A few years ago, a group of girls and I decided we needed to celebrate a landmark birthday with landmark trip. None of us were particularly concerned about the number, but it seemed like an excuse people accept for special activities. Between the four of use, we are pretty well traveled and we thought we should find some place none of us had ever been. So we landed in Lisbon.
I, of course, researched Portuguese food before we left, made restaurant reservations and marked on maps the important food destinations we had to hit. And Lisbon, and Portugal as a whole, is known for is lovely pastries. We made a pilgrimage to sample the famous pasteis de Belem, eggy custard tarts, and ate our fill, taking little paper cylinders back to the hotel for late night consumption. And on our day drip to the lovely town of Sintra, we made a stop at a pastry shop to sample the town’s signature pastry, quiejadas, a light, cheesy version of a custard tart.
When I came home, I set out to recreate the many specialties we sampled, including the pastries. My success rate has not been great. I am not much of a pastry chef, and making the delicate, flaky pastry that encases the pasteis is above my skill level. I experimented with some queijadas recipes, but got caught up by the pastry again, and could never duplicate the light, cheese taste of the originals. But in my research, I came across two kinds of recipes for queijadas – some with cheese and some without. I think the non-cheese variety may originate in a part of Portugal we did not visit, or even Brazil.
So this is my synthesis of the recipes I found. I have not called them quiejadas so as not to offend any traditionalists, though they taste remarkably like the little tarts we ate on the train from Sintra back to Lisbon. Chewy on the outside, custardy in the middle, these could not be a simpler dessert to make. I love them plain, but they do lend themselves to a little spoonful of sugared berries or a drizzle of dulce de leche, or a nice dose of Strawberry Caramel Sauce.
Portuguese Custard Tarts
3 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cups flour
Preheat the oven to 325°.
Put the butter, eggs and sugar in the carafe of a blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 cup of the milk and blend, then add the flour and the remaining milk and vanilla. Blend until smooth.
Spray 18 muffin cups with cooking spray. Spray them really thoroughly right before you pour the batter in. Pour the batter into the cups, filling them ¾ full. Bake the tarts for 40 – 45 minutes until firm and golden in the center. Do not bake less than 40 minutes. If using two muffin trays, swap them from the top shelf to the bottom after 30 minutes of cooking.
Cool the tarts in the tins, then use a plastic knife to loosen the tarts and remove them carefully from the muffin cups. (A plastic knife won’t scratch the surface of the tin). These want to stick, but be patient and gentle and ease them out.
The tarts keep remarkably well for several days in an airtight container.
I used a nifty little fluted muffin tin I happen to have which adds a pretty touch, but plain tins work beautifully.