This is one of my favorite pastries to eat and make! I didn’t know about them until I moved to Australia, Melbourne to be specific. I know, it would have been perfect if I could say, I had my first in Portugal ha ha… Well, Melbourne is famous for it’s diverse food culture and the best coffee. After all, it’s called the culinary capital of Australia and that alone attracts so many tourists. I have had really good french pastries there and they are as good as what I ate in Paris. So I’m waiting until I get to go to Lisbon, one day, so I can taste the most authentic Portuguese tart!
The patisserie I used to work, back in the days, used to make really good Portuguese tarts. The puff was house-made with good Australian butter and the vanilla egg custard was creamy and luscious. Having made this myself, gave me added advantage when it comes to replicating these at home.
I always make my own puff at home. I sometimes, make a big batch and freeze them for later. I usually make the laminated puff, but for this, rough puff works just as well. If you are not up to that, then you can use store bought puff pastry sheets too. But, homemade is way better and tastier.
You can use your favorite custard for this. So if you have a fool-proof tested custard recipe, then go ahead and use it. Just get the custard a bit thicker by cooking it a little longer. I have found a thicker custard filling works best. Usually a custard is thickened only using eggs (egg yolks) and you have to be very careful not to get eggs curdled. This is why I’m using a bit of cornflour in my custard ( so technically speaking it would be closer to a pastry cream) Corn flour (starch) helps thicken the custard faster and you can use less eggs and it stabilizes the custard.
So let us get to it then;
It’s a good idea to make the puff at least a day ahead. Giving it enough time to relax, will make the pastry workable.
Weigh everything for the puff dough into a bowl and start mixing by hand. Use a food processor if you want. This recipe is for a small batch and won’t probably be enough for a stand mixer, unless you are doubling it.
Add a teaspoon of water if the dough is too stiff.
Once everything comes together, take out, onto a floured surface. Knead by hand until a smooth dough is developed.
Wrap this smooth dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Make the butter block in the meantime. Place the stick of butter, 110 g roughly, in between two parchment papers and start rolling out into a thick square. Thickness between 1/2 cm – 3/4 cm.
rough size: 8″ by 4″
Wrap and refrigerate until set.
When you are ready to laminate, get the dough out onto a floured surface, and roll out to a rectangle. It should be twice the size of you butter block ( check image) so you can seal the butter inside. Now place the butter block and fold the dough and seal the edges.
Once sealed, roll out the dough (away from you) as shown in the picture. Make sure to put gentle pressure as you go. Check lamination videos here to get an idea.
Fold the dough sheet like you would fold a business letter.
Turn the dough 90 degrees, so the folds are facing you. This is one letter fold. You have to Repeat this 2 more times
Start rolling away from you again. At this stage, you can refrigerate this for 30- 45 minutes to chill the dough.
We do 3 letter folds altogether, chilling after every fold
Once done with 3 letter folds, wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight ( 3-4 hours minimum)
In the meantime, you can make the custard.
Boil the sugar and milk in a pot, until it start to boil. Whisk everything else in a heat proof bowl until thick and smooth. Pour the boiling milk in a thin stream, into the egg mixture while whisking. Then, pour the mixture back into the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking non-stop until the custard starts to thicken. Once it has thickened, pour into a container cover the top with a cling film and chill until needed.
When you are ready to make the tarts, roll out the dough just like you did for the lamination. Folds facing you and roll away from you into a long rectangle of about 10 inches of width. The thickness is about 3/4 cm. It doesn’t have to be exact.
Now starting from one side, roll the dough length-wise into a log. (yes it looks like we are going to make cinnamon rolls)
And now we cut the long log in to pieces of about 11/2 inches thick. This thickness determines the thickness of the tart base and also how wide you can roll it out.
Check how all the layers are exposed on the cross section. This is how it should be.
Take one piece at a time lay it flat on the surface and use a rolling pin to flatten this in to a much wider disk. Check next picture.
See how flat this looks. And you can see all those layers. This is the tart base! Do not go any thicker, as the puff would , well, puff up too much as it cooks and the custard will have no room to fit in then.
Now you can place this in a tart mold. You can use a muffin tin but the sides will be under cooked. So it is recommended to use tart molds for this so heat can get all around tart bases.
Cover the tart base with the disk. If there is excess hanging out, that fine, you can trim them later!
Push the pastry on to the wall so it won’t slide off.
This is a the size I use;
Top diameter: 7CM/ 2.76″
Depth: 2CM / 0.79″
Bottom diameter: 4CM / 1.57″
but you can use bigger/deeper molds
Once you are done with all of them, Place the tart cases on a tray and refrigerate for about 30 – 45 minutes. This relaxes gluten, so they won’t shrink back in the oven.
In the meantime, you can pre-heat the oven to 500F.
Whisk the custard back into a creamy consistency and fill a piping bag, with or without a nozzle.
Once the oven is ready, take the chilled tart shells out. Trim the edges. Fill with a big dollop of custard. You can spoon the mixture, i’m using a piping bag to make things easier.
Use a spoon or a offset spatula to smooth out the custard so the pastry base is filled to the brim, with no air pockets.
Once done, place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. keep an eye towards the end of the bake. You can give the tray a turn towards the end. Ovens are different, so you might need to give them another 5 minutes or so.
Pastry should be golden brown and custard should be baked and have caramelized on top. If it starts to puff up don’t worry, it will shrink right back once out of the oven.
Let these cool before serving.
Best served on the same day of making. So make small batches.
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