The recipe for this indigenous Portuguese treat was kept secret for centuries by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in the parish of Belém, Lisbon. When the order was disbanded, they handed over the recipe to a nearby pastry shop.
Today, every Portuguese confectioner and every family has its own recipe. The tart is traditionally prepared a day ahead, kneaded several times and left to rest overnight, but today’s fast pace of living made me choose fresh puff pastry instead.
For about 20 servings:
2 fresh puff pastries (not frozen!)
½ cup plain flour
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 + 3/8 cups milk
2 cups sugar
1 cup water + 1 ½ tbsp water
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 220 ºC.
Combine the flour and salt. Add 3/8 of a cup of cold milk gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming.
Heat the remaining milk (do not bring to a boil!) and pour slowly into the flour mixture, mixing constantly lest it should crumble.
Return to heat and cook for 2-3 minutes, until thickened.
Combine the sugar and water, heat and let simmer until thick enough that it glides slowly off a spoon, like honey. (The heat should be low, otherwise the sugar might turn brown!).
Pour the syrup slowly into the warm flour mixture, stirring constantly. Cook for another 2 minutes over low heat.
Roll out the pastry and cut out circles using a large glass or a doughnut cutter. Place into a muffin tin, forming “baskets” by pulling the pastry upwards with your fingertips.
Beat the egg yolks and the whole egg with a fork. Add just enough of the hot filling, one spoon at a time and stirring constantly, to adjust the temperature. Now pour the eggs into the mixture (it should be hot so that the eggs get cooked in it). Stir in the vanilla.
Fill the cups up to 2/3 full.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a nice crust has formed on top.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
The tarts taste best when lukewarm or at room temperature, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon.