There are a few things that I get in my mind that I want to cook “sometime”. Custard tarts are one of those things that I’ve been mulling on for at least a year. I love a good custard tart but it’s so difficult to come across a good one, that I rarely choose this when out and about, even if a supermarket mark-down bargain. When visiting Lisbon last year I had the pleasure of tasting a “pastel de nata” – and from that moment on I knew that when I did finally make a custard tart it would be of this variety. On Saturday we took delivery of half a dozen eggs from my brother-in-law and I made the mistake of mentioning in front of Bess that I might use them to make custard tarts. Cue 3 year old’s declaration that she was going to help me. She doesn’t forget a thing and was on about making custard tarts from as soon she woke up. Having done a little recipe research I was having 2nd thoughts but despite various displacement tactics by 3.30pm I could see no way to get out of it.
The internet provided me with a great variety of recipes. None of which seemed to be particularly child-friendly in terms of processes required. Some instructed you in the production of your own puff pastry but there was no way I was doing that as I had some perfectly acceptable pre-made in the freezer. Some used only egg yolks, others a combination of whole eggs and yolks. Some required you to make a sugar syrup – definitely not child friendly. After much deliberation I chose the one that looked least likely to fail in the event of interruptions.
I got Bess to start by greasing the tins. This mainly involved me politely requesting that she didn’t eat the butter while doing so. She’d got about half way through when I realised we should be using the muffin tin and not the fairy cake tin.
So I salvaged what butter I could and gave the muffin tin a generous greasing while Bess weighed 200g of caster sugar. With normal people the greasing would take a lot longer than the weighing, but as the weighing involved a lot of me politely requesting that she didn’t eat the sugar and what was going in the jug was about 10g at a time we were well matched.
One of the jobs that Bess loves is cracking eggs. This was a little perilous today as once cracked they needed to be separated. I usually avoid recipes requiring egg separation anyway, but there was no getting away from it. So after Bess had given them a good whack I swiftly extracted them from her. And amazingly we ended up with six perfectly separated eggs.
Next into the jug with the sugar went 3 exceedingly estimated tablespoons of corn flour and 225ml-ish of milk. More measuring for Bess. This particular recipe didn’t include lemon or spices but many of the others that I had found did so along with a shake of vanilla extract we added a shake of cinnamon, a little less of nutmeg and some lemon juice. I’m sure proper lemon zest would have been better but we didn’t have any.
And then the interruptions came. Matt brought the baby in from outside (where she had allegedly been helping him clean the barbeque) as she needed a feed. Bess started doing an urgent looking wee dance. I was feeding the baby so called Matt back in to help Bess but despite her best efforts it was too late. After the clean up she refused to put dry knickers and trousers on so we really did have a bit of a naked chef thing going on (with apron of course!).
I now enlisted Matt’s help to help Bess with the rolling of the pastry as I was still feeding the baby.
They rolled out flat, then into a long sausage shape – a technique I had seen advised in a different recipe for obtaining pastry discs to line the muffin tray. As we have a 12 hope muffin tin I requested the sausage be cut into 12. After Matt and Bess had pressed the discs into the muffin tin it became apparent that the sausage had actually been cut into 13. Matt assures me that his engineering is a whole lot more accurate, and Bess was delighted to have some raw pastry to play with (eat) anyway.
Emboldened by my recent success of making white sauce in the microwave I decided to try the custard that way too. By now I had the baby in the sling and using the microwave was also safer than the hob. Bess gave the jug with the sugar, corn flour, milk and flavourings a good mix. I gave it a better mix and then proceeded to whizz it in the microwave, a minute at a time, whisking vigorously each time. It probably took 6 or 7 rounds of this until it had thickened to a reasonable extents. I poured about half of that mixture into the egg yolks, mixed and then all of that back into the remaining thickened milk mixture.
After it had cooled slightly Bess and I scooped the mixture into the puff pastry cases and sprinkled the tops with icing sugar.
The tarts were then baked for about 25minutes at 180ºC.
There was a bit of calamity at bath time when Bess realised that she had forgotten to have one after tea, but she was appeased at the prospect of one the following day. Matt and I had one after the girls were asleep. Verdict? Good but not as good as those we’d had in Lisbon. They were better the next day