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A Crustless Portuguese Tart Where Custard Reigns Supreme

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When I see crust in a recipe, I automatically think, "later." It’s not that I don’t love the bite of buttery, flaky crust (I do!). It’s that making it intimidates me, and buying puff pastry feels like cheating. So, when I saw traditional Portuguese custard tarts complete with laminated crust in Lisbon, Rebecca Seal’s latest cookbook, I stared longingly at the beautiful golden bites before sighing and flipping on.

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But a few pages later, I discovered Lisbon gives a taste of both! Queijadas de leite, or milk tarts, essentially follow the same recipe, but skip the involved crust. The traditional milk and egg cupcakes are popular in both Portuguese bakeries and home kitchens, where they’re dusted with powdered sugar or cinnamon.

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Lisbon’s recipe is more like a super-custardy and dense canelé rather than eggy like a traditional custard tart. Take note not to whisk so much that you end up with a popover. It really just needs to be combined. But it's extremely easy to follow. Give it a try!

  • 500 ml (17 fl oz or 2 1/4 cups) whole milk
  • 25 g (1 oz) salted butter
  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz or 3/4 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour; plus more to dust
  • 250 g (9 oz or 1 1/4 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • grated zest of 1/2 unwaxed lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • icing (confectioners' sugar), to serve
  • ground cinnamon, to serve

Grease 12 paper cupcake cases and dust with flour. Preheat the oven to 200° C/400° F.

Heat the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until just below boiling point, then remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter is completely melted.

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Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl, add the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla extract, then beat just until smooth. Next, pour in the hot milk-butter mixture in a steady stream while continuously whisking batter.

Using a ladle or jug, divide the batter, which will be very thin, evenly between the cases.

Place in the oven and cook for 25-35 minutes, until nicely browned on top and puffed up. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the cases—they will collapse, but don't worry, that's what they do. When they're cool enough to handle, transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with a little icing sugar and cinnamon.

Ready, Set, Custard!

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Do you shy away from desserts with crusts? Any crustless favorites? Share in the comments.

Tags: custard, milk tart, portugal, Queijadas de leite, lisbon