Why Portuguese Tarts?
Encased in a light, feathery crisp pastry, sits a pale yellow, cinnamon scented creamy custard with a slight caramelised burnt top. So delicate and delicious Portuguese’s tarts are claimed to be the new cup cake.
For any one who has been living under a rock for the last couple of years will have missed the universal increase in popularity of the cupcake. Possibly made famous for appearances in television shows such as Sex And The City, these quintessentially cute cakes seem to have popped up everywhere, having replaced the traditional wedding cake to being the latest development in the café culture. Although I will admit that I am an honorary cupcake fan, I am also very glad to see a new and tastier competitor.
Also known as Portuguese cream tarts, they were first made by nuns nearly 200 hundred years ago evolving from pastel de nata, a traditional baked custard. Portuguese tarts have come a far way from humble convents and are now popular the world around.
I am always the first to admit that I am a food adventurous and am willing to try anything, however I am also the first to admit that when you can buy produce made authentically that tastes great, I will. Portuguese tarts fall into both of these categories.
I love to make Portuguese tarts at home, but only when I have the time and patience. The reason is that although they are not difficult to make, they do consist of a few different steps that need your full attention. I suggest you save this recipe for a rainy day, or when you feel inspired to be creative and have friends near by to eat the rewards of your labour.
In the meantime I suggest you try the following places to feed your cravings for some delicious Portuguese tarts.
60 Bronte Road, Bondi Junction, Sydney Australia
•Fernandes Patisserie 516 Marrickville Road, Marrickville, Sydney Australia
For the pastry:
1 packet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk, beaten
For the Filling:
1 3⁄4 cups whole milk
1⁄4 cup cream
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour, sifted
1 cinnamon quill
2 strips lemon peel
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon icing sugar
For the custard - in a saucepan off the heat, add the milk, cream, egg yolks and sugar. In a thin stream pour in the flour into the milk, while whisking to avoid lumps. Once combined add the cinnamon quill and lemon zest.
Place the saucepan over a low heat and stir continuously with a whisk. Continue to stir the cream on a very low heat until the custard is thick – a high heat will cook the eggs and you will have sweet scrambled eggs. This may take up to five minutes but persist and do not stop stirring making sure to get into the corners of the pan.
Once thick remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Remove the cinnamon and lemon and cover with wax proof paper to avoid a skin forming.
For the pastry cases - preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. If your puff pastry is in a block, roll out on a floured surface until is it s 1/4 cm thick, otherwise lay the sheets out. In a separate bowl mix together the cinnamon and nutmeg. Brush the sheets with the egg yolk and sprinkle with the spice mix. Starting from one end begin to roll the pastry up like a cigar. Try to make sure it is snug but not too tight to avoid air pockets later. Leave the pastry to sit for five minutes for the egg to glue to the pastry.
Cut the pastry into 2cm thick slices, and lay them flat on a lightly floured surface. Push each disk down with the palm of your hand until they are 1/4 cm thick. You may need to work them slightly with your fingers too.
Place the pastry disks in a tartlet tray or a small muffin tray, pushing the pastry to fit into the corners and far enough up the sides. Try not to stretch the dough, but rather push it gently. This will help reduce shrinkage during the baking.
Fill each case a little more than 3/4 with custard. Bake for 15 minutes on the middle shelf. You don’t want them sitting on the top rack, as they tend to burn quickly. Check to see that they are done by seeing that the pastry is golden brown.
Allow to cool and dust with cinnamon sugar.