Vanilla and Orange Blossom Shortbreads

Vanilla and Orange Blossom Shortbreads

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Celebrate the Spring Equinox on the 22 September with these beautiful floral shortbreads infused with orange blossom and vanilla (from a vanilla orchid!) and decorated with edible flowers. 

 

Find the recipe below or get the printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Vanilla and Orange Blossom Shortbreads

Level: easy

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 15-20 min 

Makes: 20 

 

Ingredients:

250g salted butter, softened

4 tbsp golden caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle

50g (80ml) cornstarch

220g (420ml) cake flour

1 ½ tsp orange blossom water

1 gourmet vanilla bean, split

edible flowers, to decorate

1 egg white, whisked

golden caster sugar, for sprinkling

 

Method: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – about 8 minutes.
  2. Sift together the cornstarch and flour and add to the butter mixture to form a soft dough. Mix in the orange blossom water and add the scraped vanilla seeds (see note).  
  3. Roll out the dough ½ cm thick on a lightly floured surface then cut shapes using a round cookie cutter just big enough for the size of the flowers. We used a 5cm cutter. 
  4. Place on a lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. 
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden around the edges. 
  6. Meanwhile, gently wash the flowers in cool water and drain well. Place the flowers stem side up on clean paper towels for about 15 minutes to dry. Using scissors, cut the stems off. Be careful not to cut too far down so the flower won’t break apart. Turn the flowers over to finish drying. 
  7. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water until well blended. Lightly brush the tops of each cookie with the egg mixture. Place 1 flower on each cookie and lightly brush the flowers all over with the egg wash. Sprinkle the cookies with caster sugar and return to the baking sheets. 
  8. Bake the cookies for an additional 5 minutes, or until the flowers have dried onto the cookies. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

 

NOTE: Here’s what to do with your used vanilla bean after the seeds have been scraped:

VANILLA EXTRACT: Place the deseeded vanilla bean in a bottle and top up with vodka or glycerine to make your own vanilla extract. Leave for at least 4 weeks to infuse.

VANILLA SUGAR: place the vanilla bean in a jar of sugar and allow it to infuse.

VANILLA POWDER: once the bean has been used in the vanilla sugar, roast it in an oven at 180 degrees celsius for 5 minutes then grind it up in a blender or spice grinder to make vanilla powder.

Vanilla and Orange Blossom Shortbreads
Yields 20
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 250g salted butter, softened
  2. 4 tbsp golden caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
  3. 50g (80ml) cornstarch
  4. 220g (420ml) cake flour
  5. 1 ½ tsp orange blossom water
  6. 1 gourmet vanilla bean, split
  7. edible flowers, to decorate
  8. 1 egg white, whisked
  9. golden caster sugar, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - about 8 minutes.
  2. Sift together the cornstarch and flour and add to the butter mixture to form a soft dough. Mix in the orange blossom water and add the scraped vanilla seeds (see notes).
  3. Roll out the dough ½ cm thick on a lightly floured surface then cut shapes using a round cookie cutter just big enough for the size of the flowers. We used a 5cm cutter.
  4. Place on a lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden around the edges.
  6. Meanwhile, gently wash the flowers in cool water and drain well. Place the flowers stem side up on clean paper towels for about 15 minutes to dry. Using scissors, cut the stems off. Be careful not to cut too far down so the flower won’t break apart. Turn the flowers over to finish drying.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water until well blended. Lightly brush the tops of each cookie with the egg mixture. Place 1 flower on each cookie and lightly brush the flowers all over with the egg wash. Sprinkle the cookies with caster sugar and return to the baking sheets.
  8. Bake the cookies for an additional 5 minutes, or until the flowers have dried onto the cookies. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.
Here's what to do with your used vanilla bean
  1. VANILLA EXTRACT: Place the deseeded vanilla bean in a bottle and top up with vodka or glycerine to make your own vanilla extract. Leave for at least 4 weeks to infuse.
  2. VANILLA SUGAR: place the vanilla bean in a jar of sugar and allow it to infuse.
  3. VANILLA POWDER: once the bean has been used in the vanilla sugar, roast it in an oven at 180 degrees celsius for 5 minutes then grind it up in a blender or spice grinder to make vanilla powder.
The Kate Tin https://thekatetin.com/

Vanilla Beans: All You Need to Know

Vanilla Beans: All You Need to Know

I like to think of vanilla as the LBD (little black dress) of baking. It’s a simple, but powerful necessity that is as versatile as it is striking – when you know how to use it, of course. While vanilla is used in just about everything, most of us know very little about this mysterious bean – it’s time that changed!

