30 January 2011

"Invite a Blogger to Your Table." We Made Pasteis de Belém (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

Pasteis de Belém (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

 I think I missed my calling as cruise ship director or party planner since I am always cooking up something here on these pages at More Than Burnt Toast as well as in my life. This time around I am bringing you along for the ride if you wish. I don't know about you but I love to challenge myself.  Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to "Invite a Blogger to Your Table"! This is a fun event and an outlet for us each to challenge ourselves and create stronger bonds within the blogging community. Nothing is more intimate, or more effective at creating friendships than cooking and sharing meals together, even it is virtually. But hey, if you live in the same area as another blogger what's to stop you from gathering in your own kitchen for this challenge.

If you have been following More Than Burnt Toast you will know that I have been creating personal challenges to infuse new life into my cooking adventures. Even every day food should always be an adventure either with new ideas, or experimenting with a new cuisine. With these personally imposed challenges my own culinary skills have been rejuvenated and back on track and I am once again inspired. With this ongoing event I will challenge myself and one blogging friend at a time throughout the year as the seasons change.  I hope this inspires you to make new friends in the blogging community as well as create something you have been itching to try.

Your choice of recipe can be anything you would like it to be. Is there something you have been wanting to make and need feedback and encouragement from a friend to create on your blog? Is there a special dish that you just have to share sweet or savoury? Do you just want the fun of collaborating with other bloggers to come up with a tasty dish you feel you and your readers might enjoy. This is a fun event that creates friendships throughout the blogosphere. Invite someone you have followed for years or a perfect stranger. It is up to you!
Here are the "rules" as I see it for now.

1) Choose a dish to prepare and invite 1(one) blogger to create that dish with you. You can source your recipe from a cookbook, magazine, blog or any other source. Your dish can be sweet or savoury; easy or complicated.
2) Decide upon a date that you can both mutually post your recipe within a 4 week time frame.
3) Link back to More Than Burnt Toast http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com/ somewhere in your post as the caretaker of this event.
4) Please feel free to use the Avatar/Badge above "Invite a Blogger to Your Table".
5) Once you have made your dish with your blogging friend or friends and posted it, you can choose to STOP or CONTINUE on and "invite another blogger to your table" to make something DIFFERENT on a mutually agreeable date within the next 4 week time frame.
6) If you would like to please e-mail Val at bloggerstable(AT)gmail(DOT)com  for no other reason than to let her know you have participated. She would love to see what you have accomplished.
7) Cut and paste these instructions into your post and contact a friend. Let magic happen and let's get cooking!!!

For my first foodie challenge I invited one of my favourite bloggers I would love to share a kitchen with. I was hoping my enthusiasm would be contagious and I was ecstatic when she was on board. Her name is Valerie and my name is Valerie and we are newly dubbed the "Culinary Twins," for this post only, since we both live in Canada,  are both passionate about food and up for a challenge.

For my first guest I chose Valerie of A Canadian Foodie because I love her experimental and inquisitive nature for trying something new, and then having us understand the process. In true Canadian Foodie style she rose to the challenge and did a play by play pictorial. Hop on over to her blog as she takes on the challenge of making Pastel de Belém. Valerie describes the tarts as "It is all about texture and mouth feel and tickling that deep inner pleasure seeking core eliciting that little sideways smile." It makes we wish I had even one left!!

Over the holidays I spent some time with L'il Burnt Toast's favourite family and had the extreme pleasure of trying many traditional Portuguese dishes like Churrasco Chicken cooked on an open fire pit in the middle of a Canadian winter, Portuguese Rice, Custard Puddings and Flan. I loved every one of these dishes and being the small eater I am I had small portions of each. When I tried the Portuguese Custard Tarts I knew I had to try to recreate them at home. The rest will come later.

