This recipe will teach you how to make the famous Portuguese custard tarts, Pasteis de Nata! The flaky crust pairs amazingly with the creamy custard. Make the dough a day ahead of time to make the process simpler the day of baking.
Pasteis de Nata
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¾ cup + 1 tbsp water
- 8 oz butter
- 1½ tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1⅔ cup half and half
- 1¼ cup sugar
- ⅛ tsp cinnamon
- ⅓ cup water
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks large
- In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt and water until a soft dough forms that pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 30 seconds. Alternatively, mix with a spoon or spatula for about 2 minutes and then kneed with your hands for about about 2 minutes, shaping the dough into a ball. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes before rolling it out.
- Cut the 8 ounces of butter into tabs and place on 3 separate plates, 1/3 of the butter on each plate.
- Flour your work surface and roll the dough into a 7" x 7" square. Flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 15 -30 minutes.
- Roll the dough into an 16" x 16" square. Make sure the underside is not sticking to your work surface. Add more flour to your work surface as needed. Brush the excess flour off the top of the dough. Using a spatula, dot and then spread ⅓ of the butter on ⅔ portion of the dough, being careful to leave a 1 inch (25 mm) border around the edge of the dough without butter. Neatly fold the un-buttered right ⅓ of the dough, using a pastry scraper to loosen if it sticks to the counter, over the middle ⅓ of the dough. Brush off any excess flour, then fold the left ⅓ of the dough over the top. The result should be about a 16" by 5" rectangle. Fold the rectangle over itself to create a rough square. Roll out the dough to again form a 16" x 16" square. Repeat this process twice more using the remaining ⅔ of the butter.
- With the dough in a 16" x 16" square, roll the dough into a log. Wrap the log in plastic and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or overnight. *At this point you can also freeze the dough for up to two months.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour and ¼ cup of the half and half until smooth to create a slurry.
- Bring the sugar, cinnamon, and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until about 215°F.
- In a large saucepan scald the remaining half and half. Bringing it up to about 180-190°F. Whisk the hot half and half into the flour slurry.
- While still hot, pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the half and half mixture whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and stir for a minute until very warm but not hot. Let the half and half/sugar/water mixture cool off for 10 minutes, or until the temperature drops below 150°F.
- Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time, and set aside. If desired, the custard can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
- Heat oven to 500-525 F°(285°C). Place an oven rack in the top third of the oven. Remove pastry roll from the refrigerator. Cut the pastry roll in about 1" rounds. After the first cut test the size before cutting the remainder of the dough. The size of your cut will depend on the size of your molds. To test, place a dough round, cut side down, into one muffin tin. Have a small cup of water nearby. Dip your thumb in the water, then press straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten the dough against the bottom and sides of the cup to a thickness of about 1/16 inch. Cut your remaining dough rounds smaller if the test yielded in excess dough.
- Fill each cup 80% full with the custard. Bake the pastries until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown, about 8- 13 minutes for the muffin tins.
- After 8 minutes if the Pastels de Nata are not caramelized. You can turn on the broiler and cook for a few more minutes until golden on top. Cook to an internal temperature of 165°F. 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. Optionally, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon and serve.