Pasties de Nata – The Delectable Portuguese Custard Tarts

Pasties De Nata - The portuguese custard tarts
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Rich and  creamy custard baked in a  flaky pastry shell,  that is  one  way to describe  Pasties  de Nata. Does  this description do it  justice ? Of  course not, this delectable  pastry is  rustic  and  dreamy  at  the  same  time. The pastry crust  is  flaky  and  melt in the  mouth, the  custard  is   rich and   creamy, baked  just   set.  No  gimmicks,  exotic ingredients , no pretensions – just  simple  down to  earth  goodness ..

 

Pasties De Nata - The portuguese custard tarts

Not surprising,  as this is  a desert  with rich history.   This popular  Portuguese desert  traces its  origin back to  a  more (Is that even possible ? ) delectable  treat – Pasties de Belem. The  recipe  for Pasties de Belem comes from the  17th  Catholic  Monks  of Lisbon.  This  recipe  was later sold  to a sugar  refinery in the  Belem district of  Lisbon, Portugal, and the  family still owns  it  till date.  With  so much history  is it any  wonder  that the recipe for  this  desert is a  closely guarded  secret,  known to only  a   handful of  people  who  are  not  allowed  to travel  together? Talk  about  trade   secrets ..

My recipe  here  is a  quick version. Usually I like  to make  the pastry shells   from  scratch when  possible.  I have   made  these  with  store bought  sheets and my easy puff pastry   shells  as  well. The  results  are  absolutely  wonderful each time.

This recipe  uses half a  dozen  egg  yolks.    So what  happens  to the  whites ?   In the olden  days the  egg  whites  were  used  to  starch the  habits  of  monks and   nuns  and  the  left over  yolks  found its  way into  pastries  and   cakes.    Essentially  this  desert  was  made  because of  the  monk’s  habit  habit ??

Pasties De Nata - The portuguese custard tarts

That  was  then,  you  won’t  find  me  using  the  left over egg whites  to starch  clothes. Whites  are  such potent wonderful source of  protein  and   there  are  so  many ways to use  the  them  – omelettes,  macaroons, meringues whatever you fancy.  Even in this  recipe you can  add up to  2 whole  eggs   and  use  the  remaining  yolks,  the  pastry  will be  a little less rich, but  still  delicious.

Here is a  quick  pictorial over view of  the   recipe. Read  on t o  find  out  more …

Making Pasties De Nata

Mix 1/4 C  milk  with  the  cornstarch   and  set  aside. Take the  remaining milk , sugar  a  pinch of  salt  and  the  cinnamon stick  in a  medium sauce pan . Bring  to boil  over  medium heat .

Beat  the  egg yolks  lightly in a  cup. To this  pour a  little  of  the  hot cinnamon milk,   about 1/4 C, while    whisking   the  egg mixture constantly.  This  warms  up  the  egg  mix   without  curdling the  egg.  Return  the  saucepan to the  stove over  low heat.  Slowly pour  the  corn starch mixture  followed by the yolk mixture  to the  hot  milk. Keep  stirring  the   milk  to prevent  lumps  from  forming .

Keep the  flame  on medium to low   setting and  cook the  custard  till it  thickens.  As  it  gets  cooked  the  cornstarch  reachs  its  full thickening  power  and  the  custard  visibly  thickens.  Remove  from  the  heat  and  mix in the vanilla  extract once  the  custard  has  thickened. Do not  let   the  mix  come  to a  boil .

Turn the  heat off   and  strain the  custard  and  set  aside to cool to  room temperature .  At  this  point  the   custard  can be  refrigerated  for  future  use.   It  stays  fresh   for  2  to 3  days .

Spray or  brush  a  medium  size  muffin pan  with  oil .   Do not   forget   this  step even if  the  muffin  pan has nonstick  coating.  Cut  the   puff pastry sheets  into 3 to 4 inch  sides  squares –  large enough  to the line  the  muffin  cups. Line the  muffin cups  with  the  pastry sheets. Gentry stretch and  press  along  the  sides, leaving a  little  overhang.  Pour the  prepared  custard over  the  sheets,  filling  about  3/4  way of each cup.

Pasties De Nata - The portuguese custard tarts

Into  a 500° F oven  it  goes  for  about 10 minutes .  Keep  an eye  out , remove   from the oven  as  the  tops begin to brown.

The  traditional  ovens  in  which these  tarts  were  made can reach  very high  temperatures  – 800 to 900° F as  in the  wood  fired  pizza  ovens or the   tandoors.   If  you are  lucky to have  access  to one   by all means  use  them. The  charring   and  browning from such high temperatures  are  unique. Cool the  pastries  in the pan for a  few  minutes.  Transfer them to a cooling  rack .

These  are  best  served  the same  day.  This  is  one  dish I  would  not  recommend  making  ahead. The  custard  can be  made a  couple  days in   advance  and  the  pastry  sheets   freeze  well.   On the  day of  baking ,  leave  the  pastry sheets on the  counter  for  20  to  30 minutes  till it   softens a  little.

So here is  the    recipe  for  Pasties  De Nata

Pasties de Nata
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
2 hrs
 

These are  mini custard  tarts  usually made  in a  very hot  oven .  The  pastry crust  is   flaky and melts  in the  mouth  while  the   custard  offers a smooth  and  delicious  contrast. 

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Portuguese
Servings: 9 Tarts
Author: Syama
Ingredients
  • 1 9 X 9 Puff Pastry Sheet
For Custard
  • 1 1/2 C Milk
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 6 Egg Yolks
  • 2 1 Inch Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1/2 Tsp Vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp Corn Starch
Instructions
  1. Whisk 1/4 C milk with the corn starch and set aside.
  2. Separate the yolks from the whites and whisk the yolks together for 1 minute.
  3. Heat the remaining milk with sugar and cinnamon sticks. Take off the heat as soon as the milk begins to boil.
  4. Slowly pour about 1/4 C of the hot milk into the yolk mixture , while mixing continuously.
  5. Return the remaining milk to heat. Keep the heat at medium. Slowly drizzle in the cornstarch mix , followed by the egg yolk mix while stirring the milk continuously. The custard thickens visibly in about a minute. Turn off the heat and mix in the vanilla extract.
  6. Strain the custard and set aside (refrigerate) until it cools to room temperature.
  7. Preheat the oven to 500°F(260°C).
  8. Leave the puff pastry sheet at room temperature till it softens enough to be handled without breaking.
  9. Coat a standard 12 C muffin tin with oil. Cut the pastry sheet into squares about 3"X3". Gently stretch the squares and line the muffin cups. Fill the lined cups 2/3 of the way with the custard.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes till the tops begin to brown.
  11. Remove from the oven, let cool in the pan for a couple of minutes. Transfer to a serving platter.
  12. Serve fresh.

 

I have  yet  to  visit Portugal – but if  you  ever  happen to be  there be sure to sample  the tarts  from Casa Pasteis De Belem and  judge for yourselves.  But  right now I can  tell you that “Pasties De Nata is  a must  try”.

 

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Pasties De Nata - The Portuguese custard tarts


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    15 thoughts on “Pasties de Nata – The Delectable Portuguese Custard Tarts

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