gently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartletsgently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartlets

It’s an early morning reward, a breakfast pastry just for you. You’ve gotten up and readied yourself to brave the new day. It’s a sweetened milk & egg dish in its own crispy carrying case, still slightly warm and ever-so-gently spiced, to rock your heart and soul and body as you walk yourself to work or maybe a stroll because you’re on vacation or just some early shopping as you head back home with a few extra of these pastries for your loved ones. Ideally, you would happen to be in some Mediterranean land and enjoying its heavenly climate, not too far from the sea where you can hear the waves slapping against the sand, back and forth incesantly, frothing up at the edges where it caresses the seaweed. You gaze up at the clear blue transparent skies, a few birds flit by and chirp away, a bumblebee lazily buzzing as it sips the nectar from one flower bloom to the next and a few street vendors washing their stoops and sidewalks as they set up their stalls and wooden painted stools. The fresh aroma of bread from the neighborhood bakery (where you just bought this little custard tartlet) is wafting through the street, as a dog laying around in the shade of a tree, pokes up his muzzle as you walk by and lays its lolling head back down reassuringly, because it knows that it's going to a good day. All you need to complete the image is to sit down somewhere nice and have a cold 'frappé' iced coffee. 

This is obviously a memory … but sometimes preparing food, whether cooking & baking or just assembling it, can transport me to another time and place of my life.

CUSTARD can be made patiently with some elbow grease and can be an ideally minimalistic mixture of eggs, sometimes just the yolks (but I prefer whole eggs because I often forget the whites in the refrigerator) and milk with the addition of very heavy cream (but I prefer evaporated milk and 30% heavy cream) and sugar with some personally chosen flavorings. I said ideally. Flour or cornstarch is often added as a thickener to save time and speed up the process, but I haven’t used any because it’s not necessary, if you’re not rushed and if you don’t feel like forcing the whole thing through a fine-meshed sieve to get rid of lumps. Mine is lump-free, creamy and smooth because of this lack of flour and cornstarch and because I took my time, almost meditating on its slow thickening as I stirred and whisked …

Many countries have their own versions of custard pies. If we focus on Europe, there are those in Greece called “galaktoboureko” and “bougatsa” and “galatopita”, Portugal’s “pastel de nata”, Spain’s “natillas” and “tarta a la crema” and “flans”, also French, England’s “custard tart” and of course many variations, made with puff pastry or a sweetened shortcrust or even nothing at all, sometimes with whipped cream, citrus zests, powdered sugar and powdered cinnamon coatings and the list goes on. The textures can differ from being definitely thick and creamy, if cooked very slowly at lower heat, or a more scrambled effect, when it’s rushed and cooked at higher heat. They’re all SO GOOD.

My version is simple in its flavors and creamy in its texture because it’s all about the patience required (and only if you can afford it) for the slow thickening of the sugar, egg, milk and cream mixture and the slow low-temperature baking, and yet it is complex in its assembly to make those cube-shaped and delicately crunchy filo shells, becoming a pastry that is easily hand-held as you walk the streets and (if you’re lucky) noticing everything around you while taking the time to smell those roses .(and perhaps orange blossoms and jasmin flowers too) . . . :)

gently-baked & delicately-spiced custard & filo breakfast tartlets

20.07.2019

8 x 135 grams each

ingredients

*the recipe makes 8 small tartlets measuring 5 cm x 5 cm X 5 cm or 1 large tart measuring 15 cm x 15 cm x 5 cm or 1 larger & flatter tart measuring 20 cm x 20 cm x 2,5 cm

custard cream :

  • 350 grams (1 ½ cups) evaporated milk (or whole milk)
  • 370 grams (1 ½ cups) heavy cream (30% - 35%) fat content
  • 180 grams (¾ cup or 3 whole large + 1 yolk ) beaten eggs
  • 150 grams (1 ½ cups) blond cane sugar
  • 2 grams (1 split) vanilla pod, split in half
  • 5 grams (1 small) cinnamon stick, crushed
  • 0,5 gram (3-4 large whole) allspice berries, crushed
  • 0,5 gram (6-7 whole) cloves, crushed
  • 0,5 gram (2 mm sliver) nutmeg, coarsely grated
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) fine sea salt
  • optional : 1 fresh whole bay leaf

filo dough shells :

