When I visit cafés, I often look longingly at the pastries and wonder whether I could produce something similar in my own kitchen. One of my favourites is the Portuguese custard tart – Pastéis de nata. So, when this week I was left with a half a block of puff pastry and a grey day in which to bake, I set about having a go. Bought puff pastry is so easy to use, and it wasn’t too long before a mini batch of these luscious, egg custard filled, crispy tarts.
What you will need
Butter, for greasing
150ml double cream
Zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp of vanilla bean paste
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornflour
125g caster sugar
150g chilled ready-made puff pastry
Flour, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5 and grease a 12-hole mini muffin tin. The mix is enough for 24 mini tarts, so you could make a dozen larger muffin size ones instead. Put the cream, milk, vanilla bean paste and lemon zest in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then take off the heat and set aside. Next whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a bowl until it comes together in a paste. Pass the milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl of egg paste. You need to be quick and thorough at mixing the cold egg paste with the warm milk mixture to prevent you creating a sweet scrambled eggs. once mixtures are combined, pour back into the saucepan and heat over a moderate heat until it thickens – do not let it boil.
The custard made, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface as thin as you can manage (the thinner you mange it, the more crispy the pastry). Roll the pastry up into a long sausage shape and cut it into 24 discs. Roll out each disc to about 6cm in diameter and press them into the holes of the muffin tin. Before filling with the custard mix, use a fork to prick the bases with a fork and fill with the custard mixture until half full. Finally, place the tarts in the oven for about 18-20 minutes until browned on top.
As a child we often had rhubarb with our custard tart, so as we still have a bit if rhubarb at the plot, I decided to serve the little tarts with a bit of roasted rhubarb. To sweeten it I used a combination of a bit of sugar and some runny honey, roasting the chopped rhubarb for 20 minutes until soft, but not falling apart. The sharp taste of the rhubarb contrasts well with the silky sweet custard, but the tarts go equally go well with an espresso.