The biggest hurdle to overcome in this recipe was the pastry since I am "pastry challenged." The next challenge (although mastered before) is to create a custard. You will read the results of these two challenges below.Truthfully it is not the first time I have ever tried these tarts.  As a young teenager growing up in Cambridge, Ontario, and too young to go to the clubs without fake ID, we had a choice of what to do on a Saturday night and inevitably "my girls" and I would find ourselves at one of the clubs in town. Dancing would be at one of the Portuguese, Italian, Polish or Newfoundland clubs and we would mingle with the young gentlemen our age and their families. At the Portuguese Club there was always Codfish Cakes and Portuguese Tarts.

This particular recipe comes from David Leite of Leite's Culinaria. He says "The secrets to a crispy, flaky pastry is to make sure the butter is evenly layered, all excess flour is removed, and the dough is rolled very thinly and folded neatly. You will need a thermometer to accurately gauge the custard. These are best eaten warm the day they’re made. Because home ovens can’t match the heat of those at the bakery in Belém, where these treats were first made, your pastéis may not brown as much as those you have seen in photographs."

For a bit of history...

It is believed that pastéis de natas, as they are also called, were created before the 18th century by Catholic nuns at the Jerónimos Monastery of Belém in Lisbon. The Casa Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon was the first place outside the convent selling the original creamy dessert. After the monastery was closed in the 1820s, they became known as pastéis de Belém, after the name of the area and its famous bakery. Since 1837, locals have gone there to get them warm out of the oven and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. These are very popular, with tourists literally waiting hours for them.

 Portuguese monasteries developed many sweet recipes based on egg yolks since the egg whites were demanded in large quantities both for starching clothes, such as nun habits, and also in wineries, in the clearing of wines, like Port, that required the use of egg white to remove the tannins. This left many leftover egg yolks. Lucky us!!!!! I hope you will give this recipe a try.

Lessons learned:

1) For the pastry challenged this pastry turned out very flaky and very similar to puff pastry. If you are short on time you could certainly use frozen puff pastry, but truthfully it simply does not compare in texture to this homemade crust. I was very proud of myself and would make this pastry again and again. It seems difficult but read the instructions over several times and it will turn out alright!

2) I used larger tins than the recipe called for so needed to adjust my baking time and increased it accordingly.

3) To try and duplicate that bakery look I finished them off under the broiler for a few moments.

4) If your custard does not seem thick enough cook briefly on the stove top over medium heat until it thickens slightly. It will of course cook more in the tart shells.

5) Your pastéis may not brown as much as those you have found in bakeries. I solved this problem, if you want to call it that, by finishing my tarts under the broiler for a few minutes to get a tan!

**Portuguese Custard Tarts (Pasteis de Belém)**
Alfama’s Pastéis de Nata
by David Leite of Leite's Culinaria
Adapted from a recipe by chef Francisco Rosa of Alfama

For the pastry

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup plus two tablespoons water
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, stirred until smooth (1 cup = 16 tbsp = 250g = 8oz.=2 sticks)

For the custard

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk, divided
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 egg yolks, whisked
Powdered sugar

Make the dough

1. In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, and water until a soft, pillowy dough forms that cleans the side of the bowl, about 30 seconds.

2. Generously flour a work surface and pat the dough into a 6-inch square using a pastry scraper as a guide. Flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

3. Roll the dough into an 18-inch square. As you work, use the scraper to lift the dough to make sure the underside isn’t sticking.

4. Brush excess flour off the top, trim any uneven edges, and using a small offset spatula dot and then spread the left two-thirds of the dough with a little less than one-third of the butter to within 1 inch of the edge.

5. Neatly fold over the unbuttered right third of the dough (using the pastry scraper to loosen it if it sticks), brush off any excess flour, then fold over the left third. Starting from the top, pat down the packet with your hand to release air bubbles, then pinch the edges closed. Brush off any excess flour.

6. Turn the dough packet 90 degrees to the left so the fold is facing you. Lift the packet and flour the work surface. Once again roll out to an 18-inch square, then dot and spread the left two-thirds of the dough with one-third of the butter, and fold the dough as in steps 4 and 5.