The Kate Tin Vanilla

On a trip to Mauritius back in 2015, I saw a vanilla orchid for the first time. When you consider how often we eat and use vanilla in our everyday lives, it’s kind of bizarre that I’d lived 27 years before touching the real deal (and most people will never see one!). It’s a full-circle moment that I now import vanilla beans for my own online shop (which you can buy here) to make them more accessible to vanilla lovers. ⁠ ⁠ What’s also bizarre is the plant that grows vanilla beans and just how many steps it has to go through to become the vanilla we love. So I wanted to share all the amazing things I’ve learned during my vanilla journey. ⁠

Vanilla is a fruit.

Fresh vanilla fruits, often called “beans,” are the only edible fruit of the orchid family which has over 20 000 varieties!⁠ ⁠ Vanilla beans must grow to just the right ripeness for the harvest to yield the sweet and flavourful vanilla we all know so well. When the tip of the vanilla bean starts to turn banana yellow, the time is right. If the vanilla bean stays on the vine too long, it will dry up and its flavour will be weak. If the vanilla bean is picked before its peak, all is lost.⁠ ⁠ The ripeness of the fruit is of utmost importance to the final flavour and aroma. ⁠ ⁠

Fresh green vanilla beans have no aroma.⁠ ⁠ ⁠

They need to undergo many many processes to release their aroma. Which makes me wonder? Who decided to take a long, inedible green vanilla bean with no flavour and think to themselves; “Maybe if I dip this in boiling water for juuust the right amount of time, then go through months of letting the beans sweat in boxes over night and then sunning them during the day. And then maybe if I dry them they’ll turn into something delicious?!”⁠ ⁠ Someone crazy, that’s who! But man oh man are we glad they did! ⁠ ⁠

The flower that produces vanilla only lives for one day.

Each flower blooms only once a year and must be pollinated the one day that it blooms or else the stem bears no fruit. No pressure! ⁠During pollination and harvest seasons, the blossoms don’t all open at the same time so the farmer must go out into the plantation or jungle every single day to check for blossoms. The farmers also need to wait up to five years before the vines reach fruit-producing maturity. ⁠ These are just a few of the many reasons we pay top dollar for precious vanilla beans. ⁠

Most vanilla beans are hand-pollinated.

Before hand-pollination was invented, vanilla was only cultivated in Central America where a very special little bee pollinated the flowers naturally. ⁠

That was until 1841 when Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave discovered that the plant could be hand-pollinated by a wooden needle. It was a ground-breaking revelation and meant that vanilla could be grown all over the world – and made more accessible! ⁠

It’s still a lot of hard work as every single flower needs to be pollinated by hand – with great skill.⁠

Some vanilla beans have tattoos.

Yes, you read that right!⁠ ⁠ Vanilla is so valuable it can attract vanilla thieves so some vanilla bean farmers will “tattoo” their beans with small markings (made with toothpick-sized instruments) to prevent theft and protect their precious beans!⁠

Vanilla is listed on the stock exchange.  ⁠

Just like saffron (the world’s most expensive spice), growing and processing vanilla beans is incredibly hard work and very labour intensive which is why it is so pricey. ⁠ ⁠ Vanilla beans (like cocoa, coffee and crude oil) are commodities that have price fluctuations depending on everything from the market, quantity produced, quality, and even the weather! ⁠ ⁠ 

Real vanilla contains over 200 flavour compounds.

That’s 199 MORE flavour compounds than vanilla essence. 🤩⁠ ⁠ Most imitation vanilla extracts are a weak solution of naturally derived (from lignin or wood pulp) or artificially derived (synthesized in a lab) vanillin.⁠ ⁠ Vanillin is the most prominent flavor in the vanilla bean, but it is only one of more than two hundred. ⁠ ⁠ Even more “complex” imitation vanilla flavours will only boast five or six flavoring components and cannot possibly compete with the natural sophistication of pure vanilla beans. ⁠

Dipping. Sweating. Sunning. Drying.

