Pastéis de Belém are little traditional Portuguese tarts. I am not sure whether this recipe is original. I do know for certain that these are the most delicious little tarts I ever tasted! The combination of cinnamon, vanilla, orange, custard and caramel wrapped in a puff pastry tart is mouthwatering and addicting.
9 sheets of puff pastry
200 ml cream
zest & juice of 1 orange
5 drops of vanilla essence
4 tablespoons sugar
Pre-heat the oven at 200C.
Generously sprinkle the sheets of puff pastry with cinnamon. I mean, really generously. Roll each sheet up and cut it in half. Put each cylinder of pastry on it’s side and push it down to create a flat circle of dough. Put the dough circles in a metal muffin tray. Use your thumbs to push the dough up against the sides to create a space where you’ll later pour the custard. Bake the dough in the oven for 7-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the cream, eggs, orange zest and vanilla essence in a bowl to create a custard mixture. Take the pastry from the oven and use a spoon to push the dough back to the sides of the moulds. Scoop the custard into the dough. Place the muffin tray back into the oven until the custard firms up. Take the tray out of the oven and use one or two spoons to scoop the tarts onto a solid, heat resistant surface covered with baking parchment.
Now, you are going to make caramel. This is potentially dangerous! Caramel gets really hot, about 180C I believe. If it touches your skin, you can’t wipe it off, it will stick and will burn you badly. Take the following precautions to make sure that you are and remain calm wile making caramel:
1. take a moment to think through all the steps you are going to take. Make sure everything you need is within reach and logically positioned. You don’t want to improvise or panic wile making caramel.
2. make sure there are no kids nor pets in the kitchen
3. make sure that you have got easy access to a tap with running, tepid water.
Put a saucepan on the hob and make it hot. Add the sugar and orange juice to the pan. You may gently shake the pan to help dissolve the sugar. Do not use a spoon, it will cause crystallisation. Caramel burns before you know it so keep your eyes on it. First it will bubble violently. Then the bubbles will change colour from white to yellow to orange/brown. As soon as the bubbles are dark yellow, turning orange/brown, turn of the heat. Take a table spoon and scoop some caramel onto each tart.
You will have some caramel left over. As soon as you have scooped caramel over the last tart, pour some water or milk into the saucepan and put it back onto the fire. The caramel will dissolve. The reason to use milk is because caramel flavoured milk is really tasty where as caramel flavoured water isn’t.