Thursday, January 3, 2019

Old Fashioned Custard Tarts

I was putting together a three-novella historical anthology last week and I wanted to include a recipe with each story....

And it is so much fun to dabble in old-time recipes and the foods that were served over a hundred years ago!

Here's the book cover, three lovely stories set in the fictional town of Second Chance, South Dakota just about the time when the federal government granted statehood to the Dakotas.

In Second Chance Christmas, wagonmaker and metal forger Levi Eichas shares his hot coals with the Second Chance Inn at the end of the day and when he drops them into her stove, the inn owner barters with loaves of breads or a cake or today: Custard Tarts.

So then I needed to have a recipe for the tarts, and here it is. It will also be in the upcoming anthology release (paperback and Kindle version!) but remember:

You heard it here first!

Second Chance Inn Old-fashioned Custard Tarts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, then reduce oven temperature to 350 after ten minutes of baking.

For the pastry

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons ground walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup soft butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 egg
Mix flour, walnuts, salt and sugar. Cut in the soft butter using two knives, criss-crossing them or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a soft “meal”.
With fork, blend water, vinegar and the egg. When thoroughly mixed, add to flour/nut mixture.
Mix until pastry cleans side of the bowl. Form into one large patty and then roll out, cutting rounds to fit into muffin or tart pans.

For the custard filling
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • Nutmeg

Heat the milk until quite warm. Don’t boil. Mix eggs and sugar thoroughly, using mixer or whisk, until pale, then add milk in a thin stream to keep eggs from curdling. Mix thoroughly. Pour custard filling into small pitcher or large measuring cup with a spout. Fill tart pans about ¾ full. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake at 400 degrees for the first ten minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. (325 in a convection oven) until set, about fifteen to twenty minutes more. A convection oven tends to “pull up” the top layer of custard, so the gals from Second Chance advise using the regular bake setting for these tarts. 

These were delicious! I put coconut on some of them... and I burned an entire pan of them because when I put them into the oven, the rack shifted and the custard splashed out of the tarts... Then when the baked, the splashed custard burned the bottoms of the tarts... A whole tray gone!

And this is what the pan looked like before scrubbing and scraping!

And look at this! Our famous Jarradale pumpkins look like this in the fall:

And this is what they look like in the house now! I let them ripen until a quiet winter day and then I roast them and mash them for pumpkin pies and cakes....

Look how pretty they are:

They're turning PINK!!!! These pumpkins are the best tasting I've ever had, and we love them here on the farm. And this is Xavier and Mary Ruth on New Year's Eve... note that two big dogs don't bother Xavier, he just sits there, petting both... and they love it.

And here is one of my winter sunrises...

We can't see sunsets or sunrises once the leaves are on the trees.... and sunsets are blocked by houses and trees to the west....

But these winter sunrises, when the sun rises at it's southern-most point, can be spectacular because there's often a cloud bank over us (SAD FACE HERE!!!) due to Lakes Erie and Ontario... but when the sun breaks the horizon and hits that cloud ridge from beneath, the colors are gorgeous! Pinks and corals and yellows and salmons and violets.... Just lovely.

Isn't that so pretty? Like God lit a fire and its light dances in the morning sky.

NEWS ALERT: The days are getting longer.

We are eleven days past the winter solstice, which means.... my days get longer! :) This is always an exciting thing for Yankees and all northern-dwelling creatures because we know that we're on the upward trend! Once you hit September here, the light decreases by several minutes each day. It's crazy noticeable....

It's not so noticeable now, but it will be in six or seven weeks... and there will be joy in Mudville because the farmer here likes longer days of light.

Or he gets GRUMPY.

Imagine that.

A grumpy man.


Next week we'll talk about the Rosemary Shortbread cookies from the first novella. Because why wouldn't we?

Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves writing sweet books with unforgettable characters and great story lines because she likes making readers happy. Follow Ruthy on, friend her on , email her at or stop by her website


  1. I never thought to use muffin tins for tarts/custard pies! We are running out of space for kitchen gadgets so I don't dare buy more right now so I don't have tart pans. I cantc wait for the days to start getting longer. I dislike driving to and from work in the dark. Not to mention we miss out on the good part of the day being cooped up inside.

    1. Katie, I hear you!!!! Hey, did you know that if you want to make fresh tart shells, baked, you can form them over the bottom side (outside) of cupcake pans... and then when they're baked, they stand alone. I've made them for showers and weddings, and if you fill them right before the occasion, they're amazing....

      AND I got my post done a few days ago, then forgot that yesterday was THURSDAY!!!! I'm such a dolt on holiday weeks and anytime during the farm season, LOL!

  2. These tarts look so good, Ruthy! But dare I say that the novella collection looks even better?

    Like Katie, we're anticipating the longer days, too. It's hard to get outside work done when it starts getting dark at 4:30. :-)

    1. Oh, yeah, for certain on the timing thing.... We get so excited when you start to notice it in February... when the days stretch toward six o'clock!!! PARTY!!!!!! Because then when we click the clocks ahead in March, it's light until seven o'clock! WHAT???? :)

  3. Ruthy, my husband is one of those who lives for those longer days. go figure.

    I do love me a good custard pie, so these tarts would definitely fit the bill. Do you think I could substitute pecans for walnuts, though? I'm just not a walnut fan.

    Love the book covers. Absolutely beautiful, as are the pink pumpkins. Pink pumpkins! Who knew?

    1. Mindy, I actually substituted the walnuts for almonds! I think you can use whatever you want, and the nuts give the crust a more cookie-like flavor (almost like a thumbprint cookie) and then the custard is so old-fashioned and good!

      Beth did the cover for this and once this anthology is launched, we're releasing the first full-length follow up historical to this series. It was slated for Love Inspired but then they closed their line. And everyone smart told me historicals are dead, but I didn't care. I love to jump back in time now and again. It refreshes my head and maybe my heart! :)

  4. Ruthy, these tarts look so good!! Congrats on your new boxed set!!

    I love that sunrise. And I'm so surprised those blue pumpkins turn pink to match your sunrise! :)

    1. Those pumpkins are so crazy delicious that you can just roast them like you do butternut squash and you'll love 'em.... and you can go sweet or savory, and be happy!

      The tarts were a brainstorm from the book so then I just had to come up with an old-fashioned kind of recipe to make it work... and I think Farmer DAve ate 10 of them. I actually want to make them a little bigger, but I have to figure that out. I'd like a higher custard to crust ratio, I think, but these disappeared mighty fast... well, of course, the burned ones disappeared into the garbage even more quickly! :)

    2. Ruthy, maybe you could find a good deal on a bunch of custard cups (Pyrex). That should give you more custard to crust. BUT WHO WOULD EVER WANT MORE CUSTARD THAN CRUST??? ;)

      Ha! Just like fruit cobbler needs more crust than fruit. :)

  5. YES! I ws just thinking today that it's not completely dark when I leave work - though it still is by the time I get home. :(

    1. Cate, it's so funny on the streets of NYC because even if it's not quite dark, the angle of the sun and the height of the buildings makes it maze-like... so it's a tricky business there!