Portuguese Custard Tarts

I love these delicious sweet treats that offer so much more comforting satisfaction than their first appearance promises. I decided to make these for two reasons. The first of these was that they are quite frankly delicious and I wanted to eat one and the second was that I fancied making some puff pastry having not done so for a while. If you want to use ready rolled pastry skip ahead to the second set of instructions below.

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To make enough pastry for 12 perfectly proportioned individual tarts:

Ingredients
110 g plain flour
80 g butter
50 g margarine/lard
a pinch of salt
75 mL water

The ratio of butter and margarine specified in the recipe above is not written in stone but I find I get the best balance of a nice buttery flavour with good layers and a pleasant crispy texture when I use these proportions. The pastry can be made with all butter if preferred.

The first stage is to prepare your ingredients. Measure out the water and put it in the fridge. Measure out the fat and cut into small cubes. Put this in the freezer for 5 – 10 mins. While these elements are chilling, measure out the flour and combine with the salt and lightly flour a work surface.

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When the fat has chilled, add it to the flour and toss in the bowl until the cubes are coated with flour. Working quickly, add the water to the bowl in portions add bring the mixture together as a rough looking dough. The fat should still be in lumps at this stage. Once it has come together, place on the floured surface and shape into a rough log shape. Roll the dough out into a rectangle that is three times as long as it is wide (roughly 10 x 30 cm) keeping the edges as square as possible. Fold the top third down and the bottom third up to give a square. Turn the dough 90 degrees clockwise, use the rolling pin to press down the edges and then repeat the rolling and folding three times turning by 90 degrees after each fold. Pre-chilling the ingredients means the dough should stand up to this process without chilling again but id the dough starts to get soft or greasy, put the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes before continuing.

After the rolling and folding has been completed the dough will need to chill for at least 2 hours before use.

To make the tarts:

Ingredients
1 whole egg plus 2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tbsp cornflour
100 g granulated caster sugar
400 mL milk (any will do but for a truly indulgent treat it has to be full fat
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Puff pastry as above or 1 sheet of ready made puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 190 °C

Combine the egg, yolks, sugar and cornflour in a saucepan and add the milk. Stir to mix and then put the pan on a gentle heat stirring continuously until it thicken and just comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla essence. Put the custard a bowl and cover with cling film to prevent formation of a skin while the it cools. Meanwhile, roll out your puff pastry until it is a couple of mm thick. Aim for a rectangle about 40 x 60 cm in size. If it is easier, you can roll the dough out one half at a time. Cut the pastry into 24 squares around 10 x 10 cm and grease a 12 muffin tray. Line each hole with one square of pastry followed by a second square at 45 degrees to the second to create a decorative star-type shape. Spoon the cooled custard evenly on top of the raw pastry and place in the preheated oven for 25 mins until golden brown on top. Rest in the tin until cool enough to handle and then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Variation – For this batch, I topped half of the tarts with some cherry halves too a add a fruity twist to the classic.

Toffee Oat Cookies

These cookies have caused me no end of difficulties over the last week for a number of different reasons. The first issue was the toffee chunks. I wanted to make my own toffee chunks for the cookies because the ready made ones were ridiculously overpriced in my view and its always good to add a new skill to your arsenal. I didn’t spend much time researching recipes (costly decision) and I went ahead with the second one I found as it seemed straightforward and simple. Combine half a cup of butter with half a cup of sugar with 2 tbsp water and a pinch of salt in a pan and then heat to 300 ° F before pouring onto a silicon mat and cooling. I tried this twice with baking fat (margarine) and both time I ended up with a mess of separated oil and hard caramel. I thought this might be the use of margarine so I tried again with butter but the same thing happened. I did take a couple of mixtures of the result but it looked so gross I decided not to upload them.

Back to the internet and I found that most of the recipes recommended four times as much sugar to fat ratio. The next attempt worked perfectly with 100 g granulated sugar, 10 g butter 2 tbsp water and 2 tbsp milk. Combine and heat to 280 ° F before pouring onto a silicon mate and leaving to cool. This give a fantastically flavoured brittle hard toffee which can easily be broken into pieces and stored in an airtight container.

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Having conquered the toffee, I went on to the cookies. I love oat cookies and have a tried and tested mixture that I use for oat and raisin cookies. This dough is the same with the toffee chunks used to replace the raisins.