No, it’s not a day at the beach!⁠ ⁠ This vanilla curing and it is is what freshly harvested green vanilla beans need to go through in order to give them the fragrant aroma we love!⁠ Curing is both an art and a science and requires dedication.⁠ ⁠ The characteristic aroma results from enzymatic action which starts by dipping the beans in hot water. ⁠As soon as the beans are pulled from the water, workers rush to wrap them tightly in wool blankets, storing them inside a dark, airtight container. Speed is essential to preserve heat and steam. These trigger the enzymes that convert cellulose and starches to vanillin and other complex components that give vanilla its beautifully subtle aroma.⁠ ⁠ Finally, the vanilla beans are ready to start being sorted for the curing shed. The vanilla beans are no longer kept under the sun, but are kept in the open air under the shade to slowly dry to the right moisture and develop oils and hundreds of flavoring components. The beans are kept in this shed until the moisture content is correct and then are placed in conditioning boxes which develop the vanilla flavors further.⁠ ⁠ Finally, the beans are spread out on trays to dry out before they get graded and packed. This entire process can take 4-5 months. ⁠ ⁠ Yet another reason vanilla is worth every cent!⁠

Vanilla is like wine.

The flavour and aroma of vanilla beans changes depending on several factors in the cultivation of the vanilla orchid, including climate and soil. Vanilla beans from different regions have unique flavour profiles.⁠ So vanilla beans from Uganda (where my vanilla comes from) will be different from those from Madagascar which will differ from Mexico). Isn’t that just amazing?⁠

Real vanilla vs beaver butt.

Is that even a question? Well, when it comes to using imitation or ‘fake’ vanilla flavouring (ie. essence) then you’d be surprised.⁠ What makes vanilla beans taste and smell like vanilla beans is a component called ‘vanillin’. ⁠In order to make cheaper, synthetic flavourings to replace real vanilla, artificial vanillin is produced from lignin (found in wood) which is a by-product of papermaking pulp⁠. ⁠So what’s with the beaver butt? Well, what if I told you that some of the fake vanilla you’ve been using comes from the anal glands of beavers. In the USA it can legally be referred to as a ‘natural flavouring’ in the products ingredients list. 🤯⁠

Ew. ⁠

Dunno about you but I don’t want beaver butt in my cake. 🤣⁠

Using pure vanilla beans will elevate the taste of your baking while providing you the peace of mind that your flavouring is natural and chemical-free. ⁠

How to split a vanilla bean properly.  ⁠

STEP 1⁠
Massage the bean gently to loosen the seeds. Place the vanilla bean on a clean chopping board (make sure there are no strong onion or garlic flavours!).⁠

STEP 2⁠
Use a small sharp knife to split the vanilla bean in half starting at the top and running the blade down the length of the bean.⁠

STEP 3⁠
Run the knife blade down the inside of the bean to scrape out the seeds. You can also use a small spoon for this. Go over it a few times until all of the seeds have been collected.⁠

STEP 4⁠
Add the vanilla seeds to your recipe (reserve the pod for another use – see my 4 uses below!). ⁠

A vanilla bean’s flavour isn’t just in the seeds!⁠

The entire bean is loaded with flavour and it’s your job as the pastry chef to extract as much flavour as possible from the precious pod. ⁠After the seeds have been scraped the pod still has lots of aroma and can be used in many ways! 

Chocolate and vanilla are besties.

The first to use and love vanilla were the Aztecs.⁠
They mixed cocoa beans and vanilla beans together to create what they called “The Drink of the Gods” – cacahuatl. This became the beverage of choice of Aztec nobility and muuuuch later became the chocolate we all now love. ⁠

Like chocolate which begins as seeds, vanilla shares a complicated journey in transforming from an inedible fruit to an ingredient packed with flavour and aroma! ⁠

It is quite poetic then that chocolate and vanilla are now considered the perfect flavour partners – and my favourite ingredients! 🙌⁠

The Kate Tin Vanilla

Only 2% of the world’s vanilla comes from Uganda. 

Vanilla can be found all over the world but the biggest supplier of vanilla is Madagascar, producing over 40% of the world’s vanilla. My vanilla, on the other hand, comes from one of the smallest, Uganda who produces just over 2% of the world’s vanilla. I like to think it makes them even more special!

1 vanilla bean, 4 uses.

And at R40 per bean, that’s R10 per use…⁠

Gourmet vanilla beans are a precious investment but their intense aroma can go a long way – with a few of my clever tips!⁠

First use: Split the vanilla bean open with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds inside. Use the seeds to infuse cream desserts like panna cotta, ice cream, pastry creams, and whipped cream. Let the flavour shine by avoiding adding other ingredients that might mask vanilla’s delicate aroma.

