Monday, January 3, 2011

PORTUGUESE CREAM TARTLETS

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium's
Liable to walk upon the scene
-Johnny Mercer


30 days hath September, April, June and November… and jolly old December has 31 and here we find ourselves not only at the end of another month but standing at the end of another year, on the cusp of a new one, looking out over the sill into darkness slowly fading into light. We each of us tend to get just a little too sentimental, a tad too nostalgic when stirring up the Ghosts of the Year Past, and I promised myself stoutly that I would not. I would rather look back at 2010, revisit my accomplishments and mishaps, marvel at the opportunities grabbed at with success and ponder over those opportunities boggled, and generally discuss my foibles with a sense of humor and a good laugh rather than shedding a wistful tear. Truth be told, 2010 was rather an amazing year for me both personally and as a blogger and writer, so as I look back over the past twelve months I smile and clap my hands as I revel in the positive, focusing on the good while attempting to shrug my shoulders and laugh off the mistakes or the chances I let slip by. As the old song goes “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative….


The snow still alludes me and the days are gray and cold, something eerie hangs over the world hidden by the mist and shrouded under steely skies, but the briskness in the air as we step outside revivifies me, the iciness that fills my lungs and nips at my cheeks startles me awake after the drowsy warmness inside has lulled me into a dreamy stupor, and suddenly I feel alive again as, arm entwined in arm, we walk down the street and wander through the abandoned town, abandoned to ski chalets and blazing fires or simply the chance to huddle together inside amongst their loved ones as the vacation days and the old year wind down, happier to be quietly at peace after the rambunctious, noisy holidays. JP shivers and laughs at how cold it has become as I tug harder on his arm and drag him along, thrilled to be out, satisfied to be happily alone with him surrounded by the silence of the empty streets. We still, after all these years, so enjoy each other’s company and have the power to make each other laugh out loud, on and on, over and over again, wondering if our silliness is normal for such a pair of staid, respectable, old people such as we. Together we step over the threshold and into the new year, boldly pushing our way in on winged feet, hoping, nay insisting upon taking the bull by the horns and making 2011 our year, a year of success and dreams, adventure and excitement! Like the baker lining up plain old white flour, grainy sugar, mud-colored vanilla and dark bitter chocolate, measuring precisely, stirring and blending gently yet with firmness and vigor and creating a masterpiece, a confection sweet, luscious and beautiful, have we decided to take all that we have experienced and learned along the way, the contacts that have stepped into our paths, the skills we have honed, the confidence built up throughout the year and combine them all, tenderly, carefully folding them together, stirring, shaping, simmering, spicing them with the friendships made, the love and encouragement, flavoring it with the advice gratefully accepted and the sweet opportunities offered and create something exciting, a delicious concoction, a delightful 2011. Like the icy cold weather, it invigorates me, excites every brain cell, every inch of my body and stirs me into action, pushing me along a wind-blown, sometimes blustery and obscure, sometimes bright and clear path into the future.


Never one to toot my own horn, I prefer not to list my brilliant accomplishments or ogle in wonderment at all that has come my way in 2011 as bloggers, and I, are wont to do at the end of a year. Anyone who reads my blog or follows me on Twitter or Facebook knows all that I have done in the year past, my achievements and my projects, all of which I am extremely proud, and can peruse my Published Articles page as they wish, a bit at a time. But I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few of the wonderful people that have done so much for me, have supported and encouraged me, given me opportunities, presented me with exciting challenges, worked on projects with me, believed in me and inspired me to work ever harder, bolstered my confidence, advised, corrected, shared and always kept me laughing. And with whom I enter this New Year full of hope and pleasure, full of endeavors, projects and plans for grand adventures. And because of whom I am truly a better person:

Deeba, my twin sistah and inspiration in all things baking, together with whom I have kept the MacTweet fires burning, offering a warm space and an inviting, laughter-filled virtual kitchen for everyone who wishes to bake French Macarons together. Meeta, Jeanne, Ilva, three amazingly talented, smart and rip-roaringly funny women, and the extraordinarily tight-knit group we have formed in order to create From Plate to Page (along with other interesting projects), the workshop borne of a common vision, our passion for what we do and the desire to share both with other food bloggers. All three are my inspiration, my support system, my creative and personal sounding board, and truly family. The great folks at Huffington Post Food, Arianna, Colin and the team, who have offered me an incredible opportunity and an exciting challenge, who support me and give me the freedom to express myself on that amazing platform. Lael for introducing my blog to Saveur.com and since becoming a great friend and forming our own “buddy system” on this great adventure we call writing. There were also a few others who, by mentioning me in interviews as a favorite blogger, by featuring my blog on their website or by simply adding me to their impressive blogroll, have really boosted my confidence and motivated me to keep writing, keep working, keep reaching for the stars. My sincere and boundless gratitude to each and every one of you.

