Thursday, January 8, 2015

portuguese egg custard tarts - macau in a tartshell

Did you know that the island of Macau got it's name because the Macanese fisherman couldn't understand a certain Portuguese conquistador's accent. Now, that may seem like a completely arbitrary statement, unless, you are privy to the fact that I just came back from Macau last week. Sorry, after a sixteen hour jet lag my mind isn't working correctly and my twisted sense of humor seems funnier in my head. Although the fisherman thing was really true. Our tour guide said so.

Across the waters from Hong Kong is the exotic casino and custard tart filled island of Macau. And despite the fact that my attempt at these pastry pools of custard gold turned out surprisingly well, especially for a first attempt, it really doesn't beat the fresh piping hot tarts you get halfway across the world. Click the orange button to chowtinue this conversation and learn how to make these delicious little morsels. 

So although you shouldn't place too much credence in a first attempt Portuguese egg custard tart baker, I do have a couple helpful tips that'll make your Portuguese egg custard tarts turn out even better than mine. Let's get started! By the way, the measurements are at the bottom of the page. (as always. duh.)

1. In a medium-sized bowl (wouldn't want you to use just a medium bowl), whisk together the flour and the salt. Slowly add ice water a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring thoroughly after every addition, until a dough ball forms. I used a little less than 1 cup of water. Kneed on the counter top until a soft ball forms. Not a softball, a soft ball. Creating a softball would need a lot more rubber. Don't be afraid to use flour if it gets tacky. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes under a kitchen cloth. Resting the dough will prevent it from shrinking as you shape the dough in the next step. 

2. Roll the dough into a rectangle about a 1/2 cm thick. Try to get it as regular and as even as possible. The straighter your edges are, the better butter distribution your dough will have. Divide your room temperature butter into thirds. Smear the first third of the butter on top of the dough. Leave a little bit on the edges to hold onto. Fold it over on itself and pat it down. Then fold it again going the other way. Roll it out and repeat with the other thirds of butter. If the dough begins to stick, or your kitchen is too warm, you can wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator to make the butter harder and easier to work with. 

3. When you finish your third fold, chill it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. This will also allow the dough to rest. Don't rush. Cold pastry is flaky pastry because the layers of butter and dough that we create don't melt together. Once they melt and meld you get minimal puffage (a term I just made up) in the oven. 

4. In the meantime we can make the custard. This is so easy! In a bowl whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and heavy cream. I said it was easy, not low cal. Cook it over another pot with simmering water in it being sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the top of the water. This is called a double boiler, or a bain-marie. Slowly cook the custard constantly stirring for 5 minutes until the custard heats through and it thickens. You shouldn't look for it to thicken much. It'll be a very subtle difference. When you can draw a line through the custard on the back of a spoon and the line holds the custard is done. You've seen the TV chefs do it. Set it aside to cool. 

5. Preheat your oven to 475F. I know, that's extremely hot. The whole point is to fry these tarts in the butter that's going to inevitably leak out of the tart. This makes the pastry crispy and flaky. Let me just warn you that the tops of these custards are going to darken a little. Don't be alarmed, the burning is normal. The Portuguese ones have burn marks, that's how you know they're authentic. Take the dough out of the fridge and lightly dust the dough and your rolling pin with flour. Roll it out to 1/4 cm thick. It can be an oblong shape, just as long as the thickness is correct. You want it to be thin, but not too thin that it can't hold the custard. Working quickly so the butter doesn't melt, cut 1/2 inch strips of dough and wind the dough in a spiral to cover the entire inside. Press the dough with your fingers to make it smooth. Repeat with the remaining dough. You'll get about 16 tarts. 

6. Fill the tarts with about a tablespoon of custard. You don't want to fill the custards too high. I did and they overflowed in the oven and made a huge mess. In all honesty, the ones that I shot were my second attempt. The first ones were unpresentable...but so good. (yeah I ate them what? don't judge.) 

7. Bake them for 20 minutes on the rack below the middle level. If you insert a toothpick into the center of the custards it should come out clean. I found that 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time to get the crust golden and the custards set. 

There you have it, perfect Portuguese egg custard tarts; a recipe that traveled over a sea and an ocean, an aggregate of 7000 miles if you live in California to your face. These are so good, so delicate, and decadent. I suggest eating these as hot as you can without burning yourself. Hot creamy custard tarts are the perfect treat on a freezing winter day (he wrote in his tank top on a sunny day at the beach). I hope you guys give this one a go. It's a little tricky, but well worth the extra effort. Superbowl is just around the corner and if you want to show off to your friends and family and in-laws you've got to give these a try. I really enjoy reading your comments so please do take the time to correct anything I said wrong in this post or in posts of weeks passed. Or just a compliment.  I like those too. It's up to you. And as always, 



1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

2 1/2 cup heavy cream
9 egg yolks
9 tablespoon sugar

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