Well hello there! Remember me? It’s suddenly been more than three years since my last post, don’t ask me how that happened. For now let’s discuss these Portuguese Custard Tarts. This is a recipe that I have been playing around with a for a few years, and after many trials (I made 3 batches this week!), I think I have finally cracked it. I’ve combined various elements of multiple recipes to create my favourite type of tart; a crunchy caramelised surface that cracks with the first bite, giving way to a a creamy custard filling that is laced with vanilla bean, cinnamon and orange zest, all encased in a shell of crispy golden pastry (using store-bought puff pastry, because sometimes making pastry from scratch isn’t your priority!!). I’ve included as much detail as possible in the method, to help you master this decadent little treat. You can then eat 5 with a steaming cup of tea, as you mull over your latest isolation realisations…
Using a blowtorch to finish the tarts makes a real difference in taste and presentation. I haven’t managed to find a way to caramelise the sugar this effectively without using a blowtorch, but I would love to hear any creative ideas you have for this. One alternative could be to make a toffee by dissolving some raw caster sugar in water, boiling gently for a few minutes until dark brown, and then drizzling over the top of the tarts. Otherwise, I would highly support you investing in a blowtorch. In addition to adding a professional flare to many desserts, they are really, really, ridiculously fun.
I’m so excited to share this recipe with you, especially after such a long time away from the blog. I took what was intended to be a short break, as life was getting busy, and somehow that break evolved and morphed into a new routine that didn’t allow much time for the baking and blogging business. Life is always readjusting her goal posts, and there is an ever-evolving set of players that we attempt to rearrange and reshuffle in the hope of achieving some sort of balance. My balance shifted quite considerably in the last three years, as I decided to pull pack from some of my commitments and live a little more slowly. I have still been steadily baking and cooking away these past three years, but more so out of routine than leisure. This is in no way a sad thing, because even the most necessary of cooking is an absolute joy for me! But the pleasure of baking purely for the sake of baking is something I miss, and I am happy to be engaging with this again.
In the current crazy state of the world, I have found myself with much more time on my hands. COVID-19 has forced us to pause, stay home more, and go back to the drawing board in determining how we can best spend our days. Staring into an indefinite period of unaccountable time, I felt like I would quickly feel bored and restless and flat. My immediate instinct was that the ‘best’ way to spend my time would involve being busy, focussed and productive. However, I have quickly become accustomed to a new routine that largely evolves around sleeping, exercising, spending time with my family, gardening, reading and cooking. And my goodness it is a LIFESTYLE! It’s easy to feel like we should always be charging forth down the path of progress, but it is a real treat to give yourself permission to just slow down for a short while.
Although the world feels like a sad and lonely place at the moment, I encourage you to allow yourself to feel the small joys around you. Bake something for those you live with, practice a daily meditation, take long baths, read those books piling up by your bed. And reach out if you are struggling, because this is an unprecedentedly difficult time for many people, and we need to rally together now more than ever. In addition to the emotional impacts of putting life on hold, many don’t have the privileges of family nearby, a stable income and the luxury of having a little break. Be extra kind to those people, and support them in any way you can. I hope this recipe gives you all a much needed smile.
As a last note before you get baking, here are my top tips for achieving the perfect crispy pastry:
- Refrigerate the custard until cold, before filling the tart shells. This means that cold custard hits the raw pastry, instead of warm custard which can make the pastry go soggy.
- Pre-heat the oven at least one hour before baking. This will make sure the oven is well and truly at 190°C, to provide a very hot environment for the pastry.
- After the tarts have finished baking, as soon as they are cool enough to touch, remove them from the muffin tray and leave them to cool completely on a wire rack. This will allow the pastry to retain its crispy texture, rather than going soggy from its own sweat while cooling down in the hot tray (gross).
Read on for the full recipe!
Portuguese Custard Tarts
Modified from this lovely recipe.
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
- 400 mL full cream milk
- 115 g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 egg yolks
- 20 g cornflour
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 1/4 cup raw caster sugar for sprinkling on top (or regular caster sugar if you prefer)
- 2 sheets store-bought puff pastry
- Butter for greasing tins
- 1/2 cup plain flour for dusting
- Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F fan-forced.
- Generously grease a 12 piece muffin tray with butter.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cornflour until smooth, then set aside.
- In a medium heavy-based saucepan, gently whisk the milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon on medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved.
- Gradually pour the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream into the warm milk, whisking gently but constantly as you go. This is called ‘tempering’ the egg yolks, i.e. gradually cooking them by exposing them to gentle heat. It is important that the milk is warm and not hot, otherwise the eggs will scramble on impact! This step is much easier to coordinate if you have somebody to help.
- Keeping the saucepan over medium heat, continue to gently whisk the custard for another 10-15 minutes until thickened. Take care to keep scraping down the sides, to avoid the custard burning and the eggs scrambling. If the custard seems to be thickening very quickly, turn the heat down a little.
- Once the custard has thickened, take it off the heat, stir through the orange zest, cover and refrigerate to cool.
- Meanwhile, slice 2 x square sheets of puff pastry into rectangles. Starting from one of the shorter ends of your rectangle, roll the sheets up firmly into logs. Cut each log into 2cm thick slices.
- Lightly dust a clean surface with plain flour, and use a rolling pin to roll each slice into a 0.5cm thick round. Keep flipping the rounds over as you go, to ensure they don’t stick to the surface.
- Gently drape the rounds into the muffin tin moulds, folding and pleating any excess up the sides. Ideally, try to aim for the rounds to extend about 0.5cm past the edge of the mould, to allow for some shrinkage when the pastry cooks.
- Spoon the cooled custard into the pastry, and bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- As soon as the tarts are cool enough to touch, remove from the muffin tray and place on a wire rack to finish cooling. Allowing the tarts to cool in the air instead of the tin will help keep the pastry crispy!
- *Optional: as soon as the tarts come out of the oven, before you have removed them from the tray, sprinkle the hot tarts with raw caster sugar. Blast the surface with a blowtorch for a few seconds until the sugar bubbles and melts and goes a lovely dark golden colour.
Store the tarts in an airtight container for up to 3 days, but best served warm and fresh soon after baking. Note that the pastry will start to go soft from day 2 onwards.