Friday, November 2, 2018

Portuguese Custard Tarts – The Hieronymites Got This Right

I’ve made custard tarts before, but never the world-famous Portuguese custard tarts, and I’m thrilled to report the results were shockingly good. This really was one of the best pastries I’ve ever enjoyed, custard or otherwise. 

Which is a good thing, since they do require a bit of effort to produce. The recipe itself is simple, using just a few basic ingredients, but there are numerous steps, and a certain amount of finesse is required, but the results are so worth it. After watching a few dozen videos on the technique, I decided to try the short cut version first, which uses frozen store-bought puff pastry. The results were not good. Since puff pastry is leavened with yeast, and contains so many more layers of butter and dough, my crust turned out too thick, and gummy, and wasn’t nearly as thin and crispy as it should’ve been. It may have been my technique, but officially I’m blaming the dough.

So then I attempted an “authentic” dough recipe from scratch, which was infinitely better. It’s a little tricky to work with, since the dough is very sticky, but I think that’s one of the keys here. Seems like the extra moisture in the dough, which is activated by the very hot oven, is what creates the signature flaky, crispy texture.

As far as the custard goes, it’s a relatively simple procedure, and we even streamlined one of the steps. You’ll have to decide whether you’re going to include lemon, cinnamon, and vanilla, which are apparently considered optional ingredients in Portugal, but I really enjoy the flavor, and wouldn’t change a thing. Regardless of what you decide to add, or not add to yours, like I said in the video, these should be on everyone’s baking bucket list. So, I really do hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!


For the dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup cold water
Note: adjust with more flour or water to achieve what’s shown in the video
1 stick (4 ounces) very soft, high-quality unsalted butter

For the sugar syrup:
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
zest from 1 lemon

For the custard base:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups milk
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- Bake tarts at 550 F. for 12 minutes or until the pastry is browned and bubbly, and the tops start to blister and caramelize.
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