  • 125 grams (5 sheets) filo dough
  • 50 -75 grams (3 ½ - 5 tbsp) melted butter

finishing glaze :

  • 15 -30 grams (1 -2 tbsp) melted butter (for brushing after unmolding and reheating)

optional garnish : 

  • powdered icing sugar and/or cinnamon powder

instructions

custard cream :

  • prepare the custard by coarsely crushing and/or grating the spices, split the vanilla bean and leave the bay leaf whole
  • brush the inside of the cooking pot with water and add the evaporated milk and heavy cream and all crushed spice flavorings, bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat and set aside for 30 minutes minimum for the spices to infuse their flavors, then strain and remove all spices, pods, leaves and add the salt and mix
  • beat the eggs (I used 3 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk to reach 180 grams) with the sugar until well dissolved
  • slowly add the reheated spiced milk-cream mixture to the beaten egg-sugar mixture and continuously whisk, then transfer back to the casserole (it’s better to rewash it and rinse it with water but do not dry the inside so it won’t stick) and add all the milk-cream-egg-sugar mixture, cook at medium heat and keep whisking for 15-20 minutes, raise the heat to medium-high and keep continuously whisking until it thickens but is still pourable (this will take another 5-10 minutes)
  • remove from heat (strain if necessary) and let cool completely

filo shells :

  • *note : the instructions are for individual square tartlets and I use a silicone mold, otherwise you can simply use a metallic cupcake tin or make one larger tart whether square or round and lay out the sheets in your desired baking dish, it should simply be 4 thicknesses of filo sheets on the sides and 5 thicknesses on the bottom and every sheet should be lightly brushed with melted butter …
  • melt the butter and lay out the filo sheets, one by one (cover those not yet used with baking paper and a slightly damp towel on top, to avoid drying out)
  • lightly brush the sheet with melted butter, cover it with a 2ndsheet, brush with butter and fold over in half (my sheets measure 40 cm x 30 cm) to end up with a sheet of 40 cm x 15 cm, then slice in 8 equal pieces of 5 cm x 15 cm lengths, brush with butter and set aside, repeat again with 2 more buttered sheets, folded over again and sliced in 8 equal pieces  to end up with another 8 pieces of 15 cm x 5 cm each (you will have a total of 16 pieces that are 4 layers thick of filo)
  • assemble the strips in a cross pattern and slip inside each square/cubic cavity of your mold
  • for the 5thfilo sheet (for patching the corners), lay it out flat with no folding and lightly brush with melted butter and slice into 8 lengths of 5 cm each and then into 4 sections measuring 7,5 cm each for a total of 32 pieces of 5 cm x 7,5 cm and  patch up each of the 4 corners of 8 cubes 

assembly & baking :

  • note : baking temperature will affect the texture; 180°C will be faster and only require 30-35 minutes for a more scrambled texture, 120°C will require 55-60 minutes but will be the smoothest and creamiest texture and 150°C will require 40-45 minutes and be in-between, both firm enough and creamy enough with a delicate texture …
  • preheat the oven to 150°C (or less or more)
  • spoon in the room-temperature custard in each cube cavity until almost reaching the top, smooth out the top surface with a wet spoon and bake on the middle rack (until it slightly puffs upward but before any cracks appear) for 40-45 minutes
  • remove from the oven, let cool completely at room temperature, unmold and 15 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 210°C, brush the exterior sides with melted butter as well as the top surfaces too, place on a baking sheet with baking paper and bake on the middle rack at 210°C for 5-7 minutes, to crisp up and brown the filo sheet sides and 1 minute at 230°C on broil to slightly glaze and brown the tops
  • serve warm or at room temperature (do not refrigerate them or they will get soggy and you can keep re-warming them for a few minutes in a very hot oven around 200°C, loosely covered with a sheet of aluminum foil, to re-crisp them up again) …