I once spent three days in Portugal and believe I lived entirely on these addictive custard bites and the occasional tipple of Port. With such fond memories I am always tempted when I see a Portuguese custard tart for sale. Unfortunately these seldom live up to my memory, so I have to resort to making them myself. Thankfully for my waistline these little tarts require a little effort, but trust me, they are worth it!
Homemade pastry makes all the difference! A great Portuguese custard tart has crisp flaky pastry that you can see the layers in. If you are going to cheat and buy the pastry, make sure you buy a good quality flaky pastry like Panetone (available from Dante’s in Cambridge, RedKitchen in Te Awamutu, Vetro Tauranga, Vetro Rotorua, and The Country Providor in Tamahere).
3 cups flour
1¼ cups cold water
225g butter, soft
¼ cup flour
2 cups full fat milk
1⅓ cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
6 egg yolks (size 7)
Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour and water until a soft, pillowy dough forms that pulls away from the side of the bowl. Cover the dough and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
Roll the pastry into a 35-40cm square. Spread a third of the butter over the pastry then fold one third of the pastry into the centre and then the other third over this.
Roll the pastry out again until you have the original 35-40cm square and repeat.
Spread the remaining butter over the pastry but this time, roll into a tight log. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for several hours.
To make the custard, heat the milk, 1 cup of the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon to just before boiling then take off the heat. Whisk the egg yolks, flour and remaining sugar together, then slowly whisk in the heated milk.
Cut the pastry log into 1cm pieces and place these in the muffin tins. Allow the pastry to soften slightly then using your fingers to push the pastry down and mould it up the sides of the tin. You want the pastry on the bottom of the tins to be as thin as possible.
Carefully pour the custard into the prepared pastry tarts and bake at 190°C for 15 minutes. You want the tarts to have some brown brûlée on top.
Allow to cool and then savour with a glass of port!