On a more personal note, JP and I had a fabulous, romantic, gastronomic week together this Spring in the mountains outside of Clermont Ferrand, Lyon and Annecy. We also spent a month in Florida, joined at my mom’s by Clem & Simon, both of whom have become fine young men. My Spice Sisters and I succeeded in meeting up in London this past year not once but twice, the second time a fabulous all-girl weekend which also involved meeting up with a roomful of friends and bloggers! Together we created an evening Skype Cinema event, the first of many evenings spent with great friends, drinking wine, eating pizza and watching a film even though we are spread out over several countries and time zones! And I have truly made some amazing friends this year, some with whom I am in contact every single day and their tweets, private messages and e-mails make me smile, laugh, forge ahead into the unknown and often scary world, their confidence in me making me shine! Ah, the magic of the internet!


JP took off a few days this week, a time to resource and a time to spend together, tête à tête, in the coziness of our own home. He cooked and I baked, each to our hearts’ content, we ate out as we pleased, we watched crazy, silly movies just to end the year with a good, hearty laugh, and we discussed the year past and the year to come. We toasted each other and the dreams we have for 2011 and feel that maybe we are actually on our way. As this post sees in the new year, a new decade, I wanted to wish my dear readers a truly magnificent 2011 filled with happiness and good health and I would like to begin this new year with something truly sweet and very special: Portuguese Cream Tartlets, my way. Tiny cinnamony puff pastry cups cradling a rich, silky, elegant cream caressed with a touch of vanilla and a hint of nutmeg and dusted with pale silvers of almonds. Although a tad underbaked, these tartlets were the perfect, creamy, voluptuous, sumptuous, delicious dessert.


New Year is always a time of partying and celebration with friends and family. But on a personal and professional level it is also a time of reflection and evaluation; of planning and regrouping; of refreshment and renewed inspiration. And it is in this reflective spirit that we have decided to ask each one of the four From Plate to Page workshop presenters to look back at 2010 to tell us what they feel they have achieved; as well as forward at 2011 to share with us some of their goals for the coming year. The series kicks off with Ilva, the talented photographer behind Lucullian Delights and Ilva Beretta Photography.


PORTUGUESE CREAM TARTLETS
Although a combination of several recipes, the cream filling was based on one found in the December 2010 issue of delicious, so I would like to share this with Ivonne of Creams Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays.

2 x 13 oz (375 g) packages of frozen puff pastry or the equivalent quantity of homemade (I believe I had closer to 22 oz (650 g) homemade, the recipe can be found here.)
2 – 4 Tbs cinnamon sugar (1/2 - 1 tsp ground cinnamon for every 2 Tbs sugar)

3 large egg yolks*
¼ cup + 2 Tbs (75 g) sugar
2 Tbs cornstarch or corn flour
1 cup (250 ml) milk (I used 2% low fat)
¾ cup (200 ml) heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 – 2 Tbs slivered blanched almonds
Powdered/confectioner’s sugar for dusting

* Reserve the whites in a clean jar for Macarons!

Butter a 12-cup muffin tin.

If using frozen or packaged puff pastry:
Thaw the puff pastry if frozen. Halve each sheet in half lengthways and then place one half of each sheet on top of the other so you have two stacks. Press and roll together and, if need be, roll each double sheet to the size of a sheet of notebook A4 paper.

If using homemade puff pastry:
Slice the dough in half, placing one half on top of the other and roll the dough out to the size of two pieces of notebook A4 paper placed side by side. Slice the rectangle in half so you have two pieces, each the size of one piece of notebook A4 paper.

Dust each sheet of thinly rolled out dough with cinnamon sugar, as generously as you like and place with the long side facing you (the wider sides are going from left to right, perpendicular to your body). Roll each sheet up tightly to form a two logs and neatly slice off each messy end. Slice each log into 6 even pieces, about 1 ¼-inch (3 cm) each. Pile the leftover pieces on top of each other, press together into a stack, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for another use.


