Parisian Custard Tart

November 24, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg. Food stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
  • Prep time 8 hours 50 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Serves 12
Author Notes

The macaron may be synonymous with Paris, but there’s another, less well-known dessert that’s beloved in the city—this tart. It’s basic and plain, distinctive but not at all dainty, decorative or attention-grabbing. It’s simply a crust, often puff pastry, filled with pastry cream and baked until the custard is set and the top is browned to a mahogany char. The darker the top, the more authentic the tart. In Paris, this dessert is called a flan—I know you might be tempted to think of crème caramel, but the two desserts are very different. The tart can be tall, like a torte (or a New York cheesecake), or short, like a typical tart; it can be rich or lean, and the filling flavored or not. Mine is less than 2 inches tall; creamy but not rich or heavy; set but still jiggly; and full of warm flavor—I use lots of vanilla and also dark rum, vanilla’s good pal. And because I use store bought puff pastry for the crust (although you could make it with tart dough, if you prefer), this tart can be an everyday dessert, a snack or a take-a-break-from-work treat, as it is for Parisians.

A WORD ON ROLLING OUT PUFF PASTRY: Depending on what brand of puff pastry you buy, you may find yourself faced with a geometry problem: How do you roll a rectangular sheet of pastry into a round? The easiest way to deal with it is to roll the dough into a large square and then cut the dough into a circle. If you can find puff pastry that’s already rolled into a round, you’ll be on easy street.

PLAN AHEAD: The custard needs to chill before filling and baking the tart. Once baked, the tart has to cool and then be refrigerated for another hour or more. It’s ideal if you make it the day before—it really benefits from an overnight stay in the fridge. —Dorie Greenspan

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Parisian Custard Tart
  • Custard Tart
  • 3 cups (720 ml) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (43 grams) cornstarch
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum (or an additional 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (at least 8½ ounces; 240 grams), preferably all-butter, defrosted if necessary, or 1 recipe All-Purpose Tart Dough (see below), rolled into a 12- to 13-inch round and chilled if necessary
  • All-Purpose Tart Dough
  • 1 1/4 cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons; 3 ounces; 85 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon ice water
  1. Custard Tart
  2. To make the filling: Give a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan a quick rinse with cold water, but don’t dry the pan (this will help prevent the milk from scorching), then pour in the milk and water. Stir in half of the granulated sugar and bring just to a boil—keep an eye on it: Once the milk boils, it’s just a nanosecond before it bubbles over the pot and makes a mess. Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. While the liquids are heating, whisk together the rest of the granulated sugar, the brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Add the eggs and whisk energetically to blend well. Put the bowl on a folded kitchen towel or a silicone pot holder to anchor it. Whisking the sugar-egg mixture nonstop, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid. Then, still whisking, pour in the rest in a steadier stream.
  4. Rinse the saucepan (no need to be thorough) and pour the custard mixture into it. Set the pan over medium heat and, whisking without stopping and making sure that the whisk reaches every part of the pan, including the corners, cook the custard until the first bubble rises to the top and pops, at which point the custard will be noticeably thicker and your whisk will leave tracks. Lower the heat a bit and cook and stir for another minute or two, your insurance that the custard is sufficiently cooked and that the cornstarch won’t taste raw.
  5. Scrape the custard into a clean bowl and stir in the rum, if you’re using it, and vanilla. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and let the custard sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes; stir now and then if you’re around.
  6. Put the bowl in the refrigerator and chill the custard for at least 1 hour. Better yet, let it get thoroughly cold. You can speed the process by placing the custard bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water—come back to the bowl now and then to stir until it’s cold. (The custard can be refrigerated in an airtight container overnight.)
  7. To make the crust: Butter a 9-inch springform pan (if your pan is 9½ inches, that’s fine).
  8. If you’re using puff pastry, roll it out into a round that’s 12 to 13 inches in diameter (see headnote); if you’re using tart dough, you’re all set. Using your hands or rolling the pastry up around your pin to make it easier, position the pastry over the pan. Gently ease it into the pan and press it against the bottom and up the sides. You’re aiming for the dough to come about 1½ inches up the sides. If the edges are ragged and uneven, just leave them—they’ll get trimmed later. Put the pan in the refrigerator until ready to use; when the crust is firm, cover it tightly.
  9. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  10. Remove the custard from the fridge and whisk it a bit to loosen it, then scrape it into the pastry-lined springform pan and smooth the top. Using a table knife, trim the dough so that it reaches just about ½ inch above the custard.
  11. Bake the tart for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the top of the custard is dark, dark brown—if it looks black in places, that’s great and most authentic. It won’t be brown all over, though, and it might bubble and mound in places. If you get bubbles, you can prick them with the tip of a knife or just leave them.
  12. Transfer the pan to a rack and wait for 5 minutes, then, if some of the custard has risen above the crust and stuck to the sides of the pan, run a table knife gently between the pan and the custard. Let the flan cool to room temperature, then cover it lightly and refrigerate it. It’s best if you can chill it overnight, but that’s not always convenient—give it as much time as you can.
  13. When you’re ready to serve, remove the sides of the springform and if you’d like, lift the tart off the base and onto a serving platter (if it’s easier, leave it on the base). You can serve it cold, at room temperature or at any temp in between. Cut into wedges and serve with a fork...or don’t. When you’re having the tart as a snack, do as Parisians do: Eat it out of hand.
  14. Covered tightly, the tart will keep for about 3 days in the fridge. Make sure to keep it away from foods with strong odors.
  1. All-Purpose Tart Dough
  2. Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to blend. Scatter over the pieces of butter. You want to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until you’ve got some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and others the size of peas. Work in long pulses—you might need as many as 20—and scrape the bowl often. Stir the egg and water together and add in 3 additions, pulsing after each. Then pulse until the dough just starts to come together, forms moist curds and clumps and holds together when pinched.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, knead into a compact ball and flatten into a disk, then sandwich between sheets of parchment. Roll the dough into an 11-inch round. If it’s cold enough, fit it into a 9- to 9½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom or into a pie pan, prick the bottom with a fork and trim the top even with the pan’s rim. If it’s not cold, chill it until it’s workable and then proceed. Refrigerate the crust in the pan for at least 1 hour.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Erika Yen
    Erika Yen
  • Ann Del Tredici
    Ann Del Tredici
  • showerlist
  • monica lois
    monica lois
With the publication her 14th book, Baking with Dorie, New York Times bestselling author Dorie Greenspan marks her thirtieth anniversary as a cookbook author. She has won five James Beard Awards for her cookbooks and journalism and was inducted into the Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. A columnist for the New York Times Magazine and the author of the xoxoDorie newsletter on Bulletin, Dorie was recently awarded an Order of Agricultural Merit from the French government for her outstanding writing on the foods of that country. She lives in New York City, Westbrook, Connecticut, and Paris. You can find Dorie on Instagram, Facebook, Bulletin and her website,

