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.
You’ll need 2 x 12 jam tart tins (or 1 and cook in 2 batches), well buttered to stop any sticking if not non-stick
For the Pastry
- 1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry about 30x20cm
- a bit of milk
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
For the Custard
- 600ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
- 1level tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- 6 large egg yolks
- 80g caster sugar
- 30g plain flour
- 1tbsp cornflour
Make the Custard:
- Put the milk into a non-stick saucepan. Heat until it just comes to the boil then leave to cool while you mix the other ingredients.
- Mix the egg yolks, flours and sugar and beat by hand for a minute or two until it becomes soft and creamy.
- 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. Stir in the vanilla bean paste or extract.
- Put the custard in a clean bowl, place clingfilm or waxed paper on top of it to stop a skin forming then leave to cool.
Shape the Pastry
- Remove the pastry from the fridge.
- Brush a little milk over the surface of the pastry and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Roll up the dough lengthways keeping it as tight as you can.
- Cut the roll of dough into 24 equal slices.
- On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to flatten and roll each slice into a very thin circle large enough to line each cup of the jam tart tins. If you roll it in one direction and then pick up the dough and turn it 90 degrees before rolling in the same direction as before, you’ll stop the pastry sticking to your work surface and keep it in a circle. Do this carefully so you don’t get any holes forming in the centre of the spiral.
- Put the trays into the fridge to allow the dough to relax whilst the oven heats up to 230C.
You can obviously use shortcrust pastry and just cut out rounds but then you won’t get the lovely crispy layers from the puff pasty or the swirl of cinnamon in the base. We don’t recommend just using cut-outs of puff pastry as they will rise up as they are supposed to and push out your lovely custard.
Fill and Bake the Tarts
- When the oven is ready distribute the custard evenly between each tart case.
- 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.
- 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!
David and Hollyx