One at a time, place the pastry pieces cut side up in between two squares of parchment paper having first lightly dusted the paper as well as the top of the pastry piece (so each side is dusted). With the palm of your hand, gently press the piece almost flat before placing the second piece of parchment on top. Roll out the pastry into thin 4-inch (10 cm) rounds then carefully press into each cup in the muffin tin. The edges do not have to be even; these look better as a more rustic dessert. When all the pastry pieces are rolled out and fitted into the muffin tin, place a piece of plastic wrap over the whole tin and refrigerate for 30 minutes while you prepare the filling (the 30 minutes allows the dough to rest and is a necessary part of the puff pastry process).

A lovely swirl of cinnamon sugar!

Prepare the cream filling:
Gently whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, cornstarch and the milk in a medium-sized saucepan until blended and smooth. Cook gently over very low heat, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes until thick like custard. Remove from the heat, quickly stir in the cream, the vanilla and the nutmeg. Transfer the cream to a bowl or glass/Pyrex measuring cup, cover with plastic, pushing the plastic down to touch the surface, and allow to come to room temperature as you wait for the puff pastry’s 30 minutes rest period to be up.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Remove the muffin tin from the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap (of course!) and evenly divide the cream filling between the pastry shells. The filling should almost come up to the top of the shells. Sprinkle the slivered almonds around the outside edges of the cream filling, making sure they stick to the filling.


Bake in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes until the pastry shell is golden (my husband would have preferred that I had left mine in until the shells were a deep golden color) and the cream filling is set but slightly wobbly (again, my husband asked me the next time to allow the surface to form more of a skin and color a bit, but that is personal preference). Remove from the oven and allow the tartlets to cool in the muffin tin for 5 – 10 minutes before removing them carefully from the tin to a wire rack to cool completely.


The Portuguese Cream Tartlets can be eaten at room temperature or chilled. Dusted with powdered sugar, of course.


57 comments:

Debugcooking said...

Lovely Post jamie...I so love your writing and what a year phew!cant wait to meet you and the girls in P2P in May..you are truly an inspiration to me...my MacQueen ;-)xx

Jamie said...

@Debugcooking: I can't believe we'll meet in just a few months! Amazing! And thank you so much for your kind words and support! xoxo

Barbara said...

I've always wanted to make these. Maybe this year! Your relationship with JP sounds much like mine with Bryan. I love how we laugh together.Lovely post Jamie. Maybe I'll join the Skype Cinema one evening.

Jamie said...

@Barbara: a very Happy New Year to you and Bryan and we would love for you to join us on Skype Cinema. xo

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A beautiful post! What a great year you had. Wishing you another fantastic year! I'm so happy to have met you vitually.

Those tartlets are so pretty and look mighty delicious! I love that speciality.

Cheers,

Rosa

Miriam said...

I wish you a perfect 2011 and I hope I'm able to attend your October workshop! I had this type of tartlet in Lisbon, in a famous tiled wall shop close to the tower of Belem... they're so amazingly delicious that I can still remember the taste 15 years later!

Renata said...

OMG! This is a little piece of heaven! I have always wanted to try these Portuguese treats, with your step by step tutorial I'm encouraged.
Looks delicious!
Wishing you an even better Year in 2011!

zorra said...

I wish you and you all the best for 2011 and please send a tartlet to me, asap! kisses!

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

Don't these look beautiful! I love pastry and cream/custard, so how heavenly.

SaraOneTribeGourmet said...

Yummy Tartlets! Love the poem too! Happy New Year!

Gosia said...

Happy New Year! Wishing you good ideas and joy in 2011.

sarah said...

You've had an amazing year! Love your mouth watering photographs and amazing food writing. Happy Sweet New Year!

Chez Us said...

Happy New Year Jamie. Beautiful post as always. I love these tarts and have yet to make them. Being in Portuguese land of Boston right now, I have to admit, I have been eating a few too many of them as well. Always delicious. I will have to give your recipe a try once we get back to SF.

xx oo

My Little Expat Kitchen said...

It seems like you had a great year last year. I wish you an even better one! Happy New Year Jamie.