Ingredients
100 g plain flour
100 g porridge oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100 g light brown sugar
50 g granulated sugar
50 g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large handful toffee bits

Preheat the oven to 190 ° C

Combine the flour, oats, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix together with a whisk. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy and then beat in the egg. Add the dry ingredients and combine thoroughly before folding in the toffee bits. Place walnut sized balls of the cookie mixture on a lined baking sheet with large gaps between them and flatten slightly. Bake the cookies for 9-11 mins until lightly golden. Allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cook completely.

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These cookies have a wonderful buttery caramel flavour and make a perfect treat with a cup of tea. These are incredibly moreish and the two dozen this recipe makes will not last long.

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Sunken Apple Cake

It is that time of year where warm comforting treats are needed to snuggle up with on the sofa after a long day at work and a journey home in the twilight. Luckily it is also the time of year where a lot of fantastic ingredients that have been ripening over the summer are finally in plentiful supply. I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s blog a few weeks ago and couldn’t wait to try it out. I finally got around to it last night and I am smitten with this recipe. I altered the ingredients slightly based on what I had in the cupboard but in general remained faithful to the inspiration.

Ingredients

4 tiny apples – peeled, cored and halved
2 tbsp granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon
125 g butter
80 g granulated sugar
2 tbsp honey
100 g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
2 eggs – separated

The only alterations I made were to account for the fact that I was short an egg to follow the recipe as described. I used a little less flour so the batter din’t become too stiff and added the milk before folding in the whipped egg whites to loosen the mixture a bit. I also left out the glaze which means that the honey flavour is very subtle but this was because Mr Elbi wanted to add custard to his! I also poured the lemon juice and sugar mixture from the apples over the cake before I put it in the oven and this gave a nice moist sticky texture to the top.

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Before and after baking

This was exactly what we were after last night to eat while watching Great British Bake Off Final having got cold and wet on the way home and suffering the first colds of the season. Soft, warming but light with fruit and an airy batter. I can’t wait to make this again perhaps with pears or plums.

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I did keep a perfect piece to photograph and upload here. Unfortunately I turned my back on it for a few seconds too long and it got scoffed by Mr Elbi. At least he enjoyed it. You can just about see here that the cake part is quite close textured. I think if using this slightly reduced mixture 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder is probably enough otherwise it rises a bit too much and collapses a little. Having said that, it did not affect the overall result too much and we had a great time eating and watching the last three great British Bakers sweating it out on the final. Everyone’s showstoppers were fantastic but I think Nancy stole the prize with her incredible edible Moulin Rouge (with moving sugar sails).

Povitica (Pov-e-Tee-za)

Autumn has arrived in Bristol and I for one am quite please. I do like the long hot summer days but there is something so cosy about a fresh, bright autumn day that I cannot help but enjoy them. It is currently at that blissful stage where you need a jumper on the way to and from work but it is daylight when you wake up and warm enough to eat outdoors in a T-shirt comfortably at lunchtime. Adding to my current happiness is my new job situation which came about quite suddenly a few weeks ago. I have now substituted 3 hrs of daily commute with a 15 minute walk each way.

To celebrate my new lifestyle I am doing a lot more baking and this week I was inspired by the Great British Bake Off technical challenge. This European bread with an unpronounceable name is made with enriched dough and a walnut and cocoa filling looked spectacular when the contestants made it last week and I was desperate to give it a go. It is a Paul Hollywood recipe which means time consuming but delicious. Paul’s recipes always seem to involve more ingredients, more processes and lengthier resting periods. There have been numerous times where I have chose a short-cut version of a recipe rather than following his faff-tacular instructions only to be disappointed. If you follow his method to the letter, the results are almost guaranteed in my experience. This Povitica was another example of just that. Having learnt my lesson from previous failures, I did exactly as ordered by the recipe on the BBC website with the exception that I halved everything (after all, there was only Mr Elbi and myself to eat it).

After making a heavily enriched dough (which took much longer than the recipe suggested to rise), and a nutty, buttery, cocoa-y filling, the dough is stretched as large as possible and the filling spread evenly on top. Then a giant swiss roll is made and snaked into a loaf tin. After another rise and LOOOOOOOOOONG bake, the loaf is read and comes out looking ordinary and golden. The magic of this bake come when you slice into it revealing the pattern created by the swiss roll.

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This is an absolutely delicious piece of baking (if I do say so myself). The savoury flavour of the nuts balances out all the sugar in the dough and the filling to give a fantastically moreish product. This did take me about 4.5 hours to make though. Perfect for my new lifestyle / a quiet Sunday at home.