Earl Grey Crème Brûlée Tart is one of those desserts that will stay in your memory bank of downright delicious desserts! The sweet shortcrust pastry has ground earl grey tea leaves in the dough imparting a sensational taste and fragrance. The custard filling is also steeped with that beautiful bergamot taste and then the satisfying crack of caramelised sugar tops it off!
My love affair with earl grey tea continues today with this fantastic cross between French and British culture (we'll get onto that next!). I adore baking with it, this simple tea leaf is one of my all-time favourite flavour enhancers for any baked good. It's fragrant, subtle and undeniably sophisticated.
Try my Earl Grey French Toast for breakfast (makes a great start to your day), or my Earl Grey Cupcakes filled with Blackberry Curd (it's a winning combination) or my simple French Earl Grey Yogurt Loaf for dessert (made in one bowl with no mixer). As you can see, Earl Grey is incredibly versatile as to what you can make with it! I'm a fan and I hope that I can convert you too.
Back to this wonderful cross-cultural tart! It feels like the perfect marriage between my British (my Dad's) and my French (my Mum's) culture! The combination of classic French Crème Brûlée with the subtlety of Earl Grey Tea (we Brits do love a cuppa!) in the form of a tart is sensational. A little bit of 'ooh la la' and 'right on gov’na' in tart form. Sounds pretty delicious right!
The importance of quality produce
For me, it's so important to use quality produce. Especially when there aren’t a huge amount of complicated ingredients and methods to hide behind. This is a simply tart allowing the flavours to shine through and so the ingredients have to be the best.
The custard filling is the main component of this tart and being made of only eggs, cream and sugar, I turn to Waitrose eggs for the best flavour and quality. All their eggs are free-range, I loved the white colour of their Essential Range! And their Blacktail hens are left to roam naturally in their environment, sheltering under trees and bathing in dust which is totally natural for a chicken! Happy hens lead to beautiful eggs that taste amazing. A win for the baker like you and me.
Why you'll love this recipe
- It's a show stopper. This is a restaurant quality, impressive tart that you can make at home- it's simpler that it looks. Impress your guests with this one.
- Upgrades a custard tart. This is essentially a custard tart but by sprinkling the sugar on top and caramelising it, it elevates it to french crème brûlée. Magnifique! Chef kiss*
- Make the tart base ahead of time. Make the sweet shortcrust base the day before you need the actual tart. This makes the process feel less time consuming.
Sweet Short Crust Pastry
- Flour- Plain (all-purpose) flour is best for shortcrust pastry
- Icing Sugar - Used to sweeten the dough just enough - powdered icing sugar dissolves into the dough more efficiently that granulated sugar.
- Salt - An absolute must to help season the dough.
- Earl Grey Tea Leaves - The star of the show. I use ground tea leaves from inside teabags. They are super fine and the texture disappears into the crunch of the pastry.
- Butter- Unsalted butter works best as you can then control the amount of salt in your dessert. Ensure it is cold!
- Egg - One large egg helps to bind all the dough ingredients together.
- Water - The liquid needed to make this pastry super crisp and flakey- make sure that it is ice cold when you use it.
- Egg Yolks. Egg yolks make the custard rich and creamy whilst still allowing it to have that perfect wobble. If you were to agg in egg white it would set the custard solid.
- Caster (Super-Fine) Sugar. If you dont have caster then regular granulated sugar will work just as well. I choose to use caster sugar as I know that it dissolves into the egg yolks that bit quicker.
- Double Cream. I love to use double (heavy) cream due to the high fat content. If you choose to use one lower in fat then you'll miss out on the luxurious, rich mouth feel that is synonomous with crème brûlée.
- Earl Grey Tea Bags. Tea bags or tea leaves can be used to steep in the cream. I prefer tea bags as they can be removed easily. If you prefer to use tea leaves then you'll need to pass the cream through a fine mesh seive before continuing on with the recipe.
- Vanilla Bean Paste. Packs a punch in the flavour department but vanilla extract can also be used.
- Caster (Super-fine) Sugar - more caster sugar is sprinkled on top of the set custard and caramelised with a blow torch for that signature crack that you chould get with a crème brûlée.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
There are two main components to this Earl Grey Crème Brûlée Tart, the pastry shell and the custard filling. Each one can feel intimidating to tackle, but follow along with my process shots and breakdown of instructions and you'll see that you can easily achieve them.
Sweet Short Crust Pastry
My Sweet Short Crust Pastry Guide has all the step-by-step photos to make this pastry perfectly. I recommend taking a quick look and read through.
1. Make the dough. Sift the flour, powdered icing sugar and salt into a large bowl and add the ground earl grey tea leaves. Rub the butter and flour between your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir the beaten egg and water into the flour mixture until it starts to resemble a dough. Use your hands to bring the dough together and shape it into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Prepare the tart tin with the dough. Using a rolling, roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface until it's the thickness of a coin and 30cm (12in) in diameter. (Image 1) Gently lift the dough into your tart tin (Image 2). Use your fingers to push the pastry onto the sides of the tin. (Image 3) Trim off any excess, then refrigerate overnight.
