Portuguese Custard Tarts
A recipe courtesy of Vanessa Kimbell which taste fantastic, especially if, like me, you slightly over-bake them like I did as the custard takes on a caramel flavour. You may want to make a double portion of these.
According to legend, during medieval times, the convents and monasteries of Portugal needed to use large quantities of egg whites to starch clothes, such as the nuns' habits. With so many leftover egg yolks needing to be up the bakeries nearby would buy the yolks and make Pastel de Nata – Portuguese egg custard tarts.
With crumbly buttery golden pastry they are deep filled with a sweet rich vanilla egg custard. They are quite simply outstanding. In fact these tarts are so good that I’m willing to bet that you could get pretty much anyone to declare their undying eternal love whilst eating one of them. It’s well worth making your own puff pastry because it’s truly what sets these tarts apart. I suppose you could cheat and use bought puff pastry, but the truth is that they just not quite as nice.
Preparation time 1.5 hours (with on overnight rest of the pastry)
Cooking time 15 minutes
For the pastry:
- 225g Organic Type "0" flour plus extra for rolling out
- ½ tsp salt
- 250g unsalted butter, cold
- 150ml cold water
For the custard:
- 3 tbs custard powder
- 30 ml cold water
- 500 ml full fat milk
- 1 level tsp of Ndali Fairtrade vanilla extract
- 200 ml double cream
- 5 egg yolks (from free range eggs)
- 300g Fairtrade caster sugar
- a small pinch of salt
Make the Pastry:
If the idea of making puff pastry sends shudders down your spine then fear not because this puff pastry recipe is a no fuss stir in a bowl method that works. By keeping the butter in chunks and working with cold butter it creates a layer of fat between each layer of flour, which in effect creates a layer each time you fold, so it is important that you keep your pasty / butter cool whilst working with it. Multiply each fold and turn and you end up with hundreds of laminated layers. When the heat from the oven creates warm air and moisture the layers separate and you end up with beautiful light crispy butter flavored pastry.
- Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and pop the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes to chill.
- Cut the butter into small cubes.
- Using a metal spoon, stir the butter into the bowl until each piece is well coated with flour.
- Pour in the water, then, working quickly, use the sharp edge of the spoon to bring everything together to a rough dough ( Step 1).
- Gather the dough in the bowl using one hand squash the dough into a fat, flat sausage, without kneading. Wrap this in cling film then chill the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Lightly flour your work surface and the pastry. Roll out the pastry in one direction until it’s about 1cm thick and three times as long as it is wide. It should be 45 x 15cm It is important to keep the sides straight and try to keep the top and bottom edges as square as possible (Step 2).
- Fold the bottom third of the pastry up, then the top third down. This makes a block about 15 x 15cm (Step 3).
- Keep making sure that the corners are nice and square.
- Turn the dough so that its open edge is facing to the right, like a book (Step 4). Bash the edges of the pastry together firmly but gently with the rolling pin.
- Roll out and fold the pastry again. You need to repeat this four times in all until the dough is smooth. Don’t worry about buttery streaks here and there. Should the pastry feels greasy at any point, then cover and chill it for 15 minutes before continuing. Chill the finished pastry for at least an hour. Ideally overnight (Step 5).
Prepare the Custard:
- In a small bowl mix the custard powder and water together to form a paste, add about 50ml of the milk and stir well to avoid any lumps. Transfer into a heavy based saucepan place the vanilla, the rest of the milk, cream, and egg yolks sugar and salt then whisk on a low heat, and keep moving this lightly using a whisk
- Keep stirring as the custard thickens. This can take 15 minutes or more so take your time an don’t be tempted to heat it quickly ( .. you will get scrambled eggs!) The mixture will thicken.
- When the custard coats the back of a spoon remove from the heat. Leave this custard to cool.
Make the Tarts:
- Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4
- Roll out the pastry to about 12 inches / 30 cm wide and the thickness of a £1 coin
- Tightly roll up the puff pastry from short end to short end, which effectively turns it into a log (Step 6).
- Cut the log into 18 1.5cm rounds. Lay each piece on a lightly floured surface and flatten each piece with the palm of your hand. Roll out each round until they are 9cm or 3.5inches in diameter. Press each round into a deep muffin tin that has been greased with butter. Spoon about 40g of cooled custard into the pastry cases, and bake until the pastry and custards are golden, about 20 - 25 minutes. The tarts taste much more delicious if you slightly over cook them so the top of the custard caramelises (Step 7).
- Leave the tarts in the tin for 5 minutes to set, then remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely (Step 8).