This is my slightly spiced take on Portuguese custard tarts, using two of the excellent spices I received from Absolute Spice. They might not be traditional flavour-wise but that hardly matters!
These particular tarts have a crisp, buttery and slighly caramelised pastry, filled with a rich and delicately spiced custard. Having tried several recipes over the years for custard tarts I have adapted a recipe from the terrific Rachel Khoo.
The lemongrass is the star flavour of these tarts, but I have added a little galangal for a nice spicy kick. Although related to ginger, galangal does not have the same flavour as ginger, but it is a lovely spice in its own right.
The tarts use puff pastry which gets rolled out thinly and then rolled back up tightly like a Swiss roll. You then slice the pastry thinly and roll out to give circles to line the muffin holes: this gives crisp tarts that do not rise up and push out the filling, which they would if you rolled out the pastry normally.
I used the quicker rough-puff pastry here, flavouring it with a little galangal powder, the recipe for which can be found here. For this pastry I used 2 teaspoons of the galangal, mixing it in with the flour. It is seriously one of the most therapeutic and rewarding things to make – especially when you get those wonderfully light flakes. It is also not that difficult and it tastes excellent.
However, if buying puff pastry, make sure you get the all-butter variety which has infinitely better flavour than the cheaper pastry made with oils.
There is a terrific array of spices at Absolute Spice, many familiar and some less so. The ones I have tried recently (dried lemongrass, galangal powder and fennel powder) have a fuller flavour and cleaner taste than many of the dried spices I have bought previously from the supermarket, and I love finding ways to use them in my bakes as well as in my general cooking.
Not only are the flavours of the spices superb (it is actually like re-discovering some of my old spice favourites!), they are excellent value for money and they store very well: I empty the spices into clean, dry jars and store in a cupboard.
The lemongrass pieces and the galangal I used here work so wonderfully together, giving a lovely depth of flavour without over-powering the custard.
Galangal powder is particularly excellent used to make a galangal and lime cake (recipe here): a different, but tasty cake that has lovely sharp-spicy-sweet flavours.
Recipe: lemongrass custard tarts – makes 10
- 250g rough-puff or all-butter puff pastry
- 4 large free-range egg yolks (you can freeze the whites for meringues or macarons at a later stage)
- 130g caster sugar, plus a little extra for dusting the pastry
- 30g cornflour
- 10g dried lemongrass, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon galangal powder
- 180ml full-fat milk
- 180ml double cream
- butter, for greasing the muffin tins
You also need a 12-hole muffin tin, very well buttered
(1) Make the custard, which can be made a few days ahead if preferred: put the cream and the milk into a pan with the lemongrass and the galangal. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat, cover and leave to cool: this will allow the flavours to infuse. Strain into a bowl, discarding the lemongrass pieces.
(2) Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and the cornflour in a bowl. Pour the spiced milk and cream mixture back into the pan and bring to a simmer.
(3) Add a little of the hot spiced milk and cream to the egg mixture and whisk to loosen it up. Pour in the rest of the spiced milk and cream, whisking well. Now pour it all back into the pan over a low heat, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon for about 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens to the consistency of condensed milk: it should leave a trail on the surface. Make sure the custard doesn’t boil or catch on the bottom.
(4) Lay a sheet of clingfilm on the surface until it has cooled fully – this stops a skin from forming. The custard can be made a few days ahead if preferred.
(5) Roll out the pastry thinly to about 30cm wide and roll back up fairly tightly like a Swiss roll. Cut into 10 pieces and roll each one out gently, cut-side up, to a circle that is large enough to put in the muffin tin holes with a little overhang.
(6) Dust a little caster sugar over each circle of pastry and place each, sugar-side-down, into the muffin hole, pushing gently up and over the rim a little. You can neaten the edges or leave it rustic. Place the muffin tray in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 200C(fan). NB: the sugar will lightly caramelise as the tarts bake.
(7) Pour the custard into the pastry cases to just below the rim. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning the temperature down to 180C(fan) after about 20 minutes: the filling will have risen somewhat (it flattens as the tarts cool), be a light golden-brown with a few dark spots on top.
(8) Leave the tarts in the muffin tins for 5 minutes and then gently ease them out. Cool on a wire rack. If they sink a little when they cool, fear not: they will taste terrific.