It was a cold morning and the last thing I wanted to do was get up from the warmth of my bed. I could stay under the covers for ever. But that was not to be. I have two monster alarm clocks at home, a six-year-old and the other one, his dad. While I must prod and nag the little guy to wake up on school days, he is up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday. Every single week without fail.
After downing coffee, we decided the day was best spent outdoors. It had been some weeks since I last visited the Farmer’s Market. I am so not a cold weather person and will only venture out if the weather is bearable. Thankfully, it was perfect for a late morning stroll and I gathered my week’s produce supply, these tender carrots being one of them.
Boy hates raw carrots. I’ve never met anyone hate raw carrots. Grated carrots tossed with a bit of vinegar and salt, with green chilies mixed for spice is my favorite way to eat them.
These carrots were so tender and unbelievably sweet, I knew they had to be made into warm and rich halwa. Sauteed in ghee, cooked in milk and khoya (milk solids), doted with nuts and raisins, the carrot halwa is a classic winter dessert.
The downside of running a food blog is that sometimes we cannot let a good thing be. I’ve been wracking my brains for a good Valentine’s Day post. Who said Valentine’s day treats had to be pink? They can be orange, sweet and rich.
And some time over breakfast the next day, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. A rich carrot halwa baked in a flaky buttery pie crust. It just needed something to tie it all together. A quick stove-top vanilla custard came to mind. I’ve made creme patisserie apple tarts before, but was too lazy to temper eggs and cook a proper custard. So I simply used corn starch to thicken milk, flavored it with vanilla, and added a generous heap of fresh orange zest. The zest was more of an afterthought, but it really elevated the custard. I helped myself to some custard straight from the pot and I knew it would pair so well with the carrot halwa. It was light and fresh, the perfect vehicle for the richer halwa.
I took the easy way out and used condensed milk to cook the halwa. This is easier than simmering and reducing milk. But if you want the traditional halwa recipe, you can look up my recipes for lauki halwa, pumpkin halwa or even these soft carrot barfis.
The shortcrust pastry dough, halwa and custard all need to be cooled down before assembling and baking the tarts. There are a couple of ways you could make these tarts. The easiest way would be to blind-bake the tart shells, fill them with halwa and top with the custard for an easy no-bake tart. But I like the slight caramelization that happens when you bake the carrot halwa and custard together in the tarts.
You will notice in the recipe that I made the halwa and custard separately, then mixed some together to fill the tarts. You might think it is easier to simply make a runny milky halwa. But that would not make a good filling for the tarts. The carrots have to be caramelized and cooked to the perfect halwa consistency. Mix it with a little bit of the custard to add some body to make a creamy, thick and delicious filling. Moreover, you get to enjoy the leftover halwa and custard as well. Both of them keep well in the fridge for a few days.
The warm tarts are then topped with more vanilla-orange custard before serving. The silky custard is the perfect topping here. It is lighter than ice cream but has more body than plain whipped cream.
These tarts are good straight from the oven, slightly warm or even cold, though I must say, I am partial to a very warm tart topped with cold custard. So if you are still undecided about your Valentine’s day dessert, look no further. This is it! Warm, comforting and seductive, it makes the perfect make-ahead dessert as well.
- All purpose flour - 1 cup
- Unsalted butter - ½ cup, cold and cut into small cubes
- Cold water - 2-3 tablespoons (or as needed)
- Ghee - 2 tbsp
- Carrots - 2½ cups, grated
- Sweetened condensed milk - ⅔ cup
- Almonds - 2 tbsp, chopped
- Golden raisins - 2 tbsp
- Cardamom powder - ½ tsp
- Salt - a pinch
- Whole milk - 2 cups
- Cornstarch - 3 tbsp
- Sugar - ¼ cup
- Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
- Fresh orange zest - 2 tbsp (from a large orange)
- Butter - 1 tbsp
- Shortcrust pastry dough: Crumble the flour and cubes of butter together to form a breadcrumb like mixture. A food processor makes this step really easy. If you are using your fingers, be very quick as you do not want to melt the butter.
- Add water a tablespoon at a time till the dough just comes together. Form dough into a tight ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour or up to one day. For long-term storage, the dough can be froze, then thawed and used.
- Carrot Halwa: Melt the ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
- Then add the condensed milk, almonds, raisins, cardamom powder and a pinch of salt. Cook till carrots are tender and almost all the liquid is absorbed. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired. Keep stirring every now and then.
- Once all the milk has been absorbed, keep stirring the halwa continuously till it begins to leave the sides of the pan and starts chasing the ladle. The halwa will be thick and glossy now. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Vanilla-Orange Custard: Mix the cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Set aside.
- Heat the remaining milk in a deep saucepan. When the milk just begins to boil, add the cornstarch slurry and sugar. Keep cooking, whisking the mixture constantly. In 4-5 minutes, the custard will start to thicken and turn glossy.
- Now add the vanilla extract, orange zest and butter. Whisk well for a few seconds till butter is melted. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Custard will thicken further once cool.
- Carrot Halwa Tarts: Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg. F. Brush six 4" mini tart pans with oil and set aside.
- Take the dough from the refrigerator. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Cut circles slightly larger than the size of your tart pans. Place the dough circle in the tart pan, pressing it up the sides. Trim the edges by running your rolling pin over the pan. Prick the dough crust with the tines of a fork. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the carrot halwa with half the amount of custard. You will need roughly 2 cups of halwa and 1 cup of custard.
- Once crust is sufficiently chilled, fill the tart pans with this mixture. Bake for 20-22 minutes or till tart is puffed and the crust can be seen pulling away from the pan sides.
- Remove from oven and cool slightly on a wire rack. Carefully remove the tarts from the tart pans. Serve warm tarts with a dollop of the custard on top.
Once you make the different components, these decadent mini tarts are really easy to make. These tarts are just perfect – perfect flaky buttery crust, a decadent carrot halwa and custard filling and orange flecked vanilla custard topping. It is the perfect dessert to share with your special ones.
What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? We don’t make a big deal of it, but the little one is excited to share cards and candy with his friends. We might probably go out for lunch that day as it falls on a Sunday. Who knows, I might even end up making these tarts again!
Do try this Indian inspired tarts for your special celebration. Go here for more Valentine’s Day recipes. You will find ideas for a romantic breakfast in bed to decadent desserts.
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