Pasteis de nata are little Portuguese custard tarts that – when baked to absolute perfection – harbour a well of creamy vanilla egg custard in a crispy puff pastry shell, lightly burnt on top, melting in the mouth after just a few chews.
Many have tried to make these to the traditional recipe but getting the combination of flavour and texture just right takes time, patience and practice. Which is a good thing, because one tart is never enough. Ever.
It’s said that pasteis de nata (literally ‘cream pastries’) were created by monks in the Jerónimos Monastery, a major tourist attraction today and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The monks used egg whites to starch their clothing and fabrics, and were left with an excess of leftover yolks. Instead of wasting them, they used them to make cakes and pastries, eventually selling Pastéis De Belém to the public to raise funds.
This recipe recreates the light and airy tartlets produced by the monks back then, without you having to leave the comfort of your kitchen.
Perfect Pastéis De Nata
- 2 packs of puff pastry
- 220g caster sugar
- 6 egg yolks (freeze the egg whites for meringues later)
- 4 tablespoons cornflour
- 360ml cream
- 250ml water
- 3 strips lemon rind
- 10cm cinnamon stick
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Make sure your pastry is well thawed beforehand
- Butter each of the wells of a 12-well muffin pan
- If you’re using flat sheets, you’ll need two layers to make the 12 pasteis
- Place one sheet over the other and roll into a cigar shape
- Slice into 12 equal rounds
- Roll each round into a ball and press into the the mould
- The pastry should reach just beyond the lip of the mould, as it will shrink during baking
- Make the custard by mixing the balance of the ingredients well and pouring this mixture into a pot over a moderate heat, whisking constantly
- As soon as you see little bubbles forming and the mixture feels thicker, remove from the heat and continue to whisk until it forms a thick custard
- Remove the lemon rind and cinnamon stick and pour the custard into the pastry in the moulds
- Bake for 16 to 20 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius
- Leave in the tray for a few minutes to cool
- Can be served warm or cold
This pan allows you to create bakery quality cupcakes and muffins at home. The pan surface is a non-stick silicone, allowing you to easily release your baked goods from the pan, without any sticking or burnt fingers.