Pavithra said...

Lovely post Jamie the cute little tartlets looks heavenly... Yummy :)

Heavenly Housewife said...

My goodness, these are so lovely. This is one for my bookmarks. I have seen these before, but never so pretty.
Happy new year to you and your family.
*kisses* HH

Michele AKA 5am Foodie said...

Oh, I love Portugese tarts. I visited Lisbon for the first time in 2010, had read loads about these famous tarts, and so of course had to try them. Absolutely delicious. And your photos are stunning. Almost look too good to eat!

Your writing, as always, was gorgeous and touching and I can tell 2010 was a good one for you. Here's to 2011 being equally as good, or even better. Hopefully we'll get a chance to meet up at some point this year. xx Michele

domenicacooks said...

I thought I was done with dessert after the holidays but these look so tempting. What a lovely post. Happy New Year.

egbkid said...

What a neat way to make the tart shells. I love the fork in your picture up at the top, so decorative!

Jackie Gordon Singing Chef said...

Love your post and the tarts look scrummy. I love the way they shells are formed. Inspires me to try other tarts that way.

♥The Sweet Life♥ (Alessandra) said...

What a great desert this looks like!

Lana said...

I can probably write an essay on how your writing makes me feel, but I won't. I look forward so much to reading your posts, that I have a pile of books next to my bed yet unopened, crying in their solitude.
Your vignette on walking arm-in-arm through the abandoned streets made me truly nostalgic. My husband and I have a similar relationship as you and yours, and I really miss the snow-covered sidewalks of Europe.
I know that 2011 is going to be a wonderful year - we promised to each other that we would continue fighting for our dreams and enjoy every little moment of happiness that happens along.
Happy New Year, dear Jamie!

Jennifurla said...

What a fab year, and now I am connected to many more blogs from this post! FUN
Lovely tarts, such beauties.

Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle said...

These sound especially divine since I've decided the first two weeks of the year will be devoted to super healthy choices, so no tarts. :(

Beautiful post, lovely story...of course!

El said...

Exquisite dessert as always. Happy New Year to you and yours!

Barbara Bakes said...

Your holidays sound lovely and I know I would love your creamy little tartlets. I may have to join you for a movie night too, since I have no plans to make it to Europe in the foreseeable future. Although, maybe you should think about coming over for Blogher Food in May!

Dinners and Dreams said...

The poem by Johnny Mercer is beautiful. It's important to focus on the positive. It's the only way to go. Beautiful tartlets as well.


Bonne soirée!

Nisrine

SMITH BITES said...

I'm not sure which I love more, the story or the recipe - both are dreamy, romantic and absolutely perfect dear Jamie. I think we're kindred spirits, you and I . . . your relationship w/JP is so much like mine w/The Professor - easy and loving, supportive and wonderful. I just cannot get enough of your writing - am hooked! xo

kitchenmisfit said...

Whenever my Mom goes to the Portuguese Bakery she always brings me some of these. I love them!

Junglefrog said...

Lovely post Jamie!! It's only à short while now before we finally meet in person!!!

Aparna said...

They look lovely. These are the same as Pasteis de nata?

Lisa said...

I LOVE Portuguese cream tarts so much, and have been meaning to make them again soon! Your recipe looks fantastic so I'm definitely going to try it!

That said, Happy New Year, my friend! Did you get the ticings yet?

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

Wonderful sentiments here, you have had a marvellous year and deserve to accentuate-the-positive.

I would love to join in with Skype cinema too - I even have 2 computers next to each other so I can leave my husband watching his horrid Sci-fi on the telly downstairs!!!!

Much love and looking forward to chatting in 2011 XXxx

Lost In Cheeseland said...

oh how scrumptious.....!!

Sanjeeta kk said...

Love those cute tarts and the filling.Like the method of rolling and cutting the pastry. Happy 2011 to you Jamie!

Mary said...

Jamie, you are coming off a great year. I sense the new one also has great things in store for you. I love your tartlets. Take care and have a great day. Blessings...Mary

A Canadian Foodie said...