7. For the last rolling, turn the packet 90 degrees to the left and roll out the dough to an 18-by-21-inch rectangle, with the shorter side facing you. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface.

8. Using the spatula as an aid, lift the edge closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from the underside as you go. Trim the ends and cut the log in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Make the custard

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth. Set aside.

2. Bring the sugar, cinnamon, and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 220°F (100°C). Do not stir.

3. Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, scald the remaining 1 cup milk. Whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture.

4. Pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot-milk-and-flour mixture, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and stir for a minute until very warm but not hot. Whisk in the yolks, strain the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

5. Heat the oven to 550°F (290°C). Remove a pastry log from the refrigerator and roll it back and forth on a lightly floured surface until it’s about an inch in diameter and 16 inches long. Cut it into scant 3/4-inch pieces. Place a piece cut-side down in each well of a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan (2-by-5/8-inch size). Allow the dough pieces to soften several minutes until pliable.

6. Have a small cup of water nearby. Dip your thumbs into the water, then straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the cup to a thickness of about 1/8 inch, then smooth the dough up the sides and create a raised lip about 1/8 inch above the pan. The pastry sides should be thinner than the bottom.

7. Fill each cup 3/4 full with the slightly warm custard. Bake until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown, about 8 to 9 minutes.

8. Remove from the oven and allow the pastéis to cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack and cool until just warm. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar, then cinnamon and serve. Repeat with the remaining pastry and custard. If you prefer, the components can be refrigerated up to three days. The pastry can be frozen up to three months.

Makes 40 pastries

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. What a great new event, and the perfect chance to get to know our fellow bloggers a bit better. Thanks for these lovely tarts. I've been wanting to make them for a while now, and I think the universe is trying to tell me not to just think about it any longer.

  2. Those are fabulous pastries! Very pretty and delicious looking. I love Portuguese treats.



  3. What a great idea Val - Those tarts look yummy!

  4. How delicious. But first of all, I love the theme, it is so good to connect with other bloggers. And I'm pleased you and Valerie paired up - the tips are great and the pastries look great.

  5. You would have been a wonderful cruise ship director. Your knack for coming up with themes and challenges would have made for some excellent cruise adventures, I'm sure.

    I love this challenge! Super cute. And seeing as how I'm generally pastry challenged as well...I love these cute little tarts!

  6. Val, this is a brilliant idea! What a great challenge. And my husband is Portuguese and LOVES these custard tarts. Him and his Mom eat these all the time.

  7. These look great and thank you for the history, that was fun to read. What a great challenge!

  8. I just sat down to my computer this morning after making my bed and my coffee - and my post was not up!!! I slated it for 24:01 as there was no am or pm on the post time... SO SORRY. It is up now. Look at how many people missed that link! And, many did visit... but, it is up now.
    I knew you would write about the history, Valerie. So interesting to learn - and so fun to hear about your young dancing days. Hilarious! You were such a good girl. I just got fake ID. (Hope my mom doesn't read this! He he)
    I didn't have to put mine under the broiled and didn't know the black marks were indicative of them for sure... so kind of tried to pull them out of the oven as soon as they started to form! But, almost all had little freckles! I see your pastry is so much darker than mine. That must be because your oven went to 550 and mine didn't. (Kitchen Aid Convection, too!!! Ah, well, it goes as low as 170 and I do love that)
    Thank you SO SO SO much for this invitation. You really challenged me and the triumph after was so worth it. It also got me over a little personal barrier where I have been very hesitant to join any blogoshere initiatives. I was tickled pink with your invitation and so appreciated our time together doing this.
    Valerie (a member or the "V Club"!)

  9. Love this post; you really came up with a fun challenge; I hope I can eventually join. I remember eating these tarts in Portugal; they were in every pastry shop.

