First off, please take a moment to consider donating to The Red Cross fund for Japan. As Ruth Reichl pointed out in responding to a Twitter attack accusing her of being oblivious for tweeting about food not tragedy, as long we we’re mindful of our privilege, food can be very life-affirming.
This custard tart is particularly spirited: it had its origins in a bourbon buttermilk pie I made a while ago from Out of Kentucky Kitchens (1949).
I upped the egg ratio to thicken the recipe’s custard and make it more tart-ready, and I mixed in candied bacon bits. I used the Cook’s Illustrated vodka crust recipe, but I substituted bourbon for vodka, and used leftover sugary fat from candying the bacon in place of one of the tablespoons of butter. To finish things off I did a little brûlée on top to complement the crunch of the bacon at the bottom of tart. The over all result: tangy, meaty, booziness with a couple of layers of crunch and a delicious smooth custard in the middle.
Sadly, I don’t have a tart pan – or room for one in my apartment right now. I have some nice shallow pie pans, though, which served quite well. Here, have a slice.
Bruleed Bourbon, Buttermilk, and Bacon Tart (Serves 10)
For the Crust:
1 3/4 c. flour
7 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter
1-2 tbsp. candied bacon drippings
2 tbsp. bourbon, chilled
2 tbsp. ice water
1. Use a food processor to pulse the flour, butter, and bacon fat together until it reaches the texture of cornmeal. Ask a question about this step.
2. Put the butter-flour mixture in a medium bowl, sprinkle the bourbon and water over it, and mix with your hands until just blended. Be careful not to overdo it and warm the dough up. Ask a question about this step.
3. Chill the dough for an hour and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Ask a question about this step.
4. Roll the dough out and smooth it into a 9″ round tart pan. Freeze the dough in its pan for 10 minutes. Ask a question about this step.
5. Prick the dough on the bottom of the pan with the tines of a fork, cover the dough with aluminum foil and put pie weights (or dry rice or beans) on top. Blind bake for 10 minutes and let cool while you prepare the filling. Ask a question about this step.
For the Tart:
5 slices regular-cut bacon
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
3/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. white sugar or sugar in the raw
3 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 c. chilled buttermilk
3 tbsp. bourbon (I use Bulleit)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Ask a question about this step.
2. To candy the bacon: Chop the bacon finely. Place it in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the top just as the fat starts to melt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon gets dark and crispy. Pour the fat off and reserve for use in the crust; drain the bacon on parchment paper (do not use paper towels – candied bacon sticks to them). Ask a question about this step.
3. Beat the eggs with the sugar until fluffy and light yellow (the sugar grains should have dissolved). Scrape the mixture down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the flour one tablespoon at a time, mixing for a few seconds between additions. Ask a question about this step.
4. Add the buttermilk, bourbon, and butter, beat until blended, and pour the mixture into the crust (don’t worry, it’s supposed to be kind of runny – it’s a custard, and will firm up in the oven). Sprinkle the bacon bits evenly over the top of the pie. Ask a question about this step.
5. Place the pie in the oven on a middle rack and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Bake about 10-15 minutes more. The sugar should be golden and the custard should be firm, but a little jiggly in the middle. Cool before serving.