What a BEAUTIFUL winter image of you and JP meandering along the moonlit streets on a frosty winter night, alone. Being silly. I love it. No, you are NOT the only dignified (old??? no...) couple to be silly. I wonder EXACTLY the same thing about Vanja and I. No one would believe the crazy fun we have. The laughs. The silly jokes between us. It breathes life into our relationship and provides a structural dimension in our relationship that many do not use - have - and I am so thankful for that. Instead of tears in the face of upset, there is often laughter. Instead of anger or rage at a mishap - there is often a joke. Not to say we don't experience the gamete of emotions all do. Certainly, we do. But, how we choose to handle our triumphs and crisis together is definitely wrapped in our ability to find something funny in almost everything.
Happy New Year to you and may the two of you enjoy a year full of love and laughter.
:)
Valerie

A Canadian Foodie said...

Ps - the tarts look DARN good, too!!!

Jamie said...

@A Canadian Foodie: Valerie, that is beautiful, just beautiful and you have read my heart! We are truly lucky to have created such relationships! Happy New Year to you!

Lana said...

Jamie, your comment on my blog made me smile. When I read some of your posts, I get the feeling as if I were writing the words. I guess reading your blog seems a bit like looking into a mirror, just slightly shifted:)
BTW, how hard would be to connect with the Skype movie-watching group from California? There is 9 hours difference in time:(

elra said...

Omg Jaime, I've been wanting this so much. They look delicious !

Couscous & Consciousness said...

OMG those look amazing - this recipe is definitely a must try :-)

Sue

MeetaK said...

oh saucy you have all the right to toot your own horn. you are a wonderful writer. the words you use in your stories are inspiring, touching, motivating and simply beautiful.
so glad that i was a part of your 2010 and baby watch out 2011 - we're on a roll!

Jane said...

Hi Jamie, Found your blog through Twitter. Love it! Adding you to my favorites. Look forward to following you in 2011~

Cake Duchess said...

What a wonderful year you had. I know this year will be even better. Your writing is so refreshing. I always look forward to your sweet posts. And your tasty treats! I picture you and JP hand in hand, arms entwined, giggling in Nantes. How lovely. xx

UrMomCooks said...

One of my favorite "New Year" thoughts goes something like this... "Effective living is not measured by what we accomplish but by what we overcome in order to accomplish it." I try to keep that in mind every year when I reflect over the past - helps me to keep the successes and mistakes in perspective! (along with my fav other thought - encouragement can change a person's life!) So be encouraged - ur blog is wonderful! And ur cooking rocks too! Happy New year and Happy Cooking in 2011!

Sippity Sup said...

Sweet in so many ways! I love the new look. So modern and clean. HNY! GREG

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

Oooh, Pasteis de Nata! Reason enough on their own to visit Portugal if you ask me :) It's been a rocking year for you and here's to another year of Spice power!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a great year 2010 has been for you and you deserve every accolade and acclaim that comes your way. And I mean it, I love reading your blog! :D

asiangrrl said...

What a great year for you, my friend. Here's hoping for even shinier achievements in 2011. And, those tartlets look scrummy.

Lick My Spoon said...

Oh my gosh....i used ot eat these a dime a dozen at nandos. i think they were called natas? well...... now i can bookmark the recipe and make them myself!

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

A fabulous year that will lead to an amazing 2011. I'm honored to call you "friend" through the magic of the internet. One day, I hope that we will be able to meet in person.

Creamy, sweet and thoroughly delicious, your recipe is a keeper and one that starts the New Year on a perfect course.

Fresh Local and Best said...

Happy New Year Jamie! You accomplished so much over 2010, and I think it is so sweet that you have such a tight knit group of girlfriends. It's so cool that you guys are across several countries and manage to get together more frequently than some friends I have in the my hometown.

Those Portuguese cream tarlets look heavenly! I adore the swirl of the shell and the custard - oh la la!

shaz said...

Oh Hello, how did I miss these delectable tartlets? I thought I commented already but I don't know whether I'm coming or going (and it's only day 10 of the new year!). Happy belated new year wishes anyway dear Jamie :)

bunkycooks said...

Very nice post! These tartlets are such a tease with me on this new eating plan. They look so good! Wishing you the best in 2011!

squirrelbread said...

A busy, great year for you! And what a recipe to welcome the new one. I've never seen something like this, but after reading the description and the recipe, I think I have to have it. Soon!

Cheers and happy new year,

*Heather*

Brett said...

OMG!!! Jamie i just cooked the Portuguese cream tartlets and they were absolutely to die for. thanks for the fabulous recipe.

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