After tasting the exquisite Pastéis de Nata from Comme à Lisbonne in Paris, these delicious custard tarts from Portugal are easy to make at home - by cheating with ready made puff pastry.
Where is Pastéis de Nata From?
According to Comme à Lisbonne, the Pastel de Nata (or Pastel de Belém) is from Portugal. These popular custard tarts are to Lisbon what the macaron is to Paris.
They were created before the 18th century by monks at the Jeronimos Monastery in the Belém district in Lisbon. As large quantities of egg whites were used for starching clothes in the monasteries and convents, they discovered this delicious way of using up the egg yolks.
They’re also particularly popular in Lusosphere countries and regions – including Brazil, Cape Verde, Goa, Macau … We also tried the very same tarts, Chinese Style, with Ann Mah at the legendary Jing Fong’s Dim Sum restaurant in New York.
Although Portugal is the country where the most popular custard tarts are from, there's also a delicious French apple custard tart from Alsace in France - although, with apples, it's not quite the same!
Easy Recipe for Custard Tarts
To taste the genuine Pastéis de nata in Paris, we love to buy them at Comme à Lisbonne.
However, at home, we can make them at home. To make it easy, I cheat and use ready-made puff pastry. There's nothing wrong with that. Just remember to use a good quality all-butter puff pastry. I use either defrosted (here in France, Picard do a good frozen puff), or ready-rolled (these are in packets of 230g and so easy to use).
In France, you can also ask your local boulangerie for some of their homemade puff pastry (normally needs to be ordered in advance).
If not ready-rolled, just roll out the pastry to 3-5mm thickness and cut out your circles according to the recipe below.
Baking Pastéis de Natas
One factor that's not easy to control is the traditional extra hot oven needed to make traditional sized custard tarts more genuine looking. As not all of our home kitchen ovens can go up as high as professional ovens to give them that beautifully scorched look, put it as high as you can - and keep an eye on them!
I'd suggest 7-10 minutes if it's very hot, otherwise for about 10-15 minutes.
How to Make Pastéis de Nata
Recipe inspired by Denise Browning at EasyandDelish, who adapted it from the cookbook, "Cozinha Tradicional Porguguesa". Denise made mini tarts, whereas I made a slightly bigger, more traditional size like they serve at Comme à Lisbonne. So I used half quantity to fill regular muffin moulds, and cut down the sugar slightly, using a vanilla pod/bean instead of the extract.
Makes 12 tartlets (using 2x 6-cavity non-stick muffin moulds @ 7cm diameter)
1. Chill a bowl in the fridge. Put the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla seeds (scraped from a pod cut in half down the middle horizontally) in a saucepan and mix well using a balloon whisk until you have a creamy paste. Gradually add the milk, whisking until mixed well together.
2. Put the pan on a medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove pan from the heat. (If you don't use the vanilla pod, add the extract at this point and taste test - see notes in the recipe card below).
Transfer the custard to the chilled bowl and immediately cover it with cling film to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside to cool.
3. Lightly oil or butter the muffin moulds and preheat the oven preferably to the highest setting - I used 250°C/480°F/230°C mark 9.
4. On a lightly floured surface - roll the pastry if needed - using a cookie cutter or glass (about 9cm diameter, slightly bigger than the 7cm diameter muffin cavity), cut out discs and press them into each cavity. Spoon in the cooled custard about ¾ to the top then bake for 7-10 minutes.
Keep an eye on them! You want them slightly scorched but not completely.
5. Leave to cool in the moulds/tins for about 5 minutes then turn them out on to a wire rack.
Do you Eat Pastel de Nata Hot or Cold?
As there are many Portuguese living in and around Paris, we are spoiled to see Pastéis de nata (or Pastel de nata) regularly in our local boulangeries.
Served cold but even better, serve slightly warm as they do at the bakery in Paris.
As they do in Portugal, lightly dust with cinnamon.
Pastéis de Nata Custard Tarts
- 4 egg yolks organic
- 75 g (2½oz) sugar
- 15 g (1 tbsp) cornflour/cornstarch
- 1 vanilla pod/bean scraped of seeds (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract/powder)*
- 250 ml (1 cup) whole milk
- 230 g (8oz) puff pastry 1 pack of ready-rolled or a pack of frozen puff, defrosted
- Powdered cinnamon to serve
- Chill a bowl in the fridge. Off the heat, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract or seeds (scraped from a pod cut in half down the middle horizontally) in a saucepan using a balloon whisk until you have a creamy paste. Gradually add the milk, whisking until mixed well together.
- Put the pan on a medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove pan from the heat. (If you don’t use the vanilla pod, add the extract or powder at this point). Transfer the custard to the chilled bowl and immediately cover it with cling film to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside to cool.
- Lightly oil or butter the muffin moulds and preheat the oven - preferably to the highest setting at 250°C/480°F/230°C mark 9.
- On a lightly floured surface – roll the pastry if needed – using a cookie cutter or glass (about 9cm diameter, slightly bigger than the 7cm diameter muffin cavity), cut out discs and press them into each cavity. Spoon in the cooled custard about ¾ to the top then bake for 7-10 minutes until the custard is blistered on the top.
- Leave to cool in the moulds/tins for about 5 minutes then turn them out on to a wire rack.
How much vanilla extract for a pod?A vanilla bean/pod is preferable for this recipe but if you prefer to use extract or powder, then use it quite sparingly depending on the brand you use. I say use a teaspoon but taste the custard first. If it needs more, add more but better to dose carefully. Some brands use much more - see Nielsen Massey's instructions.