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Portuguese Custard Tarts – one of our favourite tarts of all time!

Ever since we travelled to Porto for a mini break a few years ago we have been trying to reproduce the delicious Pasteis de Nata we tasted all over the city. A different thing entirely to traditional English custard tarts, the thin, light, crisp pastry surrounding a soft, sweet filling with a speckling of colour on the custard just this side of burnt, has eluded several attempts.

However, I think now we’ve finally cracked it. Whenever we serve these at the cooking school they get incredible feedback. So much so that we are now happy to go ahead and share the recipe we’ve settled on.

Makes 24:

You’ll need 2 x 12 cup deep muffin tins (or 1 and cook in 2 batches)

For the Pastry:

The pastry is actually Delia Smiths quick flaky pastry. It’s very simple and works a treat.

  • 100g unsalted butter (weighed out and frozen for 45 minutes))
  • 140g plain flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • Cold water
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • Plain flour for rolling

For the Custard:

  • 800ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
  • 1level tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 8 large egg yolks (or 10 medium)
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 30g plain flour


Make the Pastry:

  1. Using a medium grater, grate the butter into the flour and salt. Shake it as you go to make sure the butter doesn’t clump together.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of the cold water. Mix it all together then add 1 or two more tablespoons of water to just bring the dough together. Don’t worry that it looks a bit rough at this stage. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm or foil and refrigerate until needed.

Make the Custard:

  1. Put the milk and vanilla into a non-stick saucepan. Heat until it just comes to the boil then leave to cool while you mix the other ingredients.
  2. Mix the egg yolks, flour and sugar and beat by hand for a minute or two until it becomes soft and creamy.
  3. Pour the hot milk on to the egg mixture and stir for 30 seconds. Clean the saucepan, add the custard and return it to the heat. Heat the custard until it comes to the boil then reduce the heat and cook gently for a minute or two until it thickens.
  4. Put the custard in a clean bowl, place clingfilm on top of it to stop a skin forming then leave to cool.

Shape the Pastry:

  1. Remove the pastry from the fridge. On a floured surface roll into a rectangle about 3mm thick.
  2. Sprinkle the cinnamon onto the pastry and spread evenly all over with your hand. Roll up the dough lengthways keeping it as tight as you can.
  3. Cut the roll of dough into 24 equal slices.
  4. Flatten and roll each slice into a very thin circle large enough to line each cup of the muffin tins. Don’t worry if they look a bit scruffy. This is part of their charm.
  5. Put the trays into the fridge to allow the dough to relax whilst the oven heats up to 230C.

Fill and Bake the Tarts:

  1. When the oven is ready distribute the custard evenly between each tart case.
  2. Bake for 15 minutes by which time the custard should have risen slightly and have developed brown patches as the sugar in the custard starts to caramelise. If they are browning too quickly then turn down the oven by 10 degrees.
  3. Allow the tarts to cool for a few minutes before carefully removing them on to a cooling rack.

Eat the Tarts:

They can be enjoyed warm or cold.  If you’ve made a batch but don’t want to eat them all they will freeze well. Just place a few in a tupperware box and freeze for up to 3 months. You probably won’t need to though as they will all disappear pretty sharpish!