  10. Thanks for all your enthusiasm everyone. And Valerie, I was tickled pink that we spent some time in the kitchen learning a new technique. As far as the fake ID in Ontario "back in the day" you had to show an "Age of Majority" card to get in to the clubs. That doesn't mean that we didn't get in sometimes:D

  11. Val, this really is a wonderful idea. I loved your history and that of the hearts :-). Fake-id's? Never would have guessed. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  12. Another wonderful post, Val. I love the idea of inviting a blogger to my table. What a fun challenge.

  13. Vall these tarts look awesome, really yummy! xxgloria

  14. Rita!
    (Oh, I can't help myself, I am back tonight reading here, again)
    You don't have to join... you can just start: invite a friend and pick a recipe and then follow Val's guidelines. Of course... once someone asks you, that is different - but, you could start your own strand. That is one thing I LOVE (amongst other things) about this initiative.

  15. I adore Portugese custard tarts, so this is a great recipe to share with another blogger. I think you have a fab idea here with "Invite a Blogger", and I look forward to seeing how it evolves.

  16. I love this idea, Val! How fun!! Valerie is a luv - I'm so glad you featured her today. :-) I think I need to find someone to MAKE me make brioche. It's been on my Must Do List for ages. :-)

  17. What a fun idea, Val. Your tarts looks excellent - I've never tasted one but always think they look good. Great to have a new challenge and to cook something 'out of the comfort zone' - this is a great idea.

  18. I think you made a very good choice to pick Valerie and invite her to your table. I love the recipe you chose also - those tarts look so cute and delicious! I'd much rather have something like that than a frosted cake for a treat.

    Your Invite a Blogger to Your Table is a wonderful, fun idea.

  19. cool event! and may i say, there's nothing like a quick jaunt under the broiler to improve the looks of many a tasty treat. :)

  20. This recipe takes me right back to Lisbon and I loved those sweet pastries. What a fun event. Perhaps I can join in when I am back in my kitchen.

  21. These tarts are lovely and it's so much fun to have a bit of history as well.

    This challenge sounds like fun. I'll try to get in on it if I have time. ;)

  22. When we were in Lisbon...Hubby and I just couldn't help ourselves in desiring these scrumptious pastries every day.
    Once we got back to Montreal, we immediately looked for a Portuguese pastry shop specializing in them.

    I guess I soon better visit Valerie and her experiment in the kitchen ;o)

    Flavourful wishes,

  23. What a fun idea. I wonder if I can find a blogger who would want to cook with me in my currently gimpy state.

    When a Portuguese restaurant opened in my neighborhood recently, I ate there and had one of these for dessert. I was disappointed. It wasn't that the tart was bad in concept. I think it just wasn't prepared well, or it had gone stale when they served it. I think I would have enjoyed it more if you had prepared it! Fabulous job Val and Val!

  24. Hi Valerie,

    your culinary twin sent me over from her blog...teehee. you have a lovely blog here. what a fun, unique and creative challenge you have created as well. you couldn't have picked a better blogger to go through this challenge with. Valerie is such an inspiration with her always curious and experimental personality. she's never one to step down from a challenge, that's for sure.

    thank you for sharing some history of these Portuguese custard tarts with us. that was an interesting read. those tarts look divine. i have never tried a Portuguese custard tart before, but i sure do want one now.

  25. Hi Valerie, i love your blog and i Love this post because i`m portuguese and i live in Portugal. These tarts are lovely and what a great challenge, congratulatios my dear,

    kisses and have a good weekend!!

  26. This is a very innovative thought....
    I'm posting your event in my blog so that they will come to know about this.

    I welcome you to Follow our news site.
    I will be very Delighited to have you over there.
    You can watch daily news on your fellow bloggers and know about daily blog marathons.

    Happy Blogging!!!!
    Food Blog News Daily
    Good Food Recipes

    If you do not wish to see your event details on my blog plz mail me to foodblognews@gmail.com

  27. Wonderful event.... such nice concept...love to be a part of this !


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