Vanilla Bean Sugar

Second use: Place the scraped vanilla bean into a bowl or jar of sugar and leave to infuse for 1-2 days. Vanilla sugar is perfect for sprinkling over doughnuts, shortbread, or spooning into your morning coffee.⁠

Vanilla Exract

Third use: Return the scraped vanilla bean to the bottle it came in and fill it with clear alcohol such as vodka or white rum. Leave to stand in a dark place for 2-3 weeks and you’ll have your own extract!⁠ I simply top mine up with alcohol as I use it. I have a batch that’s been going for 6 years now!

Note: for a no-alcohol version, simply fill with vegetable glycerine – available at most baking shops and pharmacies. The added benefit of glycerine-based vanilla extract is that it keeps cakes, cupcakes and cookies moist and fresher for longer! It will take a bit longer to infuse (compared to the alcohol version) but will be equally as delicious. ⁠

Burnt Vanilla Powder

Fourth use: Thought your vanilla bean had no flavour left? Wrong! Make burnt vanilla powder! 

How to make it: Preheat the oven to 180°C (or 160°C fan-forced). Place the vanilla pod in the oven for 5 minutes or until it puffs up. Leave to cool before blending to a fine powder in a blender or food processor. This method is perfect for using up vanilla beans which have already been used to infuse sugar or your own vanilla extract.

How to use it: Burnt vanilla powder is delicious in nougat, fudge, frostings or sweets.

The Secret To Preserving Vanilla Beans⁠- forever!

On a visit to a vanilla plantation in Mauritius a few years ago, I spotted this jar of vanilla beans on the counter. The vanilla farmer explained to me that it’s his secret to keeping vanilla beans juicy for years! ⁠ ⁠ His trick? Place a tablespoon of rum and a teaspoonful of muscovado sugar in the bottom of a large jar and place the vanilla beans inside. The sugar and alcohol keep the moisture inside. I sometimes use this sweet intense vanilla mixture in my baking as a sort of extract. I then simply replace it with fresh rum and sugar. ⁠ ⁠ Clever, right?! ⁠

How to store vanilla beans.

There are a lot of vanilla beans out there that are vacuum packed 😒, this is actually not the best way to store them.  If you’ve purchased my vanilla beans, you would have received them in a glass bottle or wrapped in wax paper, this is perfect for storing them. 

When you receive your vanilla bean order, leave them bundled in the wax paper and place them in an airtight glass jar. Store in a cool, dark place – like a cupboard. ⁠

Please don’t refrigerate or freeze vanilla pods – the cold and moisture will make them mold.⁠

Open the jar every 6-8 weeks to allow excess moisture to escape and the beans to ‘breathe’ then rewrap them and place them back in the jar.⁠

Vanilla beans don’t last forever and it’s best to use them within 6 months of purchasing as they do tend to lose their potency. Remember your granny who never used her ‘special tea set’ because she was waiting for a special occasion that never came? Well, vanilla beans are the same. Don’t wait for a ‘special’ day to use them. Every day is special! ⁠

VANILLA BEAN RECIPES 

All the inspiration you need to use your precious vanilla beans!

 

 

 

Vanilla Bean Roasted Strawberries

Vanilla Bean Roasted Strawberries

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There’s nothing more delicious than freshly roasted strawberries, especially when they’ve been luxuriously roasted with a whole vanilla bean.

Vanilla Bean Sticky Roasted Strawberries

Roasted strawberries are delicious spooned generously over ice cream, cheesecake, meringues, or yoghurt to turn breakfast into a sneaky dessert! 

Find the recipe below or download the printable recipe card at the end of this post.

VANILLA BEAN ROASTED STRAWBERRIES

Serves 4

 

1kg ripe strawberries, rinsed and hulled

100g  Natura Sugars Golden Caster Sugar 

1 x The Kate Tin Gourmet Vanilla Bean, split

1/2 tsp sea salt

 

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced). Halve some of the strawberries and leave the rest whole. Combine the sugar, vanilla seeds and salt together and coat the strawberries. In a non-reactive baking sheet, spread the strawberries in an even layer and add the vanilla pod. Roast the strawberries in the oven for 40-45 minutes, shaking the tray (not stirring) every couple of minutes. Allow to cool then store in an airtight container in the fridge. Serve over ice cream or spooned over coconut yoghurt. 

