We were just walking down the street when an elderly lady handed my dad a big, wide basket full of passion fruit. The bowl was lined with newspaper and filled to the brim. She had run out of her house as we were passing by and she beamed when my dad accepted her present. We were in Sri Lanka. I was eight. According to mom, who translated the transaction for me, the old woman had known my grandfather. The passion fruit were from her tree. They were her gift to my grandfather’s eldest son to welcome him back to the island after so many years.
That was my very first encounter with passion fruit. Foreign golden beauties. The variety that we had in Sri Lanka was a bit different than the one we get here. They were big and shiny and smooth. That night we feasted on passion fruit eaten with spoon and stirred into cold drinks. Funky. Sweet. Sour. Lovely.
Years later, as an intern in the Saveur test kitchen, I encountered passion fruit again. I was testing recipes for a beautiful feature on New Zealand. For one of the recipes my boss Liz bought a tray of passion fruit and set them on the counter to ripen. After a week or so, when they looked shriveled and disgusting, I threw them all away. I assumed they had gone bad. Sweet Liz sighed, sat me down, and taught me all about the different varieties of passion fruit. Unlike the fruit I had eaten as a kid in Sri Lanka, the ones she bought are ripe when they're wrinkled down. The passion fruit were perfect when I dumped them in the garbage. With that lesson she sent me to the store to buy more.
After the new batch of fruit wrinkled and rattled to perfection, I set off to test a recipe that would become one of my all-time favorites. These Portuguese custard tarts are heavenly. They have a tender flaky dough, silky custard, and an unexpected fruit combination that works wonders together. I’ve made them countless times over the years. They remind me of Sri Lanka. And they remind me of my awkward but life-changing first experience working in a magazine test kitchen where I learned lessons in humility and fruit.
Last week, I got to go to the Saveur Blog Awards party. It was wonderful to meet so many talented bloggers and celebrate our collective love of food and drink. Despite my predictable loss, I was so pleased and proud to be there. And grateful. My internship in the Saveur test kitchen seems like it was 100 years ago, but it set me off on the most satisfying career path that I could ever imagine. And last week I got to go back! I made these tarts to say thank you to Saveur. Thanks for helping me find my passion.
Portuguese Custard Tarts with Passion Fruit and Blueberries
This recipe comes from Saveur magazine.
Makes 2 dozen
1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extrac
1 pint blueberries
pulp from 3-4 ripe passion fruits
1. Toss together 1 1⁄2 cups flour, butter, and salt in medium bowl. Add 6 tbsp. ice water; form into a rough ball (don't mash butter). On a floured surface, shape dough into a 6" ? 12" rectangle. Fold like a letter. Roll out into a 6" ? 12" rectangle; fold again. Roll out and fold 3 more times. Cover; refrigerate for 1 hour; repeat rolling and folding process 2 more times. Cover; refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Roll out dough into a 12" ? 18" rectangle. Tightly roll up long side to form a cylinder. Cover; refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut crosswise into 24 slices. Working with 1 slice at a time, lightly flour, roll into a 3" circle, and press into 2 1⁄2"-wide, 3⁄4"-deep pie tins with sloping sides. Transfer to baking sheet and cover; refrigerate.
3. Put sugar and 2⁄3 cup water into a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat without stirring; reduce heat to medium and boil for 5 minutes. Whisk together 1⁄4 cup of the milk with remaining flour in a medium bowl. Bring remaining milk to a simmer and, while whisking, pour into flour mixture. Whisk in sugar syrup and let cool until warm. Whisk in egg and vanilla to make a custard.
4. Preheat oven to 400°. Fill each tart by two-thirds with custard. Top each with 1⁄2 tsp. passion fruit pulp and 2 blueberries. Bake until pastry is light brown and custard has just set, 16-18 minutes. Let cool on a rack.