Tag Archives: home baking

Custard Tart Ahoy – Pasteis De Nata

23 Apr



I’ve always had a bit of a thing for custard tarts, especially the ones in Lisbon with that crispy buttery pastry and sweet custard that just melts in your mouth. The ancient Pasteis de Belem, which has been baking with their secret recipe since 1837 is the place to go in Lisbon. A tiled temple, baking over 16,000 tarts a day, all made by hand in the bakery. You can even go and peak at the creamy delights being made.

There is a considerable Portugese community in London, Stockwell being the hub and some of the best Portuguese pastries are to be found along Goldborne Road, W10.

I couldn’t really find a recipe I liked so I’ve put together my own, inspired by a couple I was reading through online yesterday. They aren’t quite up to Lisbon standards, largely on the pastry front, but went down well with Bacon who is Portuguese!

What you’ll need to make 12 tarts to be proud of.

Takes about an hour

12 hole muffin tray

For the custard

4 free-range or organic egg yolks (you can freeze the egg whites to use at a later date)

30g cornflour

1 x vanilla pod or good quality vanilla bean paste

400ml organic full-fat milk

125g caster sugar

finely grated zest of an organic clementine or similar citrus fruit

For the pastry 

300g puff-pastry

1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon

1 tsp of caster sugar


butter, for greasing

plain flour, for dusting

icing sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat your oven to 200C, 400F, gas mark 6 and grease the muffin tins liberally with butter.

2. In a medium sized pan on a low heat, add the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour, and whisk gently to combine the ingredients until thick.

3. Add the vanilla, about a quarter of a teaspoon if using paste. Gradually add the milk and whisk continuously. Using a wooden spoon, continue to stir the custard until it comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and cover to prevent a skin forming.

4. Dust a clean surface with a mixture of flour and icing sugar and roll out the pastry into a thin rectangle. Cut the pastry into two and dust the bottom layer with the cinnamon and caster sugar mix. Place the second piece of pastry on top and roll tightly, cinnamon bun style. Cut the roll into twelve slices, about an inch each.

5. Lay each slice on the dusted surface and push into a circle. Roll out into 10cm discs, using a rolling pin or handy glass bottle.

Circle time

Circle time

Roll out

Roll out

6. Press each pastry disc into the muffin tray, rolled side up. Make sure there are no air bubbles.

Tray time

Tray time

7. Spoon in the now cooled custard into the twelve pastry cases, about two tbsp each and sprinkle with a touch of caster sugar.

8. Place the tray in the middle of the oven for about thirty minutes, turning the heat down to 180C after fifteen minutes and rotating the tray for an even bake. The custard should be set and golden brown, and the pastry crisp and brown.

9. Allow them to cool in the tin and serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder, and a strong milky coffee!

They don’t keep that well, so share them with a neighbour, make your friends smile, or take them to work. Oh and do you know that secret recipe?…


Satisfied Dough

26 Mar

Baking with sourdough is never going to be an instant hit, it’s a learning process that once you get, you’ll be addicted to the charm and character of your dough and that final loaf.

When I first started my loaves were disappointingly flat and pretty heavy, they are now well risen, lighter and have a delightful open crumb. From what I can gather, this is a combination of how active the starter is, the temperature and time allowed for the bulk fermentation, the flour and shaping of the dough, so basically all the key steps of baking with a wild yeast. I also haven’t bought a loaf of bread since June 2012!

Bonita wheat starter, 50% white, 50% wholemeal

Bonita wheat starter, 50% white, 50% wholemeal

At the moment my first winning loaf is a Pain au Levain recipe with a hydration of 68% (the percentage of water to flour) adapted from Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters made with a rye leaven. Just under half the dough is made from the leaven so it is quite sour and a cold bulk fermentation is used for three/four days at the bottom of the fridge with a turn twice a day. The rest of the flour is white stoneground organic, so the result is nutty and reasonably light, perfect for spring, wherever it has gone to.

I still have a way to go on shaping, which can only be improved by more practice. This recipe is great as you don’t need to be around all the time, just early in the morning and in the evening. The bread will also keep well for a week, if you don’t munch it first. I normally freeze the second one for later in the week or give it to a friend.

Day two fold

Day two fold

SCHEDULE for two medium sizes loaves

Day one

1. Feed the starter in the morning to make her super active – equal amounts of cold tap water and flour mix (I keep Bonita in the fridge these days and feed her once every fourth day).

2. Mix 100g starter with 300g light rye flour and 600g water that evening and leave out overnight in a large bowl with a kitchen towel covering it (it needs at least 12 hours to do its thing).

Day two

3. The leaven should be bubbling away. Mix 700g of the leaven with the final ingredients – 850g white wheat flour, 24g sea salt, 230g water. Compost any leftover leaven or make pancakes.

