Thursday, 1 April 2010

Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts)

Since this is a "fresh" blog, I needed to start posting with one of my favourite sweet recipes. Up until about a year ago, I cringed at the sound of the word "custard" since, in my head, it was associated simply with some gloopy artificial yellow substance that came out of a supermarket carton with the words "Ambrosia" on it (and neither the look or taste of it came close to what I imagined to be the mythical food of the Greek gods).

That was before I discovered these wonderful little tarts, which look so perfect, yet are so easy to make. The first time I made them I almost ate them all myself, the second time people paid for them. Well, not really paid me, but paid nevertheless. As one of two only resident bakers in my office (the other one being a Greek man=something of a walking oxymoron, if you're Greek or have ever met an average Greek male you'll know what I mean!), I was asked by our lovely receptionist if I could bake something for our charity bake sale, and two dozens of these little tarts made Marie Curie Cancer Care some extra cash. The best bit was when two of my colleagues bought one each, ate them and then ran to the reception to buy more before they were all gone... I couldn't help but smile when they came back with a plate stacked with them!

These tarts have a lot of history behind them. They are descendants of the Pastéis de Belém and although the original recipe is a secret of legendary proportions, you can still make this pretty-good-substitute at home.

Caveat: Custard as a "substance of pouring consistency" that accompanies and drenches cakes and other desserts still fails to move me, but once you bake it and combine it with cinnamony flavours...ah....yum.

Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts)
Source: Simon Rimmer

Makes 12

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 30g cornflour (about 2 tbsp if you don't have scales)
  • a glug of good quality vanilla extract
  • 170ml full-fat milk
  • 225ml double cream
  • 300g ready-rolled puff pastry (1 sheet of the Jus-Rol variety does it)
  • cinnamon, for dusting
  • flour, for dusting
  • a little bit of butter for greasing the tin

In a pan, heat the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour over a low to medium heat, whisking continuously until thickened and well combined. I find that an electric mixer makes the job much easier than an egg beater. Add the vanilla extract and then gradually whisk in the milk and cream, until the mixture is smooth.

Continue to stir the custard mixture until it comes to the boil, then remove from the heat and cover the surface with cling film. (You have to make sure that the cling film is touching the whole surface, otherwise a nasty skin will form on top of the custard.) Leave to cool slightly while you prepare the pastry.

Cut the pastry sheet in half and put one sheet on top of the other. Roll the pastry sheets tightly from the short end and cut the roll into twelve x 1cm rounds (see how to do it @Not quite Nigella). Lay each of the rolled pastry slices onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out with a rolling pin until they are around 10 cm in diameter. Press the pastry rounds into a lightly buttered 12-hole muffin tin and spoon the custard equally among the cases.

Bake the tarts in a preheated oven at 200°C for 20-25 minutes (or until the custard has set and is forming brown patches, careful don't overdo it!). Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin then sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy at room temperature or cold.


Lotus Fire said...

Over here in Sydney, at least for me, the sign of a good Dim Sum restaurant is the standard of the portuguese egg tarts. I'm impressed you've made them look like the ones in the shops. Hilarious about the Greek man comment.

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