Portuguese Egg Tarts – Crispy tart shells filled with a thick egg custard that makes for a subtle sweet treat that hits all the right notes.
I gotta be honest with you all – recently I have been getting a little worn out with the blog work. I find myself waiting until the last minute to write and edit blog posts (hence, why I am posting this a day late!) and even skipping recipe testing just to rest. Balancing family time with my full-time job and part-time blog has just gotten the best of me lately.
But then I recently got some amazing feedback on these Portuguese Egg Tarts that reignited that spark that I felt dwindling a little. My husband took these tarts to work to share with co-workers and they raved about them. One of them even told my husband that they reminded him of the ones he had in Portugal. What a compliment! I was floored.
And then I realized why I love baking so much – making people happy. Of course, baking makes me happy, but I am fueled a lot by how people light up when they try something I make. My husband, family, and friends have been so vocal about their love for my treats but, let’s be honest, if they weren’t, I’d have something to say about it. It’s when I get feedback from unbiased readers (or my husband’s co-workers, in this case) that I feel like I really made something delicious.
With that feedback, I feel reinvigorated and excited to keep baking. So here I am to share that special recipe with you all. I hope you love these Portuguese Egg Tarts!
What are Portuguese Egg Tarts?
Portuguese egg tarts are characterized by a crispy shell filled with a sweet egg custard. The custard has a hint of cinnamon that comes from a cinnamon stick that steeps in the custard before it’s baked in the pastry shells.
How are these made?
The tarts are a labor of love, no doubt. But I’m telling you – it’s worth every second! The most time consuming piece of the process is the dough. But there really is not substitute for it! Sure, you could probably use puff pastry but it will be hard to get it as thin as you need it.
To make the dough, you are layering in the butter, similar to making croissants. However, instead of cold butter, you’re going to spread room temperature butter between each layer. The dough is then chilled completely to solidify the butter between the layers before it’s formed into pastry cups.
The custard for these tarts is thin, similar to crème brulee custard before it’s baked. However, instead of heavy cream, this custard gets its texture from egg yolks.
Another key characteristic of the custard mix is the cinnamon-scented syrup. I call it “scented” because it is a syrup made with a cinnamon stick that gets steeped in the hot mixture but is removed before baking. The result is a lovely syrup with a hint of cinnamon.
The thin custard is poured into each pastry cup and then baked until nice and thick.
Tips & Tricks
- Do not cook the sugar syrup past boiling. You only want to cook enough to get the sugar to dissolve. Any longer and the syrup could crystalize.
- It’s super important that you only fill the cups 3/4 full with custard before baking. Any higher and they will overflow and the sugar will burn on the edges, causing the tarts to stick to the pan.
- You must make sure to measure the dough as you roll it out to ensure you have enough for this recipe.
- The dough is super soft at room temperature. In order to make it easier to mold into the muffin tin, it must be completely chilled. This allows the butter to firm back up to a solid state.
Portuguese Egg Tarts
For the pastry dough:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter unsalted, softened
For the custard:
- 1⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1¼ cup whole milk divided
- 6 large egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the pastry dough:
- Add salt, water, and flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a dough hook. Mix until the dough comes together into a bowl. This will take a minute or two. Remove from bowl and wrap in plastic. Let it sit for 30 minutes to rest the gluten.
- Cover clean counter with about 1/4 cup of flour. Roll rolling pin in flour to lightly coat it. Unwrap dough and place into flour. Roll out into a 12-inch square, rotating it 90 degrees occasionally so it doesn't stick to the counter. Place softened butter in a small bowl and stir together to make it smoother. Using an offset spatula, gently spread ⅓ of the butter over the left two-thirds of the square, leaving the right third of the dough clean. Fold the clean third over the middle, like a letter. Fold the left third over the center, as well.
- Rotate the dough 90 degrees counterclockwise so that the top edge is open. Roll out into a 12×12 square again and repeat butter and folding process again. Finally, roll into a 14×12 rectangle with the horizontal edges the longest. Add the rest of the butter to the entire sheet of dough. Starting at the bottom edge, tightly roll up the dough into a log, using a bench scraper to release any stuck dough from the counter. if the dough rips, don't worry! Just seal it back as you roll the dough. After the log is formed, trim the edges to make them clean and then cut log in half. You should have two 6 inch logs. Wrap each in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours.
- Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Prepare the custard recipe below and let it sit while we form the cups. Remove one dough log from the fridge and cut into 10 evenly sliced rounds. Grab 3 rounds and place the rest in the fridge. Place one round in a cup of a muffin tin, cut size up. Using your thumb, press down in the center of the cut round and slowly push against the edge to form a cup. Push dough up the edges at least half way, making the cups as thin as possible without tearing a whole in the dough. The edges should be thicker than the bottom. Repeat with the 2 other rounds. Then, grab 3 more rounds from the fridge and repeat with those. Finally, grab the remaining 4 rounds and repeat. Save the other log for batch number 2.
- Grab the bowl of custard and discard the cinnamon stick. Fill each cup with custard about 3/4 full. Do not fill to the top! Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the edges are deep golden brown and the tops are set. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing from muffin tins. Cool completely before eating. Dust with a little cinnamon and serve.
- Repeat process for batch 2 of the dough and fill with the rest of the custard. You may have some custard leftover, which you can discard.
For the custard:
- Add sugar, water, and cinnamon stick to a medium sauce pan and stir together. Place over medium heat and do not stir. Remove from heat once it reaches a boil. The sugar should be dissolved and the consistency should be a syrup. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Add 3 tablespoons flour to a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of milk and whisk until smooth. Add in egg yolks and whisk together. Place the remaining milk over low heat to scald it but not bowl. Slowly add scalded milk to egg yolk mixture about a couple tablespoons at a time, as to not scramble the yolks. Slowly whisk in the slightly cooled sugar syrup with the cinnamon stick (we'll discard later). Finally, finish off the custard with vanilla extract and salt. The custard will be thin.