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
Start by making a Sugar syrup:
- 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;
- Let it boil on medium low heat for about 15min. The syrup should be ready when it starts producing a lot of bubbles;
- At this point, turn off the heating and put aside to cool down.
- 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;
- Once the cream has warmed up a bit add the sugar syrup. Then leave it on medium heat until it starts boiling;
- Meanwhile, mix the eggs with approx. 50ml of milk and 1tbsp of cornflour. Mix it well making sure the cornflour is fully dissolved;
- 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);
- Keep string the custard until it thickens slightly (it should only take a couple of minutes);
- Finally, remove the lemon & the cinnamon, turn off the heat and put aside to cool down.
Cooking the Pastéis de Nata:
- Pre-heat the oven at 220 ºC / 425 F / Gas mark 7;
- Roll the pastry sheet and cut it into 12 equal parts;
- 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;
- 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