PASTÉIS DE NATA (PORTUGUESE CUSTARD TARTS)

 

A well-known symbol of Portuguese cuisine, the Pastel de Nata (singular) is a delicacy appreciated all over the world and particularly popular in Brazil, China and South East Asia.

 

Its origins date from around the 17th Century and it’s believed the recipe was created by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon.

At a time when the demand for egg-whites was great, for the starching of clothes and the clearing of wines (such as Port), the left-over egg yolks were then used to create a vast number of recipes. One of these recipes resulted in the Pastéis de Nata, also known as Portuguese custard tarts.

 

Throughout the years many variations spread across the country but the original recipe has since been kept a secret and passed on through the generations. With the closure of the Monastery in the 19th Century, the secret was passed on to the Casa Pastéis de Belém from where the name “Pastéis de Belém” comes from to designate the sweet pastry made from the original recipe.

 

Ingredients (12 tarts):

 

  • 180g caster sugar
  • 300ml water
  • 250ml single cream
  • 6 free range egg yolks
  • 50ml milk
  • 1tbsp cornflour (corn-starch)
  • ½ lemon, zest only
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ tsb vanilla extract
  • 15g butter
  • 350g puff pastry 

 

Preparation

 

Start by making a Sugar syrup:

 

  1. Drop 180g of sugar into a small/medium size pan and add 300ml of water; stir well and turn on the heating to bring to a boil;
  2. Let it boil on medium low heat for about 15min. The syrup should be ready when it starts producing a lot of bubbles;
  3. At this point, turn off the heating and put aside to cool down.

 

The Custard:

 

  1. Drop 250ml of single cream into a medium size pan and add 1 cinnamon stick, the rind of ½ lemon and ½ tsp (2.5ml) of vanilla extract. Mix it all well and heat up on medium heat for about 5 min;
  2. Once the cream has warmed up a bit add the sugar syrup. Then leave it on medium heat until it starts boiling;
  3. Meanwhile, mix the eggs with approx. 50ml of milk and 1tbsp of cornflour. Mix it well making sure the cornflour is fully dissolved;
  4. Once the sugared cream starts boiling add the milk, eggs & cornflour mix you’ve just prepared. Pour it slowly while stirring at the same time (this is to avoid turning it into scrambled eggs);
  5. Keep string the custard until it thickens slightly (it should only take a couple of minutes);
  6. Finally, remove the lemon & the cinnamon, turn off the heat and put aside to cool down.

 

Cooking the Pastéis de Nata:

 

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 220 ºC / 425 F / Gas mark 7;
  2. Roll the pastry sheet and cut it into 12 equal parts;
  3. Spread butter over a 12 cup muffin tray and add the pastry parts to each cup making sure you shape the pastry to the cups as thin as possible; then use a glass to remove any excess pastry from the borders;
  4. Fill each cup with custard, place the tray in a pre-heated oven at 220 ºC / 425 F / Gas mark 7 and cook it for approx. 18 minutes.

 

E pronto! (it’s done!) Bom apetite!

 

Tip: Sprinkle with a bit of ground cinnamon or icing sugar for the traditional experience

 

 

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(13 comments on “PASTÉIS DE NATA (PORTUGUESE CUSTARD TARTS)”)

  1. Simeon Fenn

    Tried baking these today and I think they came out pretty well. My custard got a little thicker than yours looked, and as I’ve not had them before I’m not 100% sure what they should be like, but they sure taste good!

    Reply
    1. Carlos Fonseca

      Wow nice one Sim, it’s great to see people following my videos to cook :) The thickness of the custard can vary a bit and as long as it’s not too thick (and tastes good) it should be fine! Keep it up with the Portuguese cooking mate :) Cheers!

      Reply
  2. Jasmin

    Hi there, I’m making these today and I was just wondering do you use 20ml of milk or 50ml- in the video you seemed to only use 20ml? Thanks :)

    Reply
  3. Carlos Fonseca

    Hi Jasmin, thank you for your comment. You’ve actually spotted a typo on the 2nd reference to the milk, it should read 50ml. I’ve amended the recipe above and will add a note to the youtube video soon. Thanks for flagging this up and let me know if you need any further guidance. Happy cooking! :)

    Reply
  4. Kathy

    I made the tarts using your proportions and they turned out AMAZING!!!! It seems almost impossible to curdle this custard. I turned on my oven to 250c and preheated it with a pizza steel for one hour. They were done in exactly 11 minutes. Caramelised to perfection. I’m in heaven. Not too sweet and silky smooth with the crispest puff imaginable. Thanks so much. This recipe is to be treasured. I have used other recipes and this is the REAL DEAL.

    Reply
  5. Julie

    So I just made these and they taste great but my custard did not set! It is very runny and did not form bubbles and brown spots when cooking. I left in the oven for 30 mins total (instead of 18) and it still didn’t bubble or get brown spots.

    When I made the sugar mixture, I let it boil till it formed bubbles but did not wait 15 minutes for it to reduce. Could that be it?

    I also only let the final custard mixture sit for 10 mins before pouring in.

    It’s strange because my mixture was much thicker than yours when you poured it into the pastry but it still didn’t stiffen when cooked…

    Help!

    Reply
    1. Carlos Fonseca

      Hi Julie,

      Sorry to hear that your custard tarts didn’t come out quite as expected.

      The consistency of the custard might be related to the source of the ingredients being different where you’re based but it’s not that uncommon to find custard tarts with runny custard, this is even a trademark for some Portuguese bakeries.

      However if you’re looking to obtain a stiffer custard I would suggest the following:

      “I let it boil till it formed bubbles but did not wait 15 minutes for it to reduce”
      The sugar mixture tends to thicken up a bit as it cools down so I would definitely let it rest for a while next time.

      “It’s strange because my mixture was much thicker than yours when you poured it into the pastry but it still didn’t stiffen when cooked…”
      I presume that you’ve pre-heated the oven but maybe turn it on a bit earlier next time. And could it be that your oven might not be producing enough heat at 220 ºC / 425 F / Gas mark 7? This can vary from brand to brand so I would suggest maybe increasing the temperature a bit next time and keeping an eye on the custards once the first 10 minutes have passed. Then once they all start getting a few burnt spots it should be ready.

      I hope you find this information useful but please let me know if you need any further advice.

      Good luck! :)

      Reply
  6. Laury

    While visiting Portugal this past year with friends, I had Pastéis De Nata for the first time and I absolutely loved them. We are now having a potluck get together to share pictures and food. I’ve read all the reviews so I will definitely be making this recipe. However, I would like to know if I can make them in advance a day or two and if so how to store them. Party day approaching soon. I quick response would be appreciated. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Carlos Fonseca

      Hi Laury, I would personally recommend doing these on the day but you can do these the day before without loosing much quality (you can store them in the fridge and take them out about 30/60 min before serving). If you’re looking for anything earlier than that I would recommend freezing the tarts as they are on the video at 4:34 and on the cooking day let them defrost a for a couple of hours before cooking. You might be able to get a hold of individual cupcake trays in your local kitchen tools store, this might reveal more practical for freezer storage. However, I’ve never tried freezing them before.. I would be curious about the results so please let me know how it goes if you decide to go for this option.

      I hope you find this information useful but feel free to get in touch if you need any further advice. Good luck! Carlos

      Reply

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