Monday, October 5, 2015

Custard Tart Cookies

Sometimes good ideas just require a lot of butter. I can't help it.

These cookies are appropriately named after Portuguese egg custard tarts which are unorthodoxly rich in egg yolks. And, at its core, this recipe is very much like the classic French sable cookie which is extravagantly rich in butter. 

They express a buttery, French Vanilla-esque flavour and a crumbly tender texture. I promise they will melt in your mouth.

When fresh, they will be crunchy around the edges and that's when I think they are at their best, although they will keep for several days in an airtight container.

The signature touch that you must not skip is a light brush of beaten egg yolk over the dough before baking. It creates a caramelized golden sunset yellow crust, similar to mozzarella cheese on top of a great lasagna, except it's egg, not cheese...

You can bake this dough two ways:

Option 1 - roll it out as you do with a rolling pin, wine bottle or anything else you can think of. Once it is about 1/4 inch thick, cut out 2-inch rounds and carefully transfer them to your baking tray. This method is a bit finicky since the dough is quite delicate and the cookies will be slightly thinner once the dough spreads.

Option 2 - divide the dough into equal portions about the size of small walnuts and press them into the base of the wells of a standard 12-cup muffin pan. I prefer this method for its ease and convenience. Also, the walls of the muffin holes prevent the dough from spreading, leaving you with thick discs that have caramelized crunchy edges and soft centers. It is important not to handle the dough too much or pack it down too firmly or else the cookies won't be as tender as they could be.

Make sure you have soft butter on hand because the method here is a bit unorthodox as well for a cookie. At first it looks like the beginnings of a sponge cake as you whisk yolks with sugar to the ribbon stage. The soft butter gets whisked into this mixture so it blends smoothly with the aerated yolks.

What's not in this recipe but is equally as important - a strong cup of tea or a short espresso, and maybe a cozy knit blanket over your shoulders.

Lots of love,

Custard Tart Cookies
Makes about 15 cookies

2 large egg yolks
80g (1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp) caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
100g (7 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
125g (3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
one extra egg yolk for brushing

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar vigorously until lightened by a shade. Whisk in cubed soft butter bit by bit until well combined, thick and smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine and then fold into butter mixture until well combined. Roll dough between two pieces of parchment paper to about 1/4-inch thick (not too thin!). Place the rolled dough between the parchment paper onto baking tray and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove parchement and cut out 2-inch rounds. Place them on lined baking trays spacing them 2 inches apart and brush lightly with beaten egg yolk thinned with a drop of water. Bake until golden, 8-10 minutes. Let cool on tray before transferring. 

Alternatively, place small walnut-sized portions of dough into the wells of a standard 12-cup muffin tray and press them to flatten and fit the base of the wells. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until very golden brown on top.
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