Vanilla Bean Sticky Roasted Strawberries
Serves 4
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 1kg ripe strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  2. 100g  Natura Sugars Golden Caster Sugar
  3. 1 x The Kate Tin Gourmet Vanilla Bean, split
  4. 2,5ml salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced). Halve some of the strawberries and leave the rest whole. Combine the sugar, vanilla seeds and salt together and coat the strawberries. In a non-reactive baking sheet, spread the strawberries in an even layer and add the vanilla pod. Roast the strawberries in the oven for 40-45 minutes, shaking the tray (not stirring) every couple of minutes. Allow to cool then store in an airtight container in the fridge. Serve over ice cream or spooned over coconut yoghurt.
The Kate Tin https://thekatetin.com/
Vanilla Bean Basque Cheesecake

Vanilla Bean Basque Cheesecake

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If you’re good at burning desserts, this recipe is perfect for you! The beauty of this cheesecake is in its burnt, caramelised flavour. 

Hailing from San Sebastian in Spain otherwise known as Basque Country (hence the name), this is a crustless cheesecake, made by simply beating all the ingredients together, chucking them in a cake tin and baking until burnt. Sounds insane but trust me, this special cheesecake is as easy as it is delicious. Don’t be afraid to get the top really burnt and caramelised – the richness of the filling needs it! Find the recipe below…

Vanilla Bean Basque Cheesecake

Find the recipe below or download the printable recipe card at the end of this post.

VANILLA BEAN BASQUE CHEESECAKE

Serves 4-6

 

1kg full fat cream cheese

500ml cream

1 x The Kate Tin Gourmet Vanilla Bean, split

380g Natura Sugars Golden Caster Sugar 

7 large eggs

15ml (1 tbsp) rice flour 

 

Using a blender, blend the cream cheese, cream, vanilla seeds, sugar, eggs and rice flour on high speed for 3-5 minutes. The mixture should be very runny. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius (230 degrees fan-forced). Line the base and sides of a 24cm springform cake tin with baking paper and spray with cooking spray. Line the outside of the tin with foil. Place the tin in a roasting tray and pour the cheesecake mix into the cake tin. Once the cheesecake is in the oven, reduce the temperature to 240 degrees Celsius, gas mark 8. Bake for 25-30 minutes minutes. The center should be set but slightly wobbly like jelly. Refrigerate for 24 hours. 

                                                                                                                            

Basque Cheesecake
Serves 6
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1kg full fat cream cheese
  2. 500ml (2 cups) cream
  3. 1 vanilla pod
  4. 380g caster sugar
  5. 7 large eggs
  6. 15ml (1 tbsp) rice flour
Instructions
  1. Using a blender, blend the cream cheese, cream, vanilla seeds sugar, eggs and rice flour on high speed for 3-5 minutes. The mixture should be very runny.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees celsius, gas mark 9.
  3. Line the base and sides of a 24cm springform cake tin with baking paper and spray with cooking spray.
  4. Line the outside of the tin with foil. Place the tin in a roasting tray and pour the cheesecake mix into the cake tin.
  5. Once the cheesecake is in the oven, reduce the temperature to 240 degrees celsius, gas mark 8.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes minutes. he centre should be set but still be wobbly like jelly.
  7. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
The Kate Tin https://thekatetin.com/
Vanilla Bean Pastéis de Nata

Vanilla Bean Pastéis de Nata

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With their buttery flaky pastry, silky smooth custard filling and blistered blackened tops, it’s not hard to see why pastéis de nata are having a moment. But what if I told you there was a shortcut? And that making them is actually pretty easy! 

Pastéis de Nata have been taking over South African bakery counters for a while now. But with their hefty price tag, you’ll be glad to know that I’ve cracked THE recipe that means you won’t ever have to buy them again! I also have a clever little shortcut that makes them an easy enough bake to get from the making part to the eating part in about an hour. 

First up, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Is it ‘pastel or pasteis?’. One pastel de nata, two pastéis de nata. Got it? Good. 

Secondly, don’t be tempted to reduce the sugar content in the filling. It helps stabilize the custard and allows it to withstand the ridiculously high temperature leaving it silky smooth and stops it from splitting. This leads me to my third point; no, the oven temperature is not a typo. In fact, you’re going to want to crank your oven to as high as it can go and hope Eskom keeps up. The burnt tops and charred little edges are what make these irresistible – they need the bitterness to counteract the sweet custard. Don’t be afraid to take it right to the edge. 

