Madeira Tart

By • March 8, 2011 92 Comments

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Author Notes: This is a tart with an agenda. Its roots are old fashioned and small town but don't let that fool you. It is as luscious and silky as Scarlet Johansson sauntering the red carpet. It is as lascivious as True Blood and as beaten-up as Mickey Rourke on a bad day. There are tarts and then there are tarts. The best are the kind that even your mama would like. Never suspecting or questioning what makes up its character but just enjoying it for what it is because it is so good. All the while, later, you know you are going to lick your fork like...well, lets just say it is a tart that likes to please and it will. Truly, it is like fine champagne on a Sunday afternoon. The basis of this tart has been around for a long time, the old fashioned egg custard pie, you know the one with nutmeg that has shown up at every family reunion since people started having reunions. Well, take that base and an idea from Alice Waters and her Madeira cream pots, add in the videos from Shuna Lydon about cooling your custard and then use duck eggs (again Waters' idea) which make for an even silkier tart and what you come up with is nothing less than sexy. Never fear, I have written the recipe to use chicken eggs but if you ever come across fresh duck eggs, by all means use them to make a custard. - thirschfeldthirschfeld

Food52 Review: Thirschfeld takes a seemingly simple custard tart and layers on the charm. After you slip through the heady, Madeira-laced flan center, you'll hit the soft sandy crunch of the semolina crust and, before you know it, you'll be reaching for another slice. With just 8 ingredients and a press-in crust, the process is simple but do take care. Chill your custard thoroughly (overnight if possible) to deepen the Madeira flavor and allow it to warm through gently in the oven. And if your oven runs hot or if you're baking in a dark tart pan, start it at 350. It may take longer to bake, but just watch for that Jell-O jiggle. But even if it does heat up too quickly and bubble on top like ours did the day we shot the photo, have no fear -- it's still delicious, its charms just a bit more rustic (more Mickey Rourke than Scarlett Johansson, in thirschfeld's terms). Amanda loved it served warm; Merrill dug it cooled to room temperature. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 8

For the crust:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup semolina flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 finger pinch of salt

For the custard:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons madeira
  • 4 large eggs, or three duck eggs
  1. For the custard: Place the milk into a sauce pan and scald it over medium high heat. Remove the pan from the burner. In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, madeira and salt. Temper the eggs by whisking in a 1/2 cup of warm milk and then add the rest while whisking. Cover the bowl and place the custard base into the fridge. You want it to be cold. It can sit in the fridge overnight, which is probably best, but at least let it get to 35 or so degrees F. You could do this in an ice bath if you are in a hurry.
  2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl and using a large wooden spoon mix all the crust ingredients smashing the butter into the mixture with the back of the spoon until you have a cornmeal and couscous-looking crumble. You can use your hands rubbing them together with the mixture between them to make some of the bigger chunks smaller.
  3. Place an 8-inch tart pan onto a sheet tray. This will make it easier to move around and get out of the oven. Dump the crumbles into the tart pan. Press the dough up the sides, packing it tightly as you go, and then work toward the center until you have a crust. Prick the bottom a few times with a fork. Bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven.
  4. Turn the oven up to 400 degrees (350 if you're using a dark pan or your oven runs hot). Strain the chilled custard through a fine mesh strainer to remove and albumen pieces. Pour the custard into the tart till it is half full. Place the tart into the oven and then finish filling the tart. You will probably have about a 1/2 cup of base left. I made a little extra so you wouldn't come up short in case your tart pan was a little bigger.
  5. Bake the tart for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake it for another 20 to 30 minutes or until set. Depending on how cold your custard is, it will lengthen or shorten the baking time. If you give the sheet tray a gentle but sharp shake, the tart should jiggle like jello if it is done. If it creates waves that look like you dropped a pebble into still water continue cooking.
  6. When the tart is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool completely. Cut and serve.

More Great Recipes: Desserts|Pies & Tarts|Tarts|Pie

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Comments (92) Questions (2)


5 months ago Scott P

I recently made this for four dinner parties. I got better at it each time. I kept making it because guests raved and went back for more. One party had a guest with a serious wine allergy, so I used vanilla instead of the madeira and it was more traditional but fine. The biggest tips are to pack the crust as tightly as possible into the pan, first squeezing the sides and then pressing hard on the bottom, and then to watch for the custard to set and take it out of the oven before it overcooks.


over 3 years ago LE BEC FIN

hi tom, plse share what madeira you recommend- sweet, dry, rainwater...? looks terrif- thx much!


over 3 years ago thirschfeld

I am not sure which I used but I usually don't have sweet on hand. Marsala also works great.


over 3 years ago thirschfeld

I am not sure which I used but I usually don't have sweet on hand. Marsala also works great.


almost 4 years ago Rivka

And of course, a expected, it's awesome. DCers loved every bit of it.