12 Reviews

showerlist January 6, 2022
I've tried this recipe twice and the result was not solid! It ends up being runny and goopy and I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. Do i need to put more cornstarch than is recommended??
Erika Y. January 7, 2022
I didn’t have any problems with this recipe. We ate it the next day so it got a full 24 hour chill and cooked the custard until quite thick.
showerlist January 7, 2022
Hi Erika~ Thank you so much! You did no tweaks at all? I'm wondering about maybe my timing for the my stirring the custard after the first pop might be too short, i kept it strictly at 2 minutes.
Any baking insight would be much appreciated-- I'm new to this!
Erika Y. January 7, 2022
I don’t think I kept too strict to the two minute timing. Heat can vary, so I went for thick bubbles and let them go for two minutes. By the time the custard cools and it is ready to go in the oven, it should be pretty solid. The only that may be different about my oven is that I have a baking stone on my middle rack for bread baking, but I find that it helps with cakes and sheet pan baking, so I hardly remove it. I think it disperses the heat in my oven more evenly. I hope you try again and are successful. It really is such a lovely dessert that can be made in advance. Simple and elegant but enamored both kids and adults. Good luck!
showerlist January 7, 2022
Thank you so much Erika! Truly baking can be a mystery-- it never occurred to me to think about temperature evenness and I'm always worrying about burning the puff. I'll try with a less delicate approach to my flan and see if there's a way that I can regulate my oven temp better. Thank you!
Erika Y. January 7, 2022
Good luck! I’m going to make again this weekend!
monica L. January 14, 2022
My flan came out softer than hers also - sliceable enough, but a little goopy. I made it with the listed ingredients, and used a scale to measure them, also followed all of the instructions carefully regarding cooling it and chilling tart overnight. I had seen your comment beforehand so made sure to cook the custard enough. I am curious what it could be also!
showerlist January 14, 2022
Hi monica! I redid the recipe and cooked the custard until it was thickkkker, more than her 1-2 minute mark.
And when i baked it it was morr solid then
monica L. January 15, 2022
Good to know!! I will definitely try again then.
Lisa May 15, 2022
Mine was runny too. The custard did not taste good at all. I usually use Dorie’s custard recipe from Tropezienne tart where she uses egg yolks only. That one comes out perfect as well as delicious every time.
Erika Y. December 23, 2021
I made my own rough puff and this tart was heavenly. Would make it again and again.
Ann D. November 29, 2021
It's kind of amazing that one can cook a custard on the stove and then put it into a tart shell and bake it for about an hour--and still have it come out so delicate and nice. Dorie's demo looks so inviting that I'll try it now--thanks!