When it comes to flavouring the custard, only real vanilla beans will do. I’ve used my Gourmet Vanilla Beans which are plump, juicy, and have a beautiful fragrance that infuses loads of flavour into the creamy custard. If you haven’t tried my vanilla beans yet, you can shop them over HERE on my online shop. They are SO worth the investment. In this recipe, I scrape out the vanilla seeds and use them to infuse the milk, I then place the scraped bean into a jar of sugar to infuse. Once it has spent about a week in the sugar, I place it back in the jar it comes in and add vodka or rum to make my own vanilla extract! One vanilla bean really does go far when you know how to use it!

As for the shortcut? While purists will undoubtedly tell you that you should make your own pasteis pastry from scratch, a good butter puff pastry does the trick – especially when it is brushed with butter and layered with sugar for extra crunch. 

If you don’t already follow me on Instagram or Facebook, I’ve just kicked off a ‘Vanilla 101’ series where I’ll be sharing info, tips, tricks, and recipes every day for the next month all about vanilla beans. If you decide to make these pastéis de nata, please tag me on social media – I’d love to see how yours come out! 

Find the recipe below or download the printable recipe card at the end of this post.

VANILLA BEAN PASTÉIS DE NATA

Makes 12

 

1 x 400g ready-made butter puff pastry, refrigerated 

30g salted butter, melted, for brushing

30g golden caster sugar or fine demerara sugar, for sprinkling

40g cake flour or 20g cornstarch

60ml milk

6 large egg yolks

160ml water

200g sugar (white or brown)

1 x 1cm cinnamon stick

125ml milk

125ml cream

1 x The Kate Tin Gourmet vanilla bean, seeds scraped*

 

Start by making the pastry cases for the Pastéis de Nata. Unroll the chilled puff pastry onto a clean surface. Roll the pastry out using a rolling pin so that it’s 5mm thick. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar.  Starting at the short end, roll the pastry up tightly to form a log.  Use a sharp knife to cut the roll into 12 equal pieces.  Brush a 12-hole muffin pan with melted butter.  Working with one piece of pastry at a time, place the pastry cut-side up onto a surface and flatten it with the palm of your hands. Use your fingertips to flatten the pastry out to form a large circle big enough to fit into the muffin hole.  Press the pastry into the muffin tin so it fits up the sides. The pastry should be as thin as possible. Continue with the remaining pieces of pastry. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Whisk the flour (or cornstarch) and milk together in a medium bowl and set aside.  Place the water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan and gently bring to the boil.  In the meantime, place the milk, cream and vanilla seeds into a small saucepan and gently bring to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat off and allow it to stand to infuse.  Once the syrup is simmering, slowly whisk the syrup into the cornstarch mixture in a thin steady stream. Whisk in the infused milk in a thin stream. Slowly add the egg yolks while whisking. Strain the custard through a sieve (not too fine or you’ll lose all your vanilla seeds!).  Allow to cool completely.  Preheat your oven to 280 degrees celsius or as high as it can go.  Place the oven rack on the lowest shelf of your oven and preheat a baking sheet in the oven so it’s very hot.  Bake the Pastéis de Nata on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and starting to turn golden brown.  Move the Pastéis de Nata and the oven rack to the top shelf of your oven and continue to bake for another 4-6 minutes or until the tops are a deep golden brown and the custard is starting to blacken.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before cooling on a rack. 

Note: Pastéis de Nata are best eaten on the day that they are made. The raw pastry cases and the custard can be stored (separately) in the fridge for up to 1 week. Simply fill and bake when needed. 

