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More Nigella recipes

Custard Cream Hearts

by . Featured in FEAST
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Introduction

I have what I like to think of as a Wildean thing about reproducing artifice by more natural means. Thus, in How To Eat, I gave a recipe for digestive biscuits, and now I find myself propelled towards the homely accomplishment of the custard cream, hitherto - at least in my lifetime - only known in its packet form. It's probably a brand heresy to say it, but these are so much better homemade. I knew that no one would be bothered to go through the motions in the normal run of things, but thought if I fashioned them as hearts, and designated them as a special lurve token, you might consider it. And please do: they are not hard to make and fabulous to eat, on top of their heavenly appearance. To achieve this you need one piece of specialist equipment as well as the heart-cutters: a corn on the cob holder. This is my patented tool for making the dotted perforations like quaint stitching around the edges of each heart. And very satisfying work it is, too.

For US conversion - substitute Bird's Custard Powder with the same amount of cornstarch (3 tablespoons for biscuits and 1 tablespoon for buttercream) and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract for the biscuits and ½ teaspoon for the cream.

I have what I like to think of as a Wildean thing about reproducing artifice by more natural means. Thus, in How To Eat, I gave a recipe for digestive biscuits, and now I find myself propelled towards the homely accomplishment of the custard cream, hitherto - at least in my lifetime - only known in its packet form. It's probably a brand heresy to say it, but these are so much better homemade. I knew that no one would be bothered to go through the motions in the normal run of things, but thought if I fashioned them as hearts, and designated them as a special lurve token, you might consider it. And please do: they are not hard to make and fabulous to eat, on top of their heavenly appearance. To achieve this you need one piece of specialist equipment as well as the heart-cutters: a corn on the cob holder. This is my patented tool for making the dotted perforations like quaint stitching around the edges of each heart. And very satisfying work it is, too.

For US conversion - substitute Bird's Custard Powder with the same amount of cornstarch (3 tablespoons for biscuits and 1 tablespoon for buttercream) and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract for the biscuits and ½ teaspoon for the cream.

Image of Nigella's Custard Cream Hearts
Photo by James Merrell

Ingredients

Makes: approx. 14 custard cream hearts

Metric Cups

For the biscuits

  • 175 grams plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons Bird's custard powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50 grams unsalted butter
  • 50 grams vegetable shortening
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk or more to bind

For the custard cream

  • 1 tablespoon Bird's custard powder
  • 100 grams icing sugar
  • 50 grams soft unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon boiling water

For the biscuits

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk or more to bind

For the custard cream

  • 1 tablespoon
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon boiling water

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/160°C Fan/350°F.
  2. To make the biscuits, put the flour, custard powder and baking powder into a processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter, cut into smallish cubes and the vegetable shortening, in mounded teaspoonfuls, and pulse to cut into the flour to create a crumbly mixture.
  3. Tip in the sugar and pulse again, and then beat the egg and tablespoon of milk together. Pour down the funnel of the processor with the engine running until it clumps together into a ball. Go cautiously: you may not need all of the egg and milk or you may need to add more milk to make it come together. Form the dough into a ball, press down into a fat disc, then wrap in clingwrap, and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 4mm/ 1/8 inch. Dip a 5cm/ 2-inch heart-shaped cutter in flour and then cut out your shapes. You want an even number of hearts, as you will sandwich them together later. It is possible to get about 30 biscuits out of the dough, but you can get more if you re-roll the pastry. I generally stop around 28 so that you end up with 14 biscuits, which seems appropriate for the date. That's when you know you're going downhill: when you let yourself be tainted with both commercialism and numerology.
  5. Prick the outside edge of each heart all the way around on one side with a corn on the cob holder, or other pointed implement of choice. Cook on a lined baking sheet for 15 minutes, and then let the biscuits cool on a rack before sandwiching them.
  6. To make the custard cream, put the custard powder and icing sugar into the processor and pulse briefly to combine and delump. Add the butter, and blitz together until you get a smooth cream. Add the teaspoon of boiling water and pulse again.
  7. Sandwich each biscuit with about 1 teaspoon of custard cream, by gently spreading a layer of the cream over the unpricked side of a biscuit and then wiggling a matching top on to it. This helps avoid crumbling and breakage, as the biscuits are quite frangible.
  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/160°C Fan/350°F.
  2. To make the biscuits, put the flour, custard powder and baking powder into a processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter, cut into smallish cubes and the vegetable shortening, in mounded teaspoonfuls, and pulse to cut into the flour to create a crumbly mixture.
  3. Tip in the sugar and pulse again, and then beat the egg and tablespoon of milk together. Pour down the funnel of the processor with the engine running until it clumps together into a ball. Go cautiously: you may not need all of the egg and milk or you may need to add more milk to make it come together. Form the dough into a ball, press down into a fat disc, then wrap in clingwrap, and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 4mm/ 1/8 inch. Dip a 5cm/ 2-inch heart-shaped cutter in flour and then cut out your shapes. You want an even number of hearts, as you will sandwich them together later. It is possible to get about 30 biscuits out of the dough, but you can get more if you re-roll the pastry. I generally stop around 28 so that you end up with 14 biscuits, which seems appropriate for the date. That's when you know you're going downhill: when you let yourself be tainted with both commercialism and numerology.
  5. Prick the outside edge of each heart all the way around on one side with a corn on the cob holder, or other pointed implement of choice. Cook on a lined baking sheet for 15 minutes, and then let the biscuits cool on a rack before sandwiching them.
  6. To make the custard cream, put the custard powder and confectioners' sugar into the processor and pulse briefly to combine and delump. Add the butter, and blitz together until you get a smooth cream. Add the teaspoon of boiling water and pulse again.
  7. Sandwich each biscuit with about 1 teaspoon of custard cream, by gently spreading a layer of the cream over the unpricked side of a biscuit and then wiggling a matching top on to it. This helps avoid crumbling and breakage, as the biscuits are quite frangible.

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What 6 Others have said

  • Made these for when my daughter and grandchildren came round. Said I'd made a new biscuit (I used a square cutter). My daughter opened the tin and said "oh custard creams". I asked how she knew that and she said because they looked like them. So that was very pleasing. My 6 year old grandson ate 3 and would have ate more if he had got away with it! My daughter and 2 year old granddaughter had quite a few too. Over the next day they disappeared. Luckily I got a few. Simply delicious!

    Posted by chrisgentle on 6th April 2019
  • Fabulous recipe....first time making these and they turned out great. I live in the US and couldn’t find custard powder, so I used an instant pudding mix- cream cheese flavor. Also, instead of the tsp of boiling water I used the strained liquid of some muddled raspberries and jam. It gave the cream nice flavor and color.

    Posted by planestrainsandwhoopiepies on 17th February 2018
  • My son was born on Valentine's Day. I will definitely be making a batch of these for his birthday!

    Posted by Chyann on 9th January 2018
  • Nigella is my favorite cook, simply the best!

    Posted by Puddingnpie on 11th July 2017
  • Would definitely make a batch. Nigella's recipes never fail. Simply good.

    Posted by Kareena on 10th February 2017
  • Just a note for those who live in the US...World Market carries Bird's Custard Powder; it's available on their website if you don't have one of their shops nearby.

    Posted by samanthaapril on 9th February 2017
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