Portuguese Custard Tarts – Pasteis De Nata

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I recently tasted my first Portuguese Custard Tart and it was simply wonderful.  Now we do have custard tarts in England, usually made with shortcrust pastry.  But these Portuguese ones, with puff pastry, are very different.  Baked until the top is bubbling and with brown patches on the top, formed as the custard bakes, they taste great, with a nice crisp crunch to the pastry.

Known as Pastel De Nata, or Pasteis De Nata(maybe that it the plural) they are very popular in Portugal and increasingly so everywhere else as well.  Usually they are made in special individual tins, but a muffin tin will work just fine, so that is what I shall be using.

For my recipe I made my own puff pastry, but shop bought ready rolled, as long as it is ‘all butter’ puff pastry will be fine too.  That would actually make them much quicker to make.  These days the quality of shop bought puff pastry is very good, so really there is no need to make your own unless you really want to. 

The custard filling is easy too, milk, eggs and flour will do it, with just a hint of cinnamon and vanilla for extra flavour.  The flour is to aid the setting as the tarts bake.

My recipe below makes about 500g of puff pastry, but you don’t need that much for 12 tarts, if made in a muffin tin, so you can save the rest and use later.  

I am very pleased with how my tarts turned out.  They taste so good and the pastry was so flaky it was very difficult to eat only one, so I had more.

Portuguese Custard Tart – Pasteis de Nata

Portuguese Custard Tarts – Video

For the puff pastry:

  • 250g(1 2/3 cups, based on scooping packed flour into a 250ml cup) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100ml(1/2 cup minus 4 tsp)ice cold water
  • 15ml(1 tbsp) lemon juice or white wine vinegar or white vinegar(this keeps the pastry from turning a dirty grey colour during rolling)
  • 200g(14 tbsp) unsalted butter, straight from the fridge.

For the custard filling:

  • 40g(1/3 cuo minus 1 tbsp, based on scooping packed flour into a 250ml cup) plain flour
  • 60ml(1/4 cup) whole milk
  • 165ml(2/3 cup + 1 tsp) water
  • 240g(1 cup + 3 1/2 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick(optional)
  • 250ml(1 cup + 2 tsp) whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks(xl in USA)
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract

Method: (if using shop bought pastry jump to step 23)

  1. To make the puff pastry put the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix to combine.
  2. Add the cold water and the lemon juice and stir the mixture together, by hand or with a wooden spoon, to form a rough dough.
  3. When the dough has formed place it on the work surface and knead for about two minutes.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and make two deep cuts, in the shape of a cross.
  5. Place back in the bowl and cover, then refrigerate for one hour.
  6. After one hour take the dough and push the ‘ears’ outwards, that is the four quarters that form the cross.
  7. Roll the dough out until it is roughly square, with the ‘ears’ still visible.
  8. Take the butter and hit with a rolling pin to soften it to the same consistency of the flour, and until it is about 18cm square.
  9. Place the butter onto the dough, diagonally, so the ears of the dough are poking out.
  10. Pull one ear up and onto the dough and press down firmly.
  11. Pull the opposite ear up and onto the dough, slightly overlapping the previous one.
  12. Do the same with the other two ears of dough.
  13. Now the butter should be fully enclosed.  Make sure the seams of the dough are fully joined.
  14. Turn the dough so that the north/south end are the ones folded under the east/west ones.
  15. Roll the dough out, gently, until it is about 3 times the length of the original.
  16. Fold one third of the dough up and onto the middle third. 
  17. Fold the other third up and onto the covered middle third.  That is one ‘turn’
  18. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 30 minutes and then do a second turn ensuring that the open ends are facing north to south, the direction of rolling.  
  19. Fold as before and chill again for 30 minutes.  That is the second turn.
  20. Repeat the process until you have done 6 turns(if the dough doesn’t get too warm you can achieve two turns between each chilling in the fridge.
  21. After the 6th chill(3rd if you do two turns before chilling each time) the dough is ready to use.
  22. Roll the dough out until it is about 30cm(12 inches) by 50cm(20 inches).
  23. Roll the dough up tightly, using the long side, to form a sausage shape.
  24. Chill in the fridge for an hour.
  25. Place the 40g of flour into a bowl and add the 60ml milk and whisk until smooth
  26. Place the sugar, water and cinnamon stick in a saucepan and heat until the temperature reaches 100C.
  27. While the sugar mixture is heating place the 250ml milk in another pan and heat until just about boiling.
  28. Pour the milk into the flour and milk mixture and whisk to combine.
  29. Add the vanilla extract and stir in.
  30. When the sugar has reached 100C remove the cinnamon stick and carefully pour into the milk mixture.  
  31. Whisk together and continue whisking for about 10 to 15 minutes until it has cooled considerably, so that it wont cook the eggs.
  32. Add the eggs and whisk to combine.  
  33. Strain the mixture to remove any lumps and set the custard aside.
  34. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/430F
  35. Cut 12 slices off the roll about an inch and a half long, and refrigerate the remainder for later use.
  36. Stand each slice on end, so that the layers are shown on the top and bottem and roll out large enough to fill the base and sides of the muffin tin and gently place them in the tins. (You could just roll out and use a cookie cutter if you wish)
  37. Gently pour the custard into the lined tins, not quite full.
  38. Bake in the oven for 18-25 minutes, until the custard has puffed up and has begun to caramelise on the top, showing dark brown patches. I actually let mine cook for 25 minutes.
  39. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, as the custard sinks back down.
  40. Then use a thin knife to lift the tarts out of the tin and onto a wire rack to cook until just warm for serving.


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