Pastéis de nata

Ash: What are these?
Pei: Pastéis de nata. Portuguese custard tart.
Ash: They’re very nommy. Have you blogged about them?
Pei: No, I haven’t taken a photo of them yet. But the way I’m eating them, there won’t be any left soon to take photos of.

Also known as pastel de nata (singular), there’s not a lot of other sweet things I love above this Portuguese miracle. The sweet, creamy, slightly caramelised custard contrasted with the flakey, buttery , crispy tart case is heaven in every bite, even better if it is slightly warm still.

Pasteis de nata... as you can see, I could not keep my teeth off them.
Pastéis de nata… as you can see, I could not keep my teeth off them.

Alas, like all good things, they’re quite expensive to buy. Only two places I know of in Lincoln sells them, and those are Nando’s and Patisserie Valerie. Neither which I can afford to go to regularly if I want to pay my bills.

When Jamie Oliver did his version of cheat’s Portuguese tart in his 30 Minute Meals show, I tried once, following his recipe and using store-bought puff pastry. It ended up in a failure (I’m sure it was my fault, but it was so long ago I don’t remember what happened… I think the custard was too watery and the puff pastry wasn’t cooked right) and I’ve not dared make them again. Until now.

I stumbled upon this recipe a few months ago but never got around to actually doing anything with it. A couple of days ago, I was searching long and hard for a recipe to use up the egg yolks I’ve accumulated from my obsessive macaron-making. I made lemon curd with any excess egg yolks in the past – did not end up using it. I needed something I am going to be eating.

Then I remembered I’ve always wanted to try pastéis de nata again, and this is the opportunity! And if it turns out well, it means I can use egg whites for my macarons (which I love), and then use the yolks for pastéis de nata, which I also love! Win-win. My, am I going to be fat(ter).

The trouble with the recipe was the fact that everything was in cups and tablespoons. Since I started my macaron journey, I have grown to hate cups as a measurement. Sure, it is easy, but it is so inaccurate. Especially with things like flour. Are we talking about a cup of sifted flour, or a cup of packed flour? It makes a difference! Is it a heaping tablespoon or a level tablespoon? If everyone just weighed everything, at least we can be scientifically consistent and we know the failure is not in the ingredient measurement, and it may just be technique.

So what I’ve gone and done is Google how much does one cup of flour should weigh (anywhere between 128g to 150g!) and try it that way. I ended up putting in 240g of flour for the pastry… and ended up with a dough that is too watery and sticky. Ended up adding more and more flour… so I think the 150g/cup is more accurate.

I did the dough a second time (because I ate all of the first batch before photographing them!) and yes, 2 cups of packed flour is the way to go and gives the best dough consistency.

I also did not have a work table area large enough for rolling out 18″x21″, so I had to improvise with a smaller area (did the book fold 3 times instead of twice), which I’m sure affected the end result. I’m a bit disappointed at the fact that I did not manage to get the nice even frilly edges (this is due to how I shape the dough in the muffin tins), but on the upside, it still tastes nice!

Mmm... flaky buttery goodness!
Mmm… flaky buttery goodness!

I also did not have mini muffin tins, so I used regular non-stick muffin tins, only shaped the dough 2/3 up the sides. It had to bake for longer though, around 12 minutes (checking regularly after 8 minutes) on the middle shelf in my oven to get the nice spotted browning on top. I did ramp up the heat as much as I could but the temperature marker on the oven only goes up to 250°C. If you use regular muffin trays, the pastry will only make around 24 tarts, but you will have loads of leftover custard, so it may be an idea to make two batches of the pastry if you hate wasting the lovely custard and make 48 tarts!

Note though, they taste the best the day they are baked.

Also, learn from my mistakes and do not overfill the pastry case. The custard will bubble up in the oven and will spill if you fill it up all the way, leading to burnt tarts stuck in the tin. To make life infinitely easier for you, when the recipe tells you to strain the mixture into a bowl, just strain it into a heatproof jug so when you pour the custard to fill the tarts, you have more control over the direction and the volume of custard that goes in!

I also tried using store-bought puff pastry again – and yes, the pastry doesn’t taste the same. The recipe pastry gives a nice, crispy, buttery golden flake, but ready-rolled store-bought puff pastry comes out paler, doughier, and chewier. My guess is Jus-Rol do not put that much butter in their ready-rolled puff pastry.

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