3. Blind Bake and seal. Dock the bottom of the tart with a fork (Image 4), place parchment paper in the bottom, then fill with pie weights. (Image 5) Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and pie weights.
Seal the par-cooked pastry: Make the egg wash by whisking small egg and milk together. Brush the base of the tart with the egg wash (Image 6) and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the pastry is lightly golden and the pastry is cooked through on the base. This creates a seal on the pastry ensuring that the liquid custard won’t soften for crisp pastry and turn it soggy.
TIPS for making pastry: Use cold ingredients, don't overwork the dough and make sure to rest the dough in the refrigerator (both times!)
The Earl Grey custard filling
1. Steep tea in cream. The cream and tea bags need to get heated slowly in a saucepan until the cream is just simmering. (Image 7) Give it a stir and set aside for 20 mins. Give the tea bags an occasional squeeze in a saucepan on low heat, place the cream and 2 earl grey tea bags and heat gently until steaming with small bubbles around the edge. Remove from the heat and allow the tea to steep for a minimum of 20 minutes for the tea to infuse into the cream, longer if you prefer. Remove the tea bags. (Image 8)
2. Whisk yolks and sugar and add cream. Add the yolks and sugar into a medium bowl (Image 9) and whisk until pale. We're then going to temper the eggs as the cream may still be warm. Whilst whisking continuously, pour the cream (Image 10) into the eggs until fully added. Add the vanilla bean paste and whisk until fully combined. (Image 11) If you think there may be any lumps or stray tea leaves in your custard then pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a pouring jug ideally. (Image 12) (The jug will help you transfer the liquid to the tart shell with minimum risk!) If there are any air bubbles or foam on the surface of the liquid, then skim those off with a spoon.
3. Pour the custard into the tart shell & bake. Place the tart shell, still in the tart pan, onto the oven shelf and pour the custard into the tart whilst on the shelf. (Image 13) The custard has to reach almost to the top of the pastry rim and having it placed on the shelf means that you can avoid spillage. Bake at 150°C (300°F) for 40 minutes or until the custard has set but has a slight wobble in the middle. (Image 14) Remove from the oven to cool completely and refrigerate to set for 2 to 4 hours.
4. Sprinkle over the sugar and caramelise. Sprinkle the caster sugar evenly over the set custard. (Image 15) Use a kitchen blow torch to caramelise the sugar until it turns a golden brown colour. (Image 16) It’s up to you how far you take the caramelisation, either lightly golden or do it for longer and get that burnt, really darkened sugar. Let the sugar cool for about 5 minutes into a hard layer.
Your Earl Grey Crème Brûlée Tart is best eaten the day it is made. Serve by tapping the hardened layer with the back of a spoon to crack brûléed sugar and slice.
TIPS for the crème brûlée: If you like a thicker, hard sugar layer, then sprinkle a second layer of sugar over the top and blow torch again.
My original images for this blog post used this method, see below, and you can see the caramel layer is a lot thicker. Tasted delicious but meant cutting the tart into neat slices was impossible!
There are a few variations that I can think of that would make delicious flavoured Crème Brûlée Tarts.
- Kaffir Lime Crème Brûlée Tart: Straight out of the block I'm giving you an Asian inspired tart. Slice 3-4 kaffir lime leaves in strips and steep in the cream the same way as tea leaves. I've tried this in a London pub many years agao and it was one of the most delicious renditions imagineable.
- Espresso Crème Brûlée Tart: Mix 2 teaspoons of espresso powder with 2 teaspoons of hotwater and stir until dissolved. Add this to the cream and continue with the recipe. The coffee hit with the crunchy sugar hit is heavenly.
- Citrus Crème Brûlée Tart: Add in lemon or orange zest into the cream and steep as you would the tea. Continue on with the recipe but be sure to pass the custard through a seive to remove the zest of the fruit. You'll be left with a delightfully fragrant custard filling.
TIPS: For making the shortcrust pastry
- Cold ingredients: Ensure that your ingredients (including your dry ingredients in a hot climate) are cold before using. If you have hot hands, run them under cold water and dry them before handling the dough.
- Don’t overwork the dough: Bring the dough together with your hands and press together. Only kneed a couple of times if necessary. Overworking the dough will lead to tough pastry.
- Rest time: Don’t skimp on the suggested rest times. This allows the flour to hydrate from the wet ingredients, and more importantly, the butter to harden. The pastry hits the hot oven; the cold butter will melt, causing steam pockets in your pastry = flakey pastry!
TIPS: For making the custard
- Heat the cream gently: Bring the cream to a gentle simmer over a low heat. This will prevent the cream from splitting.
- Pour the cream into the eggs slowly: If the cream is added to the eggs in one go and it's too hot, then it will cook the eggs and you'll end up with scrambled lumps throughout!! Not desirable! Pour the cream in slowly whilst constantly whisking. This brings the temperature of the eggs up whilst also bringing the cream temp down.
TIPS: For making caramelising the sugar
- Sprinkle the sugar onto the custard evenly: It's best to have an even layer so that the custard is protected from the heat of the blowtorch. If the sugar is patchy, the blow torch flame will heat up the cooled set custard.