Vanilla Bean Pastéis de Nata
Yields 12
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 x 400g ready-made butter puff pastry, refrigerated
  2. 30g salted butter, melted, for brushing
  3. 30g golden caster sugar or fine demerara sugar, for sprinkling
  4. 40g cake flour or 20g cornstarch
  5. 60ml milk
  6. 6 large egg yolks
  7. 160ml water
  8. 200g sugar (white or brown)
  9. 1 x 1cm cinnamon stick
  10. 125ml milk
  11. 125ml cream
  12. 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped*
Instructions
  1. Start by making the pastry cases for the Pastéis de Nata. Unroll the chilled puff pastry onto a clean surface. Roll the pastry out using a rolling pin so that it’s 5mm thick. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar.  Starting at the short end, roll the pastry up tightly to form a log.  Use a sharp knife to cut the roll into 12 equal pieces.  Brush a 12-hole muffin pan with melted butter.  Working with one piece of pastry at a time, place the pastry cut-side up onto a surface and flatten it with the palm of your hands. Use your fingertips to flatten the pastry out to form a large circle big enough to fit into the muffin hole.  Press the pastry into the muffin tin so it fits up the sides. The pastry should be as thin as possible. Continue with the remaining pieces of pastry. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Whisk the flour (or cornstarch) and milk together in a medium bowl and set aside.  Place the water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan and gently bring to the boil.  In the meantime, place the milk, cream and vanilla seeds into a small saucepan and gently bring to a simmer. Once simmering, turn the heat off and allow it to stand to infuse.  Once the syrup is simmering, slowly whisk the syrup into the cornstarch mixture in a thin steady stream. Whisk in the infused milk in a thin stream. Slowly add the egg yolks while whisking. Strain the custard through a sieve (not too fine or you’ll lose all your vanilla seeds!).  Allow to cool completely.  Preheat your oven to 280 degrees celsius or as high as it can go.  Place the oven rack on the lowest shelf of your oven and preheat a baking sheet in the oven so it’s very hot.  Bake the Pastéis de Nata on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and starting to turn golden brown.  Move the Pastéis de Nata and the oven rack to the top shelf of your oven and continue to bake for another 4-6 minutes or until the tops are a deep golden brown and the custard is starting to blacken.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before cooling on a rack.
Notes
  1. Pastéis de Nata are best eaten on the day that they are made. The raw pastry cases and the custard can be stored (separately) in the fridge for up to 1 week. Simply fill and bake when needed.
The Kate Tin https://thekatetin.com/
Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Tarts

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Tarts

Crème Brûlée is everyone’s favourite dessert. And what’s not to love about it? Hearing the sugar crack when you plunge your spoon through the caramelized toffee on top is sheer bliss. The silky smooth custard, the hint of real vanilla; these are all things that make crème brûlée a classic that you shouldn’t really mess with. Which is exactly why I’m about to change it! I have a killer crème brûlée recipe but have always felt the dessert needs short, buttery pastry to complete it – so I encased the custard filling in it to make tarts. The result is pure heaven!  Find the recipe below…

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Tarts

Serves 4

 
SWEET PASTRY
 
250g cake flour
 
 
120g salted butter, coarsely chopped
 
3 large egg yolks  

FILLING

185ml fresh cream

1 x The Kate Tin Gourmet Vanilla Bean, split

2 large egg yolks

40g Natura Sugars Golden Caster Sugar + extra, to top

    For the pastry, blitz the cake flour and icing sugar in a food processor to combine, then add the butter and continue blitzing until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the 3 egg yolks and blitz until just combined. Tip out the pastry onto a clean work surface and bring the pastry together with your hands to form a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 180C (or 160C for fan-assisted ovens). Roll out the pastry on a lightly flour-dusted work surface to 0,5cm thickness and line 4 fluted, loose-bottomed tart tins (10cm-diameters) with the pastry. Trim the edges with a sharp knife and refrigerate to rest, 1 hour. Once the pastry case has chilled, line it with baking paper, fill with baking beans or pulses, and blind-bake in the preheated oven, 8 –10 minutes, until crisp and light brown and crispy. Remove from oven, take out the baking beans and discard the baking paper used for the blind baking. Return the pastry case to the oven to bake, a further 8 –10 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack. For the brûlée, lower the oven temperature to 140C (120C for fan-assisted ovens). In a small saucepan, heat the fresh cream along with the split vanilla pod and seeds to just below boiling point. Cream the 2 egg yolks and castor sugar together in a medium bowl. In a steady stream, pour the warm vanilla cream into the egg mixture while whisking continuously. Strain the mixture through a sieve, discard the bits and divide the filling among the baked pastry cases. Bake, 35 – 40 minutes, until set and the centre wobbles slightly. Remove the tartlets from their tins and allow to cool down to room temperature. Store the tartlets in the fridge until needed. They can keep for 2 days in the fridge. Sprinkle a layer of sugar over each tartlet and brûlée them, using a kitchen blowtorch.

    TIP: If a kitchen blowtorch is not available, preheat the oven’s grill and place the tartlets underneath the grill for a couple of seconds to caramelise.