4. Knead the dough without adding any extra flour, for around 12 minutes until it’s smoother and satiny.

5. Shape into a round and oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl covered well with a clean plastic bag so the dough cannot dry out.

6. In the evening press the dough out flat and shape firmly into a round and place back in the fridge covered as before.

Day three or four

7. In the morning repeat the above process and again in the early evening if possible,  so this is done at least four times.

8. In the evening remove the dough from the fridge to warm up, about two hours depending on your kitchen then divide the dough into two, shape, dust in rye flour and place in proving baskets or a large sieve lined with a cotton kitchen towel or linen cloth.  Leave to prove until the dough comes back slowly when poked with your fingertip, between 2-3 hours.

9. Preheat the oven half an hour before baking (220 c) with a baking stone or metal tray on the bottom of the oven.

10. Gently turn out your first loaf onto a well floured wooden board and slash, spray with water and put the loaf onto the stone or tray. After 25 minutes move to the top shelf for another 10 minutes for a browner crust. Leave to cool and enjoy that first mighty slice. Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Three day Pain au Levain style sourdough

Three day Pain au Levain style sourdough

Pain au Levain style sourdough

Pain au Levain style sourdough

The second loaf is more of a 24 hour loaf with a hydration of 65% which you’ll need to be around the whole day on and off, from Daniel Stevens River Cottage Handbook, a fabulous book as an introduction to baking. I gave my sister the book for her birthday a couple of weeks ago and a bread kit. She’s been baking her way through the book with uni friends queuing up for tastings.

This recipe uses less starter than the first loaves and has a less sour taste as the bulk fermentation is done over four hours, a much shorter time, but it’s still a great loaf for a weekend treat, as it’s 100% white flour. It’s pretty much the same process as the first loaves, but done over a shorter time with a warm bulk fermentation. What’s your experience of baking with wild yeast?

24 hour white sourdough

24 hour white sourdough

Bonita Applebum, you got it going on #sourdough #realbread

21 Sep

Bonita on her first day

I’ve been playing with sourdough since making my starter at the beginning of June. She’s called Bonita Applebum inspired by the hip-hop classic from A Tribe Called Quest’s debut album – People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. It’s all part of the nurturing and feeding process, giving her a name, you respect her and she respects you, well that’s the plan.

Bonita was started by mixing half strong white flour and half strong whole wheat flour with an equal amount of lukewarm water. She was then hand mixed to get the consistency of thick double cream with no lumps! She was then left in a cool, shaded part of my kitchen with a clean tea towel covering her for three days. Bonita was now bubbling away happily, in other words she was fermenting and ripe like a strong cheese, ready for her first feeding.

To feed her, around 80% of the wild culture is discarded (You can make sourdough pancakes with this) and replaced with equal amounts of lukewarm water and the flour blend mentioned above. I then fed Bonita every day at roughly the same time, the morning is a good time for me. I could see the balance of the yeast and bacteria establishing themselves with the rise and fall of Bonita. She also had a very distinctive aroma, sharply acidic and then sweet just after the feeding.

Bonita Leaven!

Bonita Leaven!

My first sourdough bake was three weeks later when Bonita was rising and falling in a predictable pattern. I now keep her in the fridge with a loose lid and feed her every fourth day and get her out two days before I’m planning to bake!

My first ever county sourdough loaf!

My first ever country sourdough loaf!

Just an important note about the type of flour I have been using – it’s organic, stoneground, unbleached, strong bread flour from Doves and Marriage’s in Essex. This is to ensure my bread is full of nutrients, often lost during roller milling and the spraying of pesticides, environmentally friendly and unadulterated unlike most of the bread consumed in Britain today.

My current sourdough bible which was recommended by a friend of mine is the distinguished  Tartine by Chad Robertson. The sourdough country bread illustrated recipe is about twenty six pages long, but don’t let that put you off, there are lots of other recipes which I’ve yet to try!  Although, real bread does take time, so don’t rush it. If you’d like to experiment I’m very happy to share Bonita.

My second attempt

My second attempt

As you can see my loaves have come out rather flat, although with a decent crumb, I’m working on getting a better structure and final rise. The below loaf is a country rye, with twenty percent of the flour being a light rye flour. It was delicious but also a bit flat and not the best shape. Today I’m trying out Chad’s baguette recipe which uses part sourdough leaven and some dried active yeast with a mix of plain white flour and strong white flour.

A light rye sourdough

A light rye sourdough

Find out more about the rise of Real Bread here and find your nearest source with the postcode finder.

**A starter is a mix of flour and water in which natural yeasts and bacteria grow to produce a bubbly mixture that is regularly fed with more flour and water**

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