Gluten Free Portuguese Custard Tarts

A very indulgent post, in all senses of the word. Is it very tragic that an Instagram photo prompt game I’m playing led to large-scale custard consumption? The prompt was ‘PASTEL’ but as I’m more one for the ‘waaahh!’ than the ‘aaah’ when it comes to colours, I decided to interpret it slightly differently. Specifically with a gluten free version of Pastels/Pasteis de Nata, or Portuguese custard tarts, which have the dubious honour of being about the only baked good my husband will voluntarily purchase and eat when he sees them.

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I, on the other hand, didn’t so much want to indulge in the wibbly, spice-infused and flakey little pastries (ok, I did) but even more in spending a little of my own time creating and photographing something quite beautiful that you just can’t buy; and in using some of the pieces I picked up at a recent vintage and salvage fair in Windsor. Also, I grew those violas from seed and I needed to make something to celebrate this improbable feat! (Least green fingers ever).

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I felt enormously guilty for making something loaded with egg and cream which A can’t have.  Luckily she is becoming quite accepting that some things “make my tummy poorly and skin sore” and content that she has her own “special treats”. Plus, she stole half of my French linen to make a bed for her doll. Humph.

The recipe is adapted from this one by Nigel Slater, which produces an excessive amount of custard mix, so I have reduced it by half (have faith when it looks too watery, it bakes to give the perfect set). I used a ready-made gluten free puff pastry, because who has the time to wrestle with tapioca when there are pictures to take? I tried both cutting the circles, and doing the traditional roll and slice with the pastry; without discernible difference so I suggest you chose the easy (if not authentic) option. I was really pleased with the flakey (if not voluminously puffy) results.

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Ingredients

  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 35g gluten free plain flour
  • 150 ml full fat
  • 3 free-range egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 300g ready-made puff pastry

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to its highest setting, or at least 210C.
  2. For the sugar syrup, bring the sugar, cinnamon and lemon to the boil in a saucepan with 125ml water. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering, then simmer for 3 minutes. Set the syrup aside until completely cool. Once cool, discard the cinnamon stick and lemon rind.
  3. For the custard filling, mix the flours together in a bowl. Pour in a little bit of milk and stir with your finger until combined.
  4. Bring the remaining milk to the boil in a saucepan over low heat, stirring regularly.
  5. Gradually add the boiled milk to the flour mixture and whisk for 1 minute, or until smooth and well combined.
  6. Slowly whisk in the sugar syrup until well combined.
  7. Whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla until smooth and well combined. Set aside.
  8. Roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured work surface and cut 12 discs big enough to fill the holes of a muffin tin.
  9. Place the discs in the holes of a muffin tin and massage them with a circular motion using a wet thumb, until the pastry rises up the sides of the holes in the tray. Make sure you don’t make any holes in the pastry.
  10. Fill the pastry cases with the custard until they are almost, but not quite, full.
  11. Bake the custard tarts in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and the surface of the custard is scorched. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the custard to set slightly.

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