Today I present a dessert recipe, to which I have prepared many times – Pastéis de Nata, or Portuguese custard tart. This is a mini tart made of French pastry, filled with a light cream composed of eggs, cream or milk, sugar, cinnamon and lemon peel. It should be served hot, sprinkled with icing sugar and ground cinnamon, but they taste good cold too. Preparation is time consuming, but definately worthwhile. Perfectly crunchy French pastry, and the hot custard cream with lemon and cinnamon aroma is a perfect combination.
Despite it’s complex appearance Pastéis de Nata isn’t as tricky to make as you might think, provided that you use a store bought French pastry. Nothing wrong with this, although I prefer home made.
The receipe for homemade puff pastry is given here.
The history of this dessert so characteristic of Portuguese cuisine dates back to 1834, when all the monasteries were closed in Portugal. Then monks from the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, in order to survive financially, decided to sell their handmade custard tart in a monastery shop. Where did the business come from? The monks originally used egg whites to starch their frocks, and the leftover yolks became the main ingredient to produce cakes.This activity became an important source of income for the monastery at that time.
Later the recipe was sold to a businessman from Brazil, and his descendants continue to be in possession of it to this day.
In 1837 “The Old Confectionery of Belém” opened its doors. Operating since then, people here have worked continuously, crafting about 15,000 pastries a day. The recipe, passed on and exclusively known by the master confectioners who manufacture them, remains the same to this day. Both the original recipe as the name “Pastéis de Belém”are patented. Although one can enjoy custard tarts in many cafes and pastry shops, the original recipe is a unique secret of this confectionery.
It should be noted that Pastéis de Nata and Pastéis de Belém, although similar and with a common history, there are actually two different types of pastries. Pastéis de Nata, as its very name points out, contain cream among its ingredients, while Pastéis de Belém don’t have it as an ingredient, as it is crafted essentially from egg yolks and sugar.
Recipe for Pastéis de Nata
Serves – 24 pastries:
- 600g of Puff Pastry, homemade or store bought
- 500 ml milk
- 1 lemon peel
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 60g wheat flour
- 500g sugar
- 250 ml water
- 7 egg yolks
Dissolve the flour in a little milk.
Combine the remaining milk with the cinnamon stick and the lemon peel. Heat up to the boiling point, then add the flour and mix well. Heat up to the boiling point again then remove from heat.
In the another saucepan combine sugar and water them boil the mixture. The cooking time should be exactly 3 minutes.
Pour the sugar syrup into the milk with flour and mix well. Drain everything and allow to cool.
Once chilled mix with the egg yolks .
Prepare the muffin mold by greasing it with butter.
Roll the dough into a rectangle, cut the dough with a diameter slightly larger than the diameter of each mold.
With your thumbs, start pressing in the centre of the dough and spread it to the edges so that the dough becomes thicker, leaving the thinner dough in the bottom.
Fill the cream with ¾ the height of the mold – it is important, because during baking the cream will boil and can overflow.
Bake in a pre-heated oven (in my case – 270 degrees) for 17 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow cool down on the grill. Serve hot or cold, sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon.