Secret 2nd Dessert from my August 8th Supper Club
Read any recipe that involves puff pastry and you’ll likely be reassured to learn that the laborious and Byzantine of making your own puff pastry is entirely unnecessary – a roll you buy from the supermarket is just as good.
Whoever wrote that recipe is a liar. They are a liar who doesn’t want you to enjoy really good puff pastry. They lied to you twice: first when they told you making puff pastry is difficult, and then again when they told you that premade pastry is an acceptable substitute. You can learn how to do it yourself in under six minutes by watching this video and even if you screw it up, it will probably still be the best puff pastry you’ve had in your life. That’s how much better it is when you make it yourself.
These custard tarts are the opposite of the almond shortcrust tart I blogged about in June, where I blind baked the shortcrust pastry until it was done and then poured in hot custard and put it back in the the oven turned all the way down to slowly bring the custard up to the temperature where it would set without further browning the pastry. For the Portuguese custard tarts, which can’t be blind baked, the challenge is to brown the pastry without overcooking the custard. Start with cold custard (you can even assemble the tarts the night before and put them in the freezer, cooking them straight from frozen.) Turn the oven up hot – 230-250 C (depending on your oven). The pastry, which is in contact with the metal of the tin, will respond faster to the heat, and will brown and puff up within 5-10 minutes. You want the custard to set to a unctuous, gooey consistency, and this will depend on how deep the tarts are filled and how cold they were when you began, but once the pastry is cooked you can turn the oven down and finish them off slowly.
Finally, sprinkle a little brown sugar on top of the tarts and caramelise it with a blowtorch. If you don’t have a blowtorch, try dousing the sugar with a teaspoonful of brandy (or burbon) and lighting it. Brandy certainly isn’t going to make these little beauties any worse.