Pastéis de Nata II | Portuguese Custard Tarts

I was inspired to create this recipe after trying a similar version in “Foods of the Azores Islands” by Deolinda Maria Avila. [Editor's Note: This title is currently out of print, although used copies can still be found online.] This riff, which uses a tart dough, is simpler to make and dispenses with the tedious rolling, folding, and re-rolling of massa folhada, or Portugal’s take on puff pastry.–David Leite

LC How Very Contrary Note

These custard tarts are a little fickle in that they require all of the ingredients for the pastry be well chilled and, conversely, all of the ingredients for the custard be at room temperature. How very contrary. And yet soooo worthwhile.

Portuguese Pastéis de Nata Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Makes 12 tarts

Ingredients

  • For the pastry
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 5 to 7 tablespoons ice water
  • For the custard
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks

Directions

  • Make the pastry
  • 1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, salt and sugar to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the flour resembles coarse cornmeal, about 10 pulses.
  • 2. Drizzle 5 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture in the processor and pulse several times to work the water into the flour. Add the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue pulsing until the mixture develops small curds. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a disc, and wrap it well. Refrigerate until chilled through, at least 1 hour.
  • 3. On a lightly floured surface, roll half the dough to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut out six 4 1/2-inch circles. (If you don’t have a cookie cutter this large, a wide-mouth jar works well.) Ease the dough circles into a nonstick muffin tin with 12 standard-size (4 ounce) cups. Gently press out any overlapping folds in the pastry. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the muffin tin in the freezer for 5 minutes. Remove and trim any overhang using the back of a knife so the pastry cups are flush with the top of the tin. Nestle a paper cupcake liner in each dough cup and fill it with dried beans or pastry weights. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the tin to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  • Make the custard
  • 4. Keep the oven at 350°F (180°C).
  • 5. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup of the cream. Add the remaining cream and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is smooth. Just to be sure, dip a spoon in the mixture and peer closely to check for sugar granules; none should remain. In a small bowl, blend the yolks with a fork until smooth. Slowly add the yolks to the cream mixture, stirring gently to combine.
  • 6. Remove the paper liners and pastry weights from the partially baked pastry cups. Ladle the custard into the cups, filling each one 2/3 full. Bake until the edges of the custard are puffed and middle is still jiggly, about 20 to 25 minutes. (The center of the custard will continue to cook a little from the residual heat, even after you take it out of the oven.) Transfer the tin of tarts to a wire rack and let cool completely. The pastéis are best when devoured the same day.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Comments
Comments
  1. Lina da Mata says:

    Yes, David, BUT what makes these pastries be more than “just another cream tart” IS the laminated dough. What can compare to biting into the crackling layers of that nearly impossible to duplicate buttery shell filled with that rich baked custard?

  2. dan says:

    hi david, can I know how this is different from your pastéis de nata recipe? technically aren’t pastéis de nata and portugese cream starts supposed to be the same? thanks.

    • David Leite says:

      Hi, Dan. they are, indeed, both the same desert. I just included both as different ways of getting there.

  3. PF Martins says:

    Dear David, love your stuff and am very grateful for what you do for Portuguese cuisine. However, in order to honour the literally thousands of pasteis I’ve downed so far, I must say that this version carries no resemblance whatsoever to either the Pastel de Nata or the Pastel de Belém.

    This custard is plain English custard and by all means substantially different from the Portuguese filling. As you’ve also mentioned, the making of the real dough, i.e. massa folhada, is very time consuming and also technically challenging (been there, screwed up my few first lots and eventually done that) but a world apart from any simplified version of it. Nevertheless, I rather have a single crumble of the real thing than a kg of regular tart dough.
    It also cooks at a far higher temperature that 180ºC.

    The version shown on your provided link looks much closer to the real thing even if, allow me a bit more fussiness, I could tell straight away that that puff pastry is “just” a classic puff pastry which happens to be a bit different from massa folhada – to the fanatical eye it looks slightly distinguishable, it tastes quite different. It is, basically, all in the texture. Puff pastry is greasier, thinner, softer and it crumbles in tinier pieces; massa folhada is therefore the opposite, it offers a lot more resistance to the bite.

    Keep the excellent work.

    P

    • David Leite says:

      PF, you’re comment is a bit giveth and taketh! Thank you for the kind words about my work.

      There are two recipes on the site for pastéis de nata. One that I got from a Portuguese chef living in Lisbon and who was trained at the culinary academy there, and this one. This one was added because many people found the other version to hard to make. You can find the one from Lisbon pastéis de nata recipe here.

  4. Valerie Fidrych says:

    David,where can I learn the recipe for the Soupas that the San Miguel Azoreans use when we celibrate the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo? Thanking you in advance,

    • David Leite says:

      Valerie, I think a great place to start to learn about sopas and the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres is in the book “Portuguese Homestyle Cooking” by Ana Patuleia Ortins. I believe she has a recipe for the sopas and some information on the festa. You can lso read about the festa in Ponta Delgada in my article Feeding the Feast.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail