A few weeks ago, before we headed out on our trip to Europe, I shared with Erlend a Google doc containing an extensive list of restaurants, bakeries, shops, and neighborhoods that I wanted to check out when we were in London and Amsterdam. The list was comprised of a mix between critically-acclaimed restaurants and bakeries, as well as personal recommendations made by family, friends, and blogger and Instagram acquaintances.
At the top of the list for London was Nordic Bakery, a bakery specializing in Scandinavian pastries. Erlend’s parents had randomly come across the bakery a few years ago during their travels; his mom had bought their cookbook on a whim after a morning of enjoying their pastries and coffee. And every time I visit their apartment in New York City and browse through their extensive book collection, the Nordic Bakery’s bright blue, minimalist spine always catches my eye. I inevitably pull it out from the shelf and spend the next few minutes getting lost in the pictures and recipes of hearty cinnamon rolls, beautiful rye buns, and Scandinavian cakes.
Finally, it was my turn to go. On a rainy morning, Erlend and I trekked our way to the Nordic Bakery location on Golden Square in London’s hip Soho neighborhood. True to form, we ordered a miniature feast for breakfast consisting of karelian pie, tiger cake, butter buns, and flat white espresso drinks (Which, by the way, why are flat whites not a thing in the US? They're delicious!). And just when I thought that we had stuffed ourselves silly with all the carbs they were offering, they brought out their showstopper: the prettiest blueberry custard tart with a gorgeous, beautifully browned rye crust.
I wanted a slice, but literally had no more room in my stomach. Erlend managed to talk sense in to me, pointing out that I still had four other bakeries in the area on my list that I wanted to visit (including the original inspiration for this blog, The Hummingbird Bakery). We reluctantly left without a slice. But still — it’s been a few weeks since that morning, and I still find myself thinking about that tart.
So I decided to make it at home!
This tart is the true definition of Scandinavian, but in dessert form. It uses rye flour in the shortbread pastry, giving the tart an incredibly tasty hearty and wholesome flavor that you don't often see in pastries. The tart filling was also pretty Nordic in its flavors — fresh, seasonal blueberries tossed with sour cream and almond extract. Because the original recipe was pretty solid, I hardly made any modifications with the exception of throwing in a little kosher salt into the crust and topping the tart with a dash of powdered sugar and a sprinkling of toasted, slivered almonds. Delicious.
Some baker's notes:
- Not a fan of blueberries? Feel free to substitute with any other berry that you prefer! In my opinion, raspberries would be the perfect alternative.
- The tart crust dough can be a little bit sticky to work with, so be sure to reserve an additional 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour or so to dust your hands with as you work with the tart dough.
Nordic Blueberry Almond Custard Tart with a Rye Shortbread Crust
(barely adapted from The Nordic Bakery Cookbook)
For the Rye Shortbread Crust:
(makes one 9-inch tart)
- 3/4 cup plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/2 cup portions
- 1/2 cup dark rye flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
For the Blueberry Almond Custard Filling:
(makes one 9-inch tart)
- 5.5 ounces sour cream
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 10 ounces fresh blueberries
For the Nordic Tart:
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 (F). Prepare a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom by spraying liberally with cooking spray. Seriously, go all out — this crust has a tendency to stick to the pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup dark rye flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt until well combined. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and turn the mixer back on to its lowest setting and add 1 large egg. Continue beating until the egg is well incorporated into the mixture.
- Once the egg is fully incorporated into the butter and sugar, Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and turn the mixer back on to its lowest setting and add the dry ingredients (from the 2nd step) all at once. Continue mixing until the ingredients clump together and create a dough.
- Turn the dough out onto the prepared tart pan. Use your hands to press the dough into the tart pan, creating an even layer across the bottom of the tart pan and up the sides of the pan. As you do this, be sure to dip and cover your hands into the 1/2 cup of flour that you reserved earlier — the dough can be quite sticky, and flouring your hands prevents the tart crust from sticking onto your hands as opposed to the pan.
- When you've finished preparing the tart crust, place the tart pan on a parchment lined baking sheet and set aside. Make the tart filling by whisking together 5.5 ounces sour cream, 1/3 cup heavy cream, 1 large egg, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon almond extract until well combined.
- Pour the tart filling into the prepared crust. Take 10 ounces fresh blueberries and evenly distribute them over the tart filling.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the filling has set and the crust is golden, about 25 minutes. When you take the crust out of the oven, the center of the crust should wobble ever-so-slightly, while the outsides remain set. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm, or chilled from the refrigerator.