Pasteis de Nata (Portugese Tarts)

I love these tarts. I first tried them in their homeland of Portugal. I even sat and ate several in the grounds of Casa Pasteis de Belem – the famous home of these tarts. They were soooo good! I have never found a tart that lived up to the ones I tried in Portugal. So why not give it a go?

This is my third attempt now. There was a couple of years between this last attempt and the previous 2 but the last was better. Certainly the custard was good. I think my oven is hotter also. I still have some work to do on the pastry though – it was really difficult! Need to do some more research on that. I brought the batch into work and they were gone in no time so I think they were good enough.

Adapted from this recipe from Leite’s Culinaria – it uses a very hot oven for a short period of time. I found my pastry burned a little before the spots appeared on the custard – although maybe that was my pastry. This recipe recommends using a mini-muffin pan but I thought that looked way too small. I used a standard muffin tin. Anyway, still good enough to enjoy!



2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup plus two tablespoons water
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, stirred until smooth


3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk, divided
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks, whisked


To make the Pastry:

  1. In a food processor, mix the flour, salt, and water until a soft, pillowy dough forms that cleans the side of the bowl, about 30 seconds.
  2. The recipe I followed says to generously flour a work surface and pat the dough into a 6-inch square using a pastry scraper as a guide. I didn’t have a scraper and found the dough to be extremely sticky so I covered my work surface with cling wrap first and then floured that. It still stuck a bit but was easier to peel off than scrap off the bench. Flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  3. IMG_0009
  4. Roll the dough into an 18-inch square. As you work, use the scraper* to lift the dough to make sure the underside isn’t sticking. (*if using one)
  5. Brush excess flour off the top, trim any uneven edges, and using a small offset spatula dot and then spread the left two-thirds of the dough with a little less than one-third of the butter to within 1 inch of the edge. I found this very difficult to do. The butter would rip holes in the pastry even though I had softened it by beating it with hand-held beaters. I did the best I could 🙂
  6. Neatly fold over the unbuttered right third of the dough (using the pastry scraper to loosen it if it sticks), brush off any excess flour, then fold over the left third. Starting from the top, pat down the packet with your hand to release air bubbles, then pinch the edges closed. Brush off any excess flour.
  7. Turn the dough packet 90 degrees to the left so the fold is facing you. Lift the packet and flour the work surface. Once again roll out to an 18-inch square, then dot and spread the left two-thirds of the dough with one-third of the butter, and fold the dough as in steps 4 and 5.
  8. For the last rolling, turn the packet 90 degrees to the left and roll out the dough to an 18-by-21-inch rectangle, with the shorter side facing you. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface.
  9. Using the spatula as an aid, lift the edge closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from the underside as you go. Trim the ends and cut the log in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or preferably overnight. I chilled for 5 hours.


To make the Custard:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Bring the sugar, cinnamon, and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 220°F (100°C). Do not stir.
  3. Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, scald the remaining 1 cup milk. Whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture.
  4. Remove the cinnamon stick then pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot milk-and-flour mixture, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and stir for a minute or two until very warm but not hot (until you can stick your finger in it without wincing). Whisk in the yolks, strain the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Assemble and bake the pastries:

  1. Heat the oven to 550°F (290°C). Remove a pastry log from the refrigerator and roll it back and forth on a lightly floured surface until it’s about an inch in diameter and 16 inches long. Cut it into 3cm pieces. Place a piece cut-side down in each well of a nonstick 12-cup muffin pan. Allow the dough pieces to soften several minutes until pliable.
  2. Have a small cup of water nearby. Dip your thumbs into the water, then straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the cup till its quite thin, then smooth the dough up the sides and create a raised lip about 1/8 inch above the pan. The pastry sides should be thinner than the bottom.
  3. Fill each cup 3/4 full with the slightly warm custard. Bake the pasteis until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown, about 8 to 9 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow the pasteis to cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack and cool until just warm. Repeat with the remaining pastry and custard. If you prefer, the components can be refrigerated up to three days. The pastry can be frozen up to three months.
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Posted in Baking

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