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These deep-filled tarts encasing a rich, cinnamon-scented custard in a light, flaky puff pastry are particularly special. The British version uses sweet pastry and the custard is usually flavoured with nutmeg rather than cinnamon. I sometimes add a teaspoonful of melted dark chocolate to each tart before baking, swirling it on top of the custard.
First make the custard. Whisk 60g of the sugar, the egg yolks, cornflour and salt together in a bowl until smoothly combined, and set aside. Put the milk into a large heavy-based pan with the vanilla pod and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Pour about a quarter of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking as you do so. Return this mixture to the rest of the milk in the pan.
Put back over a gentle heat and cook, stirring continuously, until the custard becomes thick. Immediately take off the heat and beat for a minute to get rid of any lumps. Pass through a sieve into a bowl. Add the butter and stir in to melt. Lay a disc of baking parchment on the surface of the custard to stop a skin forming. Leave to cool completely.
Lightly butter a 12-hole muffn tin.
Roll out your puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle, about 30 x 20cm. Roll it up like a swiss roll and cut into 12 equal slices. Roll out each piece into a round, large enough to line a muffin mould. Gently press into the moulds. Chill for 30 minutes.
Heat your oven to 200°C. Line the pastry cases with a square of baking parchment and fill with baking beans or pasta to weigh down. Bake blind for 8–10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a couple of minutes to dry the bases. Set aside to cool down. Lower the oven setting to 160°C.
Whisk the egg white in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form, then gradually whisk in the remaining 50g caster sugar. Gently fold this into the cooled custard. Pour the custard mixture into the pastry cases to three-quarters fill them.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and the custard is puffed up. Dust with icing sugar before serving.
This recipe is from Paul Hollywood's cookbook How to Bake.
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