I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t like Portuguese custard tarts – flaky crisp pastry and just set silky custard are a winning combination. They are dangerously addictive and nothing beats a warm tart fresh from the oven of a good Portuguese bakery. I’ve never been tempted to bake Portuguese tarts as I didn’t think it’s possible to achieve the same results in a home oven but I came across a recipe by Bruno Pinho and decided to try them out to see how close I could get. I must say I was surprised by the results. Are they as good as tarts from a Portuguese bakery? Almost, they are pretty darn close, very delicious and surprisingly easy to make. Unlike most custards these tarts are cooked at a high temperature which results in the signature burnished marks that are caused by the skin that forms on the custard, similar to the skin that forms on heated milk, scorching. The other hallmark of a good Portuguese tart is the shiny sheen on the custard top, this is also achieved due to the high cooking temperature that causes some of the sugar to separate from the custard. Anyway that’s enough of the science, all you really need to know is that these are darn tasty!
Ingredients – Makes 12 tarts Adapted from Bruno Pinho
For the sugar syrup
250g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
½ a lemon, whole peeled rind only
For the pastry & custard filling
25g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
4 free-range egg yolks, plus 1 whole free-range egg
vanilla seeds from 1 vanilla pod
2 sheets ready rolled all-butter puff pastry
Preheat the oven to its highest setting, or at least 230C. My oven goes all the way to 275C but I settled on 240C (fan-forced). For the sugar syrup, bring the sugar, cinnamon and lemon rind to the boil in a saucepan with 250ml water. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering, then simmer for 3 minutes. Set the syrup aside until completely cool. Once cool, discard the cinnamon stick and lemon rind.
For the custard filling, mix the flours together in a bowl. Pour in a little bit of milk and stir until combined. Bring the remaining milk to the boil in a saucepan over low heat, stirring regularly. Gradually add the boiled milk to the flour mixture and whisk for 1 minute, or until smooth and well combined. Slowly whisk in the sugar syrup until well combined. Whisk in the egg yolks, whole egg and vanilla seeds until smooth and well combined. Set aside.
Place the two sheets of pastry on a floured surface one on top of the other, then roll the pastry as tightly as possible into a roll, brushing it from right to left with water as you go. Cut the pastry roll into 12 x 2cm thick discs. Place the discs in the holes of a muffin tin and massage them with a circular motion using a wet thumb, until the pastry rises up the sides of the holes in the tray. Make sure you don’t make any holes in the pastry.
Fill the pastry cases with the custard until they are almost, but not quite, full. Bake the custard tarts in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and the surface of the custard is scorched. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the custard to set slightly.