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.


To make enough pastry for 12 perfectly proportioned individual tarts:

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.


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:

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.


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


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