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There is an art to making these delicious egg tarts. Here are a few handy tips to ensure you get the right texture. The problem: puff pastry requires high heat for 10-20 minutes. Custard curdles at high heat after a few minutes. The solution: use very thin puff pastry and custard stabilised with flour. If you are familiar with making puff pastry, then use the ingredients listed, following your preferred method. But you can also use high-quality purchased butter puff, although the final result isn't as good. The ideal cooking temperature is 300-350C. Many ovens set to their maximum temperature will come close to this on the top shelf. Convection (fan-forced) ovens generally cook hotter than standard ovens, but the evenness of heat means you lose the "hotspot" needed for this recipe. Cook without the fan, if possible. If you have a baking stone or oven tile, this should increase the heat (follow the supplier's instructions). Preheat your oven for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer. You need standard-size muffin pans (or slightly larger). Non-stick pans are probably unsuitable, because most coatings only tolerate temperatures up to 230-250C. If you want to get the hang of the cooking time in your oven, start with two or three tarts. Taste them once they've cooled. If the custard texture is granular, not smooth, they have curdled (cooked too long). The flavour will still be good, but more reminiscent of bread and butter pudding than custard tart.
Make the puff pastry to your preferred method.
When finished, roll out the pastry to a 20cm x 10cm rectangle, 1cm thick. (If using bought pastry, on a lightly floured board, fold a sheet of thawed puff pastry in thirds so you have a long, narrow strip with three layers. Press the edges together lightly with a rolling pin, then roll outwards from the centre to increase the pastry's length a little).
Roll up into a log shape, like a Swiss roll, with the long edges forming the log's ends. The log will be 4-5cm in diameter. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. While it is chilling, make the custard (see next section).
Remove the pastry from the fridge and with a sharp knife, cut 1cm thick discs from the log. Gently flatten the disc with a rolling pin to increase its diameter. Press the disc into its pan, starting in the middle of the base and, working outwards, up the sides. The pastry will be thin. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Preheat the oven to 300C (or its maximum).
Sift flour and sugar into a bowl.
Lightly beat together the egg yolks and whole egg.
Put the milk and lemon rind in a saucepan and gradually bring to the boil. Remove rind.
Pour half the boiling milk over the flour and sugar and stir until the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add this to the remaining milk in the saucepan and stir over low heat for a minute.
Pour a few spoonfuls of the hot mixture onto the beaten egg and stir well. Then pour the egg into the flour and sugar mixture, stirring constantly until mixed.
Remove from heat and let the custard cool for a good while. • Put either individual muffin pans or muffin tray on to a baking sheet to catch any drips.
Pour the custard into the pastry cases, leaving about half a centimetre below the rim of the pastry.
Put the tray in the oven, on the top shelf, with the tarts at the back.
Bake for 6-10 minutes. Check the tarts after six minutes. Don't be worried if the custard mushrooms a little during cooking. If the pastry edges are browning well and the custard has even a few spots of brown, then the tarts are ready. You can pop them under a griller if you want more brown spots on top, but only for 10-20 seconds.
If the pastry edges are only golden, or the custard is still runny, you will need to leave the tarts in the oven for another minute or two. It is better to have slightly undercooked pastry than to curdle the custard. Allow the tarts to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pans. Place on a rack to cool.
They are at their best when just warm.
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