 1.2 litres/2 pints full cream milk
- 2 tbsp rennet (curdled milk)
- 100g/4oz butter, softened
- 50g/2oz caster sugar
- 2 medium eggs, well beaten
- pinch of salt
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- a little freshly grated nutmeg to taste
- 1 rounded tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
- 100g/4oz plump, seedless raisins
- The tarts I remember had lemon in them as well, either juice or rind, so experiment
For the pastry case
- 12g/4oz plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 32g/1¼oz chilled butter, cut into pieces
- 32g/1¼oz chilled lard, cut into pieces
- ¾-1 tbsp cold water
- To make the fresh curds, put the milk into a pan and bring it just up to blood heat – 37C/98F. Pour it into a bowl, stir in the rennet and set it aside somewhere cool, but not in the fridge, until set. Then break up the mixture a bit and tip it into a large, muslin-lined sieve set over a bowl. Cover and leave somewhere cool to drain for 8 hours or overnight, but again, do not refrigerate.
- To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a food processor or a mixing bowl. Add the pieces of chilled butter and lard and work together, either in the food processor or with your fingertips, until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the water with a round-bladed knife (or process finely) until it comes together into a ball, then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly until smooth.
- The next day, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a 4cm/1½ inches deep, 20cm/8 inch loose-bottomed flan tin. Prick the base here and there with a fork and chill for 20 minutes. (And while you’re chilling, put the pastry in the fridge…)
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and a thin layer of baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden.
- For the filling, tip the curds out of the muslin into the sieve and press through with a wooden spoon into a clean bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together in another bowl until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the curds, eggs, salt, spices and breadcrumbs. Stir in the raisins.
- Pour the mixture into the pastry case and bake for 20-30 minutes until the filling is set and lightly golden. Leave to cool, then remove from the tin and serve cut into wedges.