Oh these are nawty little tarts. I’m sorry but there’s no getting around the fact these puff pastry and creme pat puffs are nothing but sinfully calorific but that is exactly what makes them so utterly dreamy to eat. Speaking as someone who would have a bite of Hungry Hubby’s english custard tart but say “no thank you” to a second, I can not tell you how much I love these. They are undoubtedly best wolfed with the breath of the oven on them still but I assure you, eaten cold is hardly a crime against pastry.
It’s offensive how long it has taken me to make these. I dabbled quite a few years ago with one recipe but I didn’t fall in love until very recently. Now I know how compulsively delicious these are, I fear I will need to start a 2:5 diet – 2 days eating pasteis de nata, 5 days on bread and water. Created, it is said, by monks in the 1800s in Portugal, these pastries are hardly a new invention – more one of those classics which never grows old. You can flavour the custard part with cinnamon, lemon, orange or vanilla and I’m sure that Portuguese families the country wide hold what they believe to be the definitive recipe. This one relies on cinnamon in the pastry and vanilla in the custard. No reason why you can’t add a slither or two of the citrus peel to the milk as you prepare the filling but I’ll leave that up to you.
I can’t lay claim to the recipe being my own invention entirely when these are such a classic pastry but the method is all mine. In this post, I’m not going to show you how to make your own puff pastry, although it is easy and a fun thing to do yourself – that is a post in itself with lots of step by step photos and you can find it here. There is no shame in buying some ready made as it does take a long time to prepare even though it is very simple to do. Just buy all-butter rather than the lower fat versions which use oils that don’t taste as good and risk changing the texture of your flaky pastry. If you want to try, Paul Hollywood’s recipe on his website, the BBC Good Food site and in his book How To Bake is a great one to get you started and this is the one I used here. You can split the jobs up and make it easier by making the pastry and creme patisserie one day and assembling and baking the next – how fabulous would these be for an indulgent weekend breakfast?
A few final tips I think are worthy of mentioned:
- Keep you dough as cold as can be to make handling easier, don’t be afraid of returning to the fridge to firm up if needed
- When making the creme pat, it is worth using a timer for the minute of high heat whisking to ensure you don’t over estimate it and risk scrambling the eggs – don’t be scared, it’s easier than it sounds!
- Definitely preheat your oven for this one (using an oven thermometer) – if the temp isn’t high enough, you won’t get the characteristic brown blisters on top. I was impatient so this batch aren’t as suntanned as I would like.
- 500g puff pastry
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Approx 4 tbsp icing sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 450ml semi skimmed milk
- 50 ml double cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 120g caster sugar
- 100g plain flour
- Roll the pastry out into a large rectangle (the exact measurements are not important) about 5mm thick, sprinkling the work surface and dough liberally with the icing sugar.
- Sprinkle with the cinnamon and a little more icing sugar then roll up like a swiss roll and cut into 12 equally sized pieces.
- Take each “roll” of pastry and turn it cut side up. Flatten and roll out 5mm thick, big enough to line a muffin cup with a tiny amount of pastry above the rim (allows for shrinkage). Chill until needed.
- Make the creme patisserie – whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl or large jug and then sift over and whisk in the flour. This minimises lumpiness.
- Place the milk, cream and vanilla bean slit open with it’s seeds scraped out into a saucepan over medium heat.
- When the milk comes to a boil, slowly but steadily dribble the milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking rapidly as you do. It’s helpful to put the bowl on a damp tea towel to prevent slippage.
- When the milk is fully incorporated, return to the pan and bring to the boil.
- Now it is worth setting a timer so you do not over cook and scramble the eggs at this point. Once boiling, whisking again furiously, all the time, cook for 1 minute – I turn the heat down a touch here. The creme will become thickened and heavy on the whisk. The flour will be cooked but the eggs should not be overdone.
- Pour into a jug and cover the surface with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming and leave until room temperature.
- Remove pastry from the fridge and dollop in the creme pat until it comes 1-2mm below the pastry case rims. It will puff dramatically in the oven but is thick enough not to spill out.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 220°C for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and deep golden brown and the custard is browned on top and will have puffed up to almost double it’s height – it falls on cooling and leaves a dimpled surface.
- Leave to cool for 5 minutes only then carefully remove from the tin with a plastic knife if they have caught anywhere. Transfer to a rack for 10-15 minutes to cool as the sugar in the pastry will make these hot, hot, hot! Dive in and indulge as soon as they are room temperature.
- Note these little tarts puff up like crazy on baking - don't be scared, this is normal! They start to sink after you take them out the oven and they will sag and crinkle a little. Again - this is normal!