Frequently asked questions
This generally happens if the ratios of wet to the egg yolk quantities are off. Not enough yolks and the brûlée won't set. Make sure to use the yolks of 6 large eggs and to measure the cream required correctly.
Refrigeration time of 2-4 hours after the tart has cooled down is imperative for the brûlée setting.
I mean technically you can but you won't need to bake the tart with the storebought custard in it. Store-bought custard isn't as rich and creamy as homemade and it won't set like baked custard will. It also won't level off completely flat so will make it hard to sprinkle the sugar evenly and torch it to a crackly crust.
The Crème Brûlée snob in me would say to go the extra mile and make the homemade custard. It's made out of four ingredients and takes no time at all.
The option is to use your grill (broiler). I've had a hit and miss success at using this method. I found that by the time the grill heated the sugar up enough to melt and then go onto caramelise, it had heated the top of the custard. The blow torch heat is more controllable, more direct and the custard can remain cold. My preference is the blow torch hands down.
How to store and freeze
To store: Earl Grey Crème Brûlée Tart is best eaten the day it is made. However, if necessary, wrap the tart well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. The crunchy sugar topping will soften though.
To freeze: You can freeze the tart before adding the caramelised sugar on top. Wrap it well in plastic wrap and freeze for up to one month. Thaw by placing in the refrigerator overnight. Caramelise the sugar as per the recipe.
Make ahead: The tart base can be made up to 2 days ahead. Alternatively, make the tart up until the custard has been baked. Let cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap, and store overnight. When ready to serve, take it straight out of the fridge, sprinkle with sugar and caramelise with the blow torch - it’ll be ready in minutes. This is a great dessert if you're having friends over for lunch or dinner. Less stress on the day is always a bonus right?!
Tools you’ll need
- Tart Tin with removeable base 23cm (9inch): The perfect size tin for 10 to 12 slices of tart.
- Small Saucepan: For heating the cream and steeping the tea bags in.
- Kitchen Blow Torch: A kitchen necessity! All those meringue tarts are calling your name! Instead of the kitchen shop blow torch that is tiny, weak and runs out of gas in a heart beat, go to your local hardware store and by one from there- so much better!
More Tart recipes you may like
If you tried this Earl Grey Crème Brûlée Tart or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
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Earl Grey Crème Brûlée Tart Recipe
- Small saucepan
- 6 g ground earl grey tea leaves, see notes below
- 1 sweet shortcrust pastry tart shell
- 1 egg plus 1 tbsp milk, for egg wash
Creme Brulee custard
- 6 large egg yolks
- 70 g caster sugar (superfine)
- 480 ml double cream (heavy cream)
- 2 earl grey tea bags
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 40-60 g caster sugar (superfine), for the top
- Make the dough. Sift the flour, powdered icing sugar and salt into a large bowl. Add in the earl grey and butter and rub the butter and flour between your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir the beaten egg and water into the flour mixture until it starts to resemble a dough. Use your hands to bring the dough together and shape it into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Prepare the tart tin with the dough. Using a rolling, roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface until it's the thickness of a coin and 30cm (12in) in diameter. Gently lift the dough into your tart tin. Use your fingers to push the pastry onto the sides of the tin. Trim off any excess, then refrigerate overnight.
- Blind Bake and seal. Dock the bottom of the tart with a fork (Image 4), place parchment paper in the bottom, then fill with pie weights. (Image 5) Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and pie weights. Seal the par-cooked pastry: Make the egg wash by whisking small egg and milk together. Brush the base of the tart with the egg wash (Image 6) and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the pastry is lightly golden and the base doesn't have any uncooked, 'soft' pastry. This creates a seal on the pastry ensuring that the liquid custard won’t soften for crisp pastry and turn it soggy.
The Earl Grey custard filling
- Steep the tea into the cream. In a saucepan on low heat, place the cream and 2 earl grey tea bags and heat gently until steaming with small bubbles around the edge. Remove from the heat and allow the tea bags to steep for 20 minutes. Squeeze the tea bags and stir them around every so often. Make sure to squeeze them gently when removing them.
- Whisk yolks and sugar and add cream. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Remove the tea bags from the cream and whilst whisking the egg mixture, slowly pour in the warmed cream. Add vanilla bean paste and stir till combined. Pass the custard through a sieve into a jug and skim off any foamy bubbles that may have collected on the surface.
- Pour the custard into the tart shell and bake. Place the tart shell onto the oven shelf and pour the custard into the tart whilst on the shelf. The custard has to reach almost to the top of the pastry rim. Placing it on the shelf means that you can avoid spillage.Bake at 150°C (300F) for 40 minutes or until the custard has set but has a slight wobble in the middle.Gently remove the tart from the oven and allow it to cool completely, and then refrigerate to set for 2-4 hours.
- Sprinkle over the sugar and caramelise. To create the brûlée topping, sprinkle the caster sugar evenly over the set custard. Using a blow torch, caramelise the sugar until golden brown in colour. If you prefer a thicker crunch, then sprinkle another layer of sugar over the tart and blow torch again until caramelised and golden. Allow the sugar to cool and harden for five minutes. Crack hardened sugar and serve!
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.