Spring is a time for gardening, outdoor picnics, and, of course, honey. Lots and lots of honey.
Tupelo Honey Cafe is one of my top five favorite restaurants. I’ve visited their cafes in Asheville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, and each time I have a meal at one of these locations, I fall in love more and more. During a visit to the Knoxville cafe, I picked up a bottle of their signature Tupelo honey. Sweet, rich – it is impossible to resist. I had one mission in mind: I want to bake something delicious using this honey.
Weeks went by, and I hadn’t quite identified what I wanted to do with this honey. Sure, I’d slathered it over biscuits, but what would I bake with it? And soon, I found inspiration in one of my most recently acquired cookbooks, The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.
This cookbook debuted in October 2013, and I ordered a copy around the holidays. The book, written by the baking sisters behind the much renowned Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Shop, is incredibly unique, with innovative, seasonally centered pie recipes and beautiful photography. There is no pie book out there quite like this one in terms of beauty, originality, and adaptiveness to the at-home baker. It is a gem. Seeking inspiration, I consulted this book and came across the spring recipe for Lavender Honey Custard Pie. I was immediately hooked and set in my mission – to adapt this pie recipe into two tarts using my own crust and nixing the lavender. (We aren’t lavender folk here.) Also, I didn’t want to use a floral honey, such as orange blossom or linden. I wanted Tupelo honey taking center stage in my tart.
From this book, I applied the Elsen sisters’ technique for pre-baking crust for a liquid filling (so helpful!) and the custard recipe, with a few minor changes. I did not use their crust recipe but employed my own, self-developed, tried-and-true crust. The buttery crust I know and love. The crust that’s following be through Blueberry-Blackberry Pie, Apple Pear Tartlets, and Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie Tarts.
And the result: a sweet celebration for your mouth! Sweet, rich honey custard meets a buttery pie crust in perfect harmony. This recipe makes two 5-inch tarts. Each tart will create four small servings or a large serving for two.
This tart truly is an ode to spring. It’s light and creamy, and when I took my first bite, I was immediately transported to my younger years of gathering honeysuckles in the backyard. And as I always say, the best baking involves just a hint of nostalgia. This tart delivers that – perfect to serve to family and friends or serve at a potluck or picnic. Since these tarts are perfect for a large, indulgent dessert for two, I served one with a spring night grilled dinner outside and another on a picnic at the lake.
Tupelo Honey Custard Tart
Inspired and adapted from The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, Lavender Honey Custard Pie
Makes two, 5-inch tarts; serves four to eight
- 2 1/2 cups organic flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1 cup unsalted butter – should be well chilled and and cut into small squares
- Egg wash – one beaten egg white with one teaspoon water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon white cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2/3 cup Tupelo honey
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Combine flour, salt, and butter in your standing mixer using the paddle attachment. Mix until well blended, approximately one minute. Gradually add the ice water until just combined. Be careful not to over mix. You will see small dots of butter in the mixture.
- Remove dough from mixer. Blend together with your hands. Separate the dough into two balls – one for each tart. Prepare two 4-inch tart pans by spraying inner cavity with baking spray. Use your fingers to spread the spray around the cavity and be sure the the surface is fully covered.
- One at a time, roll each ball into a circular shape. The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick. Place each area of rolled dough into the two prepared tart pans. Press in firmly. Remove and discard any excess dough.
- Place the tart pans in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Once the crusts are chilled, move to the freezer for 10 minutes. Then, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place a baking sheet in the oven through the preheating.
- Once the tart pans are frozen, remove from the freezer and apply a single sheet of aluminum foil over the top of each pan. Press the foil in around all areas of the crust, ensuring that it adheres. Be sure the edges are also covered. Then, fill the aluminum covered crusts with pie weights, focusing on the edges of the crust. (If you don’t have pie weights, I recommend using dry pinto beans instead.) This weight simulates the presence of the pie filling for the pre-baking of the crust.
- Place the tart pans on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. The crust should be set but not browned.
- Remove the crust from the oven and remove the aluminum foil and pie weights or beans. Allow the crust to cool for two minutes. Then, return to the oven for two minutes uncovered. After time has elapsed, remove the crust from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- While the crust is cooling, begin your custard. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, salt, and cornmeal. Whisk the melted butter into the dry ingredients and follow with the honey. Once these ingredients are well combined, the eggs and egg yolk should be added one at a time and whisking well with each addition. Add heavy cream and lemon juice. Combine well.
- Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the mixture directly into the cooled tart crusts, filling until almost full, leaving very little room at the top. (No need to account for expansion.) Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 30 – 40 minutes. The pie is finished when the edges are set and slightly puffy. The center will not longer be liquid but will have a wobbly effect.
- Allow the tarts to cool for approximately one hour. Then, gently remove from the tart pans and allow additional cooling. This pie can be served slightly warm or cool. I recommend fully cooled for the best taste and texture.