Portuguese Custard Tarts

I’ve eaten English custard tarts before and sadly wasn’t impressed by their general soggy texture and bland appearance. However, I was bowled over by the rustic looking Portuguese custard tart – though similar in name, the two are incomparable in all other domains. A family friend gave me an amazing recipe book called ‘Coffee and Bites’ by Susie Theodorou. Her recipe for these tarts is easy to follow and the custard is so delicious I now use it in other recipes. I’ve taken a few photos so pastry preparation is easier to understand.

Makes about 8
Ingredients:
Butter (for greasing)
200g (7oz) ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed if frozen
300ml (10floz) double cream
150ml (5floz) milk
1 vanilla pod halved lengthways (1tsp vanilla extract)
50g (2oz) vanilla sugar (or caster sugar)
6 egg yolks
icing sugar for dusting

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 240C, 220-230C fan, gas mark 9 and place a heavy-based baking tray in the oven to heat up.
  2. Grease about 8 holes in a muffin tray with butter and place a circle of greaseproof paper in the bottom of each.
  3. Cut 8 1cm wide strips from the width (shorter) end of the pastry and role each one up like a wheel, then flatten each with a rolling pin. Stamp each of these into about 5cm diameter circles.
  4. Roll the remaining pastry to a 2mm thickness. Cut out 8 strips each 4cm (1.5 in) wide and 25cm (10in) long.
  5. Loosely line the inside of the muffin moulds with the long strip and then place the circular piece in the bottom using your fingers to seal the pastry together forming a pastry case.
  6. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to chill and then prick the bases. Meanwhile make the custard.
  7. Put the cream, milk, vanilla pod/ extract and sugar into a pan and heat gently whilst stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  8. Bring to just below boiling point and remove from the heat. Remove the pod and scape the seeds into the cream mix.
  9. Beat the egg yolks and, once it has cooled a little pour the cream mixture over the top whilst stirring with a spoon.
  10. Strain the custard into a jug and pour into the pastry cases half way.
  11. Place the muffin tray on the preheated baking tray in the oven and top up the custard so the tarts are nearly full (this is to avoid spillages when transferring the tarts). Dust with icing sugar.
  12.  Bake for 25 minutes until the custard has puffed up and caramelised in places and the pastry is golden brown.
  13. Cool for ten minutes then remove from the tin and place onto a wire cooling rack.

These taste great when they are still warm or you can reheat them later.

Chocolate Tart

 I can confidently say Simon Hopkinson has the best pastry recipe known to man. Though it’s not the easiest to work with it makes a super crumbly tart and is well worth the occasional bout of frustration. Simon Hopkinson I salute you.
Pastry:
175g (6oz) butter
65g (2 1/2oz) icing sugar
2 egg yolks
225g (8oz) plain flour
Filling:
3 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar
150g (5oz) butter
200g (7oz) dark chocolate in pieces
Method for Pastry:
  1. Put the butter, sugar and egg yolks in a mixer and work together quickly.
  2. Blend in the flour and work to a homogenous paste.
  3. Form into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
  5. Roll out the pastry as thinly and quickly as possible (how cool it stays makes a big difference as to whether it shrinks in the oven!)
  6. Transfer to a greased 20.5cm (8 inch) tart tin leaving a border of pastry hanging over the edge. This stage is much easier if you roll the pastry out between 2 sheets of cling film dusted with flour – it doesn’t stick or tear and is easier to transfer.
  7. Place the pastry back in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes
  8. Remove from the fridge and blind bake* for 20-25 minutes till it’s a pale biscuit colour and thoroughly cooked through (no soggy bottoms allowed).
  9. Carefully trim off the overhanging pastry with a serrated knife.
Method for chocolate filling:
  1. Increase the heat of the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Beat the egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar in a bowl with an electric whisk till very thick and fluffy.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over barely simmering water and stir till smooth.
  4. Pour the chocolate into the egg mix when just warm (eggs cook at 60C). Beat till just combined and pour into the pastry case.
  5. Return the tart to the oven to cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  7. Serve with creme fraîche or cream

*to blind bake your tart place a circle of baking parchment on the base of the pastry and cover with ceramic baking beans or dried pulses. This weighs the base down and stops it puffing up.

 I place a foil border on top of the tart midway through the cooking process to stop the tart walls burning.