almost 4 years ago Rivka

Pretty psyched about this tart. It's in the oven right now and the whole house smells like Madeira and butter. DC food52ers, look out! I'm coming your way with this beauty in just under an hour.


about 4 years ago athoughtforfood

I'm not sure I've ever had a tart that's had an agenda... but I think I'd like to know what that's like!


over 4 years ago Phoenix Helix

Although you didn't make it to Martha this round, I have no doubt you'll be on TV in the future. You have a unique cooking style & a great personality that shows through on all of your posts. I'm glad you're part of Food52!


over 4 years ago lapadia

Could not have said it better!


over 4 years ago cheese1227

Indeed, move over Martha, here comes Tom!


over 4 years ago fishersfoodie

I agree! Don't know how I lucked out but I look forward to more friendly competitions with you. You are the type of cook that excites all of us to challenge ourselves and each other. Thank you for welcoming me into this place. I believe that there is a spot for you and your point of view on TV.-Lori


over 4 years ago imceci

Awwwww, I think you shoulda won..... I think it sounded so much more refreshing


over 4 years ago thirschfeld

I have no idea what will happen tomorrow and who will win. With that I just want to say thanks to everyone who voted for the Madeira Tart. The food52 community is such a wonderful place to hang out. There are so many creative and talented people making tasty food it is really unbelievable. I think there were about three hundred tarts entered in this contest and I am sure I saw a whole lot, and I mean a lot, that I would have put in place of mine. It is seeing all the other great recipes that makes this such an honor. It makes me really proud to be a part of this community and to be able to call so many of you friends. Again thanks.


over 4 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I really can't think of anyone I'd rather have representing the food52 community on the Martha Stewart show! You've definitely made an impact on my cooking, you're supportive and kind, and you are a wonderful chef, father, and person in general. You make me happy and proud to be part of the food52 family. Here's hoping I see your tart in the winner's spot tomorrow.


over 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

I have to agree with hardlikearmour. You're an inspiration, a teacher, and a friend here Tom. One of the (many!) people who embody the creative, communal, supportive spirit of this community.


over 4 years ago TiggyBee

Amen, hardlikearmour and fiveandspice. I just re-read my comment below and it was meant to convey that among the few things I've had time to contribute, was my vote for this beautiful tart!! I can't wait till noon!!


over 4 years ago gingerroot

Could not agree more with the above sentiments. Thanks for being you and doing what you do, everyday.


over 4 years ago healthierkitchen

I've learned so much from your recipes and generosity on this site. I don't know much about tart making, but I always know that if I try one of your recipes that it will work well and taste great. Win or lose with this recipe, you are a total winner.


over 4 years ago Daphne

This was fun to put together and looked like sunshine coming out of the oven. Super flavor and texture combination with the semolina shortbread crust with the custard filling. I baked mine in a 9 inch dark pan and stood there towards the end to watch it jell just under 30 min. total time in the oven at 350. We enjoyed it both warm in the afternoon and at room temperature later. A wonderfully cheerful looking tart with a lot of soul, perfect for this time of the year!


over 4 years ago thirschfeld

Daphne I am so glad you liked it and thanks for pointing out that black tart pans cook foods faster.


over 4 years ago FoodieFlirt

Bon chance! I'm looking forward to trying this recipe out soon. It sounds delicious!!!


over 4 years ago imceci

GOOD LUCK............ I cant wait til I get a chance to try this


over 4 years ago ramieweisser

Congrats!!! Hope you seem to be pretty famous here. I always love reading your recipes and perusing what you make. You're very talented.


over 4 years ago Daphne

As your tart recipes arrived one after another for this contest I kept saying 'Wow", thinking how each one seemed like the winner! Want to try them all, starting with this custard tart on Sunday... very happy for you here and all around this week, thirschfeld! Thrilled about your new daughter! Hope you get to go to NYC. and meet Martha!


over 4 years ago NWB

Congrats and good luck!


over 4 years ago monkeymom

Congratulations thirschfeld on a second week in a row of making the finals and the official new addition to you family. What a day to savor. I hope you get to go see Martha!


over 4 years ago kmartinelli

Wow, what a simple, beautiful, elegant recipe - and photo! So well written as well. And after reading through the comments - congrats on being a finalist AND on the new addition to your family!


over 4 years ago luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

like the recipe but looking at the headnote you are also a really good writer. and such nice timing to welcome your new daughter!


over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thank you luvcookbooks, and I always appreciate the noticing of the writing because I really struggle with it, daily.


over 4 years ago Panfusine

Congratulations again! finalist twice in a row...!!


over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks Panfusine


over 4 years ago Sagegreen

Congrats! What a day: You have my vote!


over 4 years ago thirschfeld

it has been a great day, thanks Sagegreen


over 4 years ago healthierkitchen

Congratulations and good luck, thirschfeld on the tart and the new addition to the family! One more to share your food and love!


over 4 years ago thirschfeld

thanks healthierkitchen and I can always use the luck