Earlier this month, my daughter returned from her vacation in Portugal.  Absolutely loved it.  From the pictures she has seen of Goa (she hasn’t been there yet), she could definitely see the Portuguese influence in the architecture, the colours and the food.  One of her emails from Portugal said “Dad, we tried these Pasteis de Nata, you have to make them when I come back”.  “Sure” I wrote back, thinking to myself, what the heck is that?  I knew I had more than enough  time to google it – oh, Portuguese Egg Tarts – that I know.  So I made them.  This recipe is quick, easy and very tasty.  You must make this for your next dessert at home or to take to someone’s house.

I used a 1/2 package of Presidents Choice Puff Pastry – yes you could make your own, and while it is a very nice thing to do, this was a last minute thought so I had to work with what I had.  I’m sure any brand will do, I just prefer this one as it is already rolled out and for instant use – read no clean up, it is my go to item.  I used the palm of my hand to flatten the circles of pastry, almost large enough to fill the muffin tin.  Then using my fingers gently pressed the edges to stretch it to fit almost the entire surface.

The custard was simple to make, much like Pastry Cream.   From a timing perspective, it took about 7 minutes for the custard to thicken.  I put it in the freezer for 20 minutes to cool it, then in the fridge for the balance of the time.  When it came out of the oven, it was all puffy, darkly caramelized, in some cases split on top (not to worry, they re-join), and smelled delicious.  It soon deflated (no more splits) providing that unmistakable trademark look for these Portuguese Egg Tarts.

I’m including some pictures of the tarts I made, the tarts she took pictures of in Portugal and some of her touristy shots as well… it is a beautiful country!  My comments on the process of creating these tarts are in italics below.  As always – enjoy!

1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
1 cup milk (I used 1%, the higher the fat content the richer the custard)
3/4 cup whipping cream 35%
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 pkg PC Puff Pastry sheets, thawed
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon + 3/4 tsp sugar – mixed together

Thaw one roll of puff pastry – this will take about 45 minute to 1 hour at room temperature. Just enough time to make the custard and have it cool. Have a muffin/cup cake tin ready – if it’s non-stick, you don’t have to do anything, otherwise you might want to use a cooking spray and lightly spray the surface. There’s plenty of butter in puff pastry so it shouldn’t stick anyway.

Combine the egg yolks, egg, milk, cream, sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan and set over medium heat. Whisk until the mixture thickens – this should take about 7 minutes. Add the vanilla and stir – then scrape into a bowl. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill the custard in the freezer until cold – about 25 minutes, then put it in the fridge to keep it cold without freezing.

Unroll puff pastry sheet. Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar mixture evenly over the surface. Re-roll the sheet into a tight log. The other advantage to this  brand is the puff comes with it’s own wax paper which can be used to roll up the log jelly  roll style quite easily.  Cut the log into 12 equal rounds – each piece should be a little over 2 cm, either eye ball it or get the measuring stick out.

Using the palm of your hands, press flatly on the pastry round to flatten it out. Then using your fingers, stretch the ends of the dough until you have a circle wide enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tin. The pastry will be very thin – it’s okay. Puff pastry is very forgiving and if you have tears in the pastry from stretching, simply patch or move the pastry until the tears are covered. Repeat with remaining rounds. Don’t worry if it doesn’t go all the way to the top, just get it as close to the rim as you can. Once all 12 tins are lined with pastry, place the tin in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 500F. Grab something to drink – coffee, tea, a robust Cab, Pinot Grigio perhaps… Remove the tin from the freezer, put the glass down, divide the custard among the 12 pastry cups – this is about 1 heaping tablespoon per cup – start with less then top up each cup until you have equal amounts in each.

Bake in centre of oven until tops are browned and caramelized – 15 to 18 minutes. If you want it darker, watch it carefully because at 500F it will turn from lightly caramelized to burned in seconds.

Cool in the pan on a rack – serve tarts warm or cool (make sure they can come out of the tins easily by jiggling the tray). I used a stencil and some icing sugar to get the design on top, you don’t need it, just did it for the picture.