Pastel de Nata – or Portuguese Custard Tarts – are everywhere at the moment. Smooth, velvety custard wrapped in crisp flaky past with a blistered top, dusted with cinnamon. It’s little wonder that in 2009 a British newspaper named the tarts as among the 50 ‘best things to eat’ in the world.
Wikipedia tells me that Pastel de Nata herald from pre-18th Century Lisbon – developed by Catholic monks who were looking to put a glut of egg yolks to good use (the egg whites having been used to starch the Friars and Nuns’ religious habits). When funds became scarce, the Monks began selling the pasties to boost the Monastery’s coffers – before eventually selling the recipe to a local sugar refinery whose descendants continue to make the pastries to this day.
This is my easy cheats version of the tarts – relying on shop bought puff pastry in lieu of homemade. I remember hearing a TV chef in the 1990s say something along the lines of “life is too short to make your own puff pastry when there are perfectly acceptable shop-bought versions to be had!” This is instruction I have taken to heart and it forms the basis of this recipe. Please do make sure you buy all butter ready rolled puff pastry though – other ones can have a bit of an acrid aftertaste.
I make my easy custard tarts in a domed-bottom mince pie tray – but a normal shallow muffin tin will work just as well. Key to the familiar blistered top of the tarts is having the oven on a very high temperature – at least 250C+. Don’t worry if your oven doesn’t go as high as this – just turn it up to its top setting. Also, make sure the oven has been preheated to temperature for at least 15 minutes before you bake the tarts. Most ovens need this extra time so that everything is at full pelt before you begin to cook.Print
- 2 x 375g All Butter Ready Rolled Puff Pastry
- 30g softened unsalted butter
- 3tbsp plain flour
- 300ml single cream
- 265g granulated sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 160ml cold water
- 1tsp vanilla bean paste
- 6 egg yolks
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and allow to warm up to room temperature. When ready, unroll each sheet and spread a very thin layer of the softened butter over one of the sheets before laying the other on top. Spread another very thin layer over the second sheet of pastry before rolling back up into a thick sausage shape – rolling from the longest edge. Gently squeeze the pastry together before trimming each end, wrapping in greaseproof paper and returning to the fridge.
- To prepare the custard, put the water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a small pan. Swirl (do not stir) so that the water covers the sugar before placing on a low heat to dissolve the sugar. Once all the grains of sugar have melded into the water, turn up the heat to a rapid boil before quickly removing the pan from the heat. Resist the temptation to stir the pan at any point.
- In a mixing bowl, make a paste with the flour and about 60ml of the single cream. In a second pan, heat the remainder of the cream until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat and pour into the flour paste, whisking all the time so that it combines to a smooth mix.
- Remove the cinnamon stick from the sugar syrup before pouring this into the cream in a steady stream, again continuing to whisk to combine. Stir the vanilla bean past into the cream before carefully adding the egg yolks – once again, whisking.
- Finally, pass the thin custard through a fine sieve into a clean jug. Moisten a sheet of greaseproof paper and rest this carefully on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Place into the fridge and allow to fully cool – approximately 2 hours.
- When you are ready to make the tarts, preheat the oven to its maximum temperature – ideally 260C/500F/Gas Mark 10. If your oven doesn’t go as high as this, don’t worry – just heat it up as far as it will go.
- Cut the pastry log into 24 equal chunks. Take 2 x 12-hole muffin tray (or ideally a domed-bottom mince pie tin) and press each chunk into a hole, spiral side down. I like to have a cup of fresh water to hand while I do this, lightly moistening my thumb before pressing the pastry into the tin. Be careful not to make any holes in the pastry – smoothing any gaps over as you go. The case should be thinner at the bottom than the top, with a slight overhang at the top.
- When all the pastry is in the tins, carefully fill each case 2/3 full with the cold custard. Carefully lift each tin into the oven and bake on a high shelf for around 15 minutes. By this point, the pastry should be crisp and the custard tops blistered and bubbling.
- Allow to rest in the tins for about 15 minutes before lifting out and allowing to cool on a rack. The bubbles of custard will sink back to form the recognisable dip of these tarts. Dust with a mix of icing sugar and a little ground cinnamon before serving.
- These are best eaten on the day they are made, although they will keep inside an airtight container for 2-3 days inside the fridge.
- Category: Baking
- Cuisine: Portuguese
Keywords: Custard Tarts, Pasteis De Nata, Pastel De Nata, Portugal, Portuguese, Portuguese Custard Tarts