I've enjoyed a fair number of these delicious confections closer to home so I jump at the chance to impress my cake club buddies.
I'm reassured to see that the method looks fairly simple and there aren't hundreds of ingredients to chase in high end supermarkets.
But of course with baking, the devil is in the detail. I've also realised they have featured in the current series of the Great British Bake Off which means there is some skill involved. However I am not to be deterred, and I daresay British chef Gizzi Erskine's first attempt was not restaurant perfect.
After a surprisingly difficult search for cornflour I begin.
I'm told to heat the milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon stick and vanilla pod seeds until the mixture is just about to boil. The recipe asks for half a cinnamon stick which is where I hit the first problem. Am I supposed to slice it lengthways or in half? Does it even matter? I opt to slice it in half. Stirring the creamy mixtures to boiling point is not that simple with a large cinnamon log swirling around. And I can spot small splinters of cinnamon floating in the mixture which must be fished out.
I'm then instructed to take two tablespoons of the mixture out and blend it with two egg yolks and the cornflour to make a smooth paste. This calls for the separation of eggs.
The last time I tried this it resulted in me abandoning an entire recipe. The first one went smoothly, yolk remained in the shell, white dripped perfectly into the bowl below. My next separation resulted in yolk dribbling into the white and that was that. I didn't have enough eggs left to continue my first attempt at meringues.
This time, it works fine, it's easier when it's the yolks you are catching. I add the egg and cornflour paste to the pan and reduce the heat. After 24 hours of stirring, and a bit extra cornflour, my custard begins to thicken so I remove it from the heat and cover it (to prevent a skin forming apparently).
I'm now getting to grips with the puff pastry which is ready made, don't judge me. I roll it out, with a jar of peanut butter as I have no rolling pin.
I am instructed to "roll out the pastry, then slice it into 2cm squares and roll each of these to the thickness of a 20p piece." I'm sure my pieces are a bit thin, I have no 20p piece to hand and even if I did, money is full of germs and I'd rather not poison the entire cake club. I begin to shape them around the sides of the cup in the muffin tray. I quickly discover the pastry squares are too small so I roll some more and start again. I then fish out the cinnamon tree and fill each pastry shell a third full of custard.
I'm then told to brush a little milk over the surface of the pastry, but abandon this because I don't have the required utensil.
Anyway, to my mind, they look the part so I pop them in the oven and wait the instructed 20 minutes.
I open the oven at about 15 minutes and the custard is bubbling and spilling over the sides of the tin. I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to happen.
I should have taken the tarts out there and then but I opted to leave leave them in for a few more minutes. When I look again the custard has burnt slightly round the edges. One cake club member kindly says he liked the "caramelisation". Still, despite their imperfections I'm pleased with my first attempt, the custard is delicious and I'm sure the next batch will be a little closer to cafe standards.
150ml whole milk
100ml whole cream
200g golden caster sugar
half cinammon stick
half vanilla pod, seeded
2 large, free-range egg yolks
200g ready-made puff pastry
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp icing sugar
Heat the milk, cream, sugar, cinammon stick, vanilla and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. When almost boiling, mis 2 tbsp of the liquid with the egg yolks and cornflour and blend to a smooth paste. Pour this back into the milk. Stir continuously on a low heat while the mixture thickens. When it resembles a thin custard, remove from the heat, cover and allow to cool completely.
Heat the oven to 200C. Roll out the pastry, then slice into 2cm squares and roll each of these to the thickness of a 20p piece. Gently press the pieces into a buttered nonstick muffin tray and shape them round the sides of each cup. You can trim the edges if you like.
Fish out the cinnamon stick from the custard and fill each pastry shell two-thirds custard. Gently brush a little milk over the surface of the pastry and dust lightly with icing sugar.
Place the tarts in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden and the custard just set. Allow to cool completely in the muffin tray before serving.
Recipe by Gizzi Erskine