Portuguese Custard Tarts (Pasteis de Nata)

One thing we fell in love with on our Easter trip to Lisbon was the amazing custard tarts. Still warm and enjoyed while taking a well deserved rest in a leafy park, they became a daily tradition. We discovered it was definitely worth getting a couple each, as one was simply not enough!

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After a full day wandering the streets (and hills!) of Lisbon, we rewarded ourselves with some tasty Pasteis de Nata in a park in the Bairro Alto. Bliss!

All in all, Portugal was a beautiful place to visit, full of castles, pastel-coloured buildings with terracotta roofs, stunning glazed tiles, quaint cobbled roads twisting their way up steep hills, and plenty of shaded parks in which to relax. In addition to the delicious tarts, we lived off small cups of strong coffee, ice cream, seafood and sangria. So European!

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A taste of Portugal in my Kiwi kitchen!

I was determined to recreate some of this feeling upon returning home, and as my husband is a great lover of custard, I thought I’d give these tarts a whirl. Surprisingly, they were much simpler than I expected! I found this very helpful recipe from Not Quite Nigella, in which cream has been substituted for milk (to make them healthier, ha!). I added in some extra flavouring, and voila!

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A few tips:

  1. Do infuse your custard with lemon or lime peel + a stick of cinnamon, it really adds a great depth of flavour.
  2. The instructions to roll out the pastry are a bit unusual, but not actually that hard. It’s worth doing it this way (rather than cutting out circles of pastry), because not only do you not waste pastry around the corners, but it means that the pastry doesn’t rise as much, so the custard doesn’t ooze out and create a mess. Trust me on this one, I tried both ways! You could probably use a different kind of pastry, but I haven’t tried.
  3. Apparently the cooked pastry goes soggy if you try to store them. The recipe makes 12 tarts, so I just make 6 at a time, and keep the custard in the fridge. It will keep for a few days. One square of pastry (~150g) will make 6 tarts. They are best served warm.
  4. To get the caramelised top, make sure your oven is set to fan bake. You may like to place the tray in the upper 1/3 of the oven too. Just keep an eye on them though, as you don’t want the pastry being burnt to a crisp.
  5. Feel free to swap some of the milk for cream, as in the original recipe (230ml cream + 170ml milk). The custard is pretty rich with milk, but I’m sure it would be delicious with cream too! Given that ‘nata’ means cream in Portuguese… not using cream is perhaps a little inauthentic!
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To roll out the pastry for six tarts: cut one 150g square of pastry in half and layer one piece on top of the other. Roll up into a tube, and cut 1cm rounds. Place these on their sides and flatten them with a rolling pin to about 10cm in diameter.

Do let me know if you make them, they’re much easier than you’d expect! An easy weeknight dessert!

Portuguese Custard Tarts (Pasteis de Nata)

Ingredients

  • 2 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour
  • 400ml whole milk
  • the peeled rind of 1 lemon or lime
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 300g puff pastry sheets (this is equivalent to 2 sheets of Pams Puff Pastry)

Instructions

  1. To a medium saucepan add: egg yolks, egg, sugar and cornflour. Whisk to combine.
  2. Gradually add milk and continue whisking until combined. Add lemon/lime rind and stick of cinnamon.
  3. Place over a medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent burning, but not too often, or the custard can split. Allow to thicken and boil.
  4. Remove from the heat, remove rind and cinnamon, and add vanilla. Stir to combine.
  5. Transfer custard to a bowl and place cling wrap over surface of custard to prevent a skin from forming. Allow custard to cool. Keep in the fridge until you want to use it.
  6. Preheat oven to 200ºC, fan bake. Grease a 12-hole muffin tray with butter.
  7. To prepare tarts, layer the two sheets of pastry, and roll up into a log. Cut 12 x 1cm rounds. Use a rolling pin to flatten these out, and press into the muffin tray. See the picture above, or refer to Not Quite Nigella’s recipe if this isn’t clear.
  8. Spoon cooled custard into the pastry, about two dollops per tart should do.
  9. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until pastry is golden. Allow to cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool further. Best served fresh and warm.

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