A couple of weeks ago, one of my cafe customers asked if I would have a go at baking Portuguese custard tarts.
I was up for the challenge at the time, but it’s proving harder than I thought.
I have the basics – a lovely thick custard infused with orange and cinnamon, and quality store-bought puff pastry that is deliciously buttery and crispy straight from the oven.
The next day, not so crispy. More like spongy. In short, not marketable until I find somewhere to source those little foil pie pans that large bakeries have at their fingertips. Again, it sounds easy but isn’t.
Luckily, it is Christmas and said foil pie pans are in abundance due to it being mince pie season.
I am gradually amassing a collection by eating as many mince pies as I can. It’s a Christmas tradition, helped along by my pregnant “I-have-an-excuse-for-these-thighs” mindset.
In the meantime, I tried a cherry twist on the traditional Portuguese Tart which I have to share because they were very delicious. With Christmas around the corner, they’re an appropriately festive, lighter alternative for those curious people who are a bit over mince tarts.
The custard can be made ahead but make sure you bake the tarts on the same day you plan to serve them. I recommend them warm from the oven :)
2 sheets store-bought quality puff pastry, thawed (I use Careme)
3 egg yolks
½ cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
½ cup heavy (thickened) cream
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon quality vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
One strip of orange peel
16 ripe cherries, pits removed
Preheat oven to 200C.
For the custard:
Gently heat the cream and milk in a medium sized saucepan until almost at boiling point.
Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a medium sized bowl.
Whisk the cream mixture into the egg mixture and transfer the lot back into the saucepan you heated the cream in.
Add the cinnamon and orange and stir over a medium heat until it thickens and reaches boiling point. Remove immediately from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pass the mixture through a sieve into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Leave to cool.
For the tarts:
Cut the thawed pastry sheets in half and place one half on top of the other to make two sheets.
Roll each sheet up horizontally and slice each into six portions. When finished, you should have a total of 12 portions resembling small pinwheels when turned side on.
Take each little portion, pinwheel side up, and roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly-floured surface until you have 12 small pastry circles about 1-2mm thick and appx 8cm in diameter.
Press each circle into a 12-hole muffin tin.
Process cherries with a hand-mixer or blender to make a rich, red puree.
Place a dollop of cherry puree into the bottom of each tart and top with cooled custard, filling to the ¾ mark.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes at 200C before turning the oven up to 220C for a further 5 minutes. This blast of extra heat should give the tarts a lovely dark caramelised look on top but be careful not to burn them.
Remove from the oven and leave the tarts to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Serve lightly dusted with icing sugar.