Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Portuguese Custard Tarts

I have talked before about how time consuming, but ultimately rewarding it is from a taste point of view, to make your own puff-pastry. I am the first to hold up my hand and say that I regularly forgo the “pleasures” of making my own and use a quality, commercially-produced all-butter version if I need some in a hurry for a specific recipe. At this stage I have posted a number of recipes that use puff-pastry and it would be fair to say that it is one of those basic products that you do use time and time again.

Puff-pastry is a key ingredient in these little tarts. I don’t profess that this is an absolutely authentic version of Portuguese Custard Tarts, but it is my take on them and I don’t think that I have done too badly…They taste delicious.

I love the simplicity of custard, which is essentially made up of eggs, milk/cream, sugar and vanilla. How can something containing so few ingredients be transformed into something that can be so tasty? I love custard in all its various forms; baked custards including crème brûlée and crème caramel; pouring custards like crème anglaise, and other variations such as crème patisserie.


I particularly like custard tarts and have always had a particular fondness of what I refer to as “plain custard tart”; that is a shortcrust pastry shell which is encased a slowly baked custard. I prefer a large tart which is then cut into slices prior to serving over individual tartlets, because the custard to pastry ratio is more balanced and the focus is very much on the custard itself. With this variation on the custard tart theme, I believe that it is of critical importance that the custard is not over-sweet. I like a hint of vanilla, but for me it is mandatory that this tart also include a liberal sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg. It is the minimal and almost austere nature of a plain custard tart that appeals to me so much, which is why I find it quite surprising that I also really love the following recipe for Portuguese Custard Tarts!

The custard in these tarts is quite sweet and is more of a crème patisserie than a baked custard. By virtue of the fact that puff pastry is used, the custard/pastry ratio is more equal, but here, I like it! These tarts are as much about the pastry as they are about the custard, which is why it is vital that a puff-pastry made with butter is used.      

Ingredients:

3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
2tblsp cornflour
250ml cream
150ml milk
1 vanilla pod, spilt in half and seeds scraped out
350g puff-pastry

Method:

1. Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour into a bowl and whisk together.
2. Separately, place the cream, milk, vanilla pod and its seeds in a medium sized saucepan. Place over a moderate heat, and bring just up to boiling point. Take off the heat and carefully remove the vanilla pod. Pour the heated milk and cream in a steady stream onto the egg and cornflour mixture, whisking continuously. Once the milk and cream is all incorporated, pour this mixture back into a clean saucepan and place over a moderate heat. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and directly cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming. Set aside and allow cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan Oven 170C/Gas Mark 5. Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin.
4. Roll out the pastry thinly into an oblong (approximately 30cm x 20cm) until it is about ½cm thick. Next roll up the pastry tightly, swiss-roll style, from the short end and then cut into 12 rounds, about 1cm thick.
5. Lay each pastry round on a lightly floured work-surface and use a rolling pin to roll out until each is about 10cms in diameter. Press the pastry rounds into the muffin tin and spoon the cooled custard evenly into the pastry cases.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry and custard are a golden colour and well-puffed up.
7. Remove from the oven and allow cook for 5 minutes before transferring the individual tarts to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Makes 12.