Thank you for this great recipe!
I want to start by thanking Chez Fred for his detailed recipe steps and in-depth research on this dessert. Although it was a bit of work, Chez Fred explained all the steps so well that I finally succeeded against my nemesis dessert. I did it!
I want to give Chez Fred full credit for this recipe. I kept the ingredients pretty much the same and changed some of the steps but credit goes to Chez Fred. Please visit Chez Fred on SnapGuide.com for this and many other delicious looking recipes.
A bit about these custard tarts…
These tarts are known as Pastéis de Nata, in Portuguese. They have a nice flaky crust and a delicious custard filling. These are a copy of the famous Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal. Pastéis de Belém have been made for almost 200 years. The recipe is a secret and only gets passed down from generation to generation. Apparently, the recipe isn’t even written down.
Pastéis de Belém and pastéis de nata are the most recognized dessert in Portugal. Some travel magazines actually list eating Pastéis de Belém at the namesake cafe and bakery as one of the top 10 things you must do when visiting Portugal. How cool is that? A dessert that’s also a tourist attraction.
I’ve never had the pleasure of eating Pastéis de Belém, or visiting the famous bakery in mainland Portugal (yet) but I have eaten my fair share of pastéis de nata over the years, and I love them!
My nemesis no more!
These custard tarts are readily available all over the Greater Toronto Area at Portuguese bakeries and even some Italian bakeries. You can now even find them sold in half-dozen packs at some non-portuguese grocery stores. They’ve certainly made a name for themselves.
You would think that I’d be happy enough with the easy access to this delicious dessert. Nope! I needed to make them myself. During my first few attempts, I made the mistake of trying to come up with a version of my own (too soon for a novice pastéis de nata maker). I’ve tried making theses using store-bought puff pastry, I’ve tried a variety of temperatures, I’ve used more eggs and fewer eggs, etc., to no avail.
Before today’s attempt, I had 7 failed attempts! This dessert became my nemesis. It was a running joke at home. Whenever Liz saw me bring out the familiar baking tins she’d chuckle and say, “You just won’t give up, will you?” or “I’m worried this may drive you to madness”. I finally gave in and decided I needed to use a tried and true, tested and proven recipe. Thanks to Chez Fred, my 8th attempt was the one! These scrumptious desserts turned out great! I was so happy when I pulled them out of the oven and saw the characteristic look of golden custard with toasted black marks on the custard. Then when they cooled, I gave one a little squeeze and heard the familiar delicate and perfect crunch of the pastry. It was a mic-drop moment. But I’m not crazy. I wasn’t about to drop this dessert… so I took a bite instead.
Are they good?
We don’t even have to ask that question. Uh…yes!
These tarts are a touch smaller then the bakery-made versions. It could be due to the tins I used. I don’t know what they use in bakeries. Regardless, they are delicious and I’m thrilled with the final product.
I didn’t let my 7 attempts and failures stop me. I learned that I wasn’t ready to modify such a unique and special dessert…at least not yet. I can play around with a lot of savoury dishes and plenty of sweets too, but this dessert is different. I realized I needed to learn from experienced folks who have gotten this down-pat already. Each attempt taught me something new and everything made so much sense by the 8th attempt when I discovered and followed Chez Fred’s recipe.
Whether it’s in the kitchen or another of life’s challenges, embrace them as opportunities to learn and improve yourself. Seek a mentor, tread a new path, learn from other people’s experiences and knowledge–we do not have to go-it alone. Don’t let a challenge or set-back keep you down or slow you down! Be persistent and resourceful and go after your goals…even if it’s just about a Portuguese dessert. The point is, they’re your goals.
Reach for your gold, and along the way you’ll have to eat…so eat well, friends!
Portuguese Custard Tarts are the most iconic Portuguese dessert. The famous Pastéis de Belém (original tart) are actually a tourist attraction in Portugal!
- 250 g all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp water, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 pinches salt
- 3/4 cups minus 1 tbsp water, room temperature
- 270 g sugar
- Lemon zest, from one lemon
- 2 stick cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups minus 1 tbsp cream (10% or half and half)
- 35 g all-purpose flour
- 6 egg yolks, room temperature
Make a little volcano in the middle of the flour.
Slowly add water to the centre and mix slowly with a fork or your (clean) fingers while you pour. If you pour too quickly, the water will spill over the flour, so mix a little and pour a little.
Knead/work the dough with your hand. Just like kneading dough for bread. Do this for about 5 minutes.
Make a little ball. note: It shouldn't stick to your hands at this point.
Dust some flour on the top and bottom of the dough ball and cover with a dry towel.
Let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes minutes.
In a medium bowl, cut the stick of butter in small pieces and add the 2 pinches of salt.
Use a fork to mash the butter until smooth and soft (should look like very soft vanilla ice cream).
Dust (lightly sprinkle) a clean large surface with flour.
Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a long thin even-shaped rectangle. Dust with flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin or surface. Flip the dough over a few times to roll both sides evenly.
Using a spatula, butter knife or your fingers, spread a thin layer of butter on the flat dough.
Lightly mark a line at one and two thirds of the length of the dough. Basically, you're trying to divide the length in three equal part.
Fold the dough from the right, towards the left to the second line (two thirds of the way across).
Fold the dough from the left to reach the right edge (close it like a book). Your dough should resemble a small rectangle. The dough should be thin.
Dust a baking sheet with flour, place the dough on the baking sheet and dust the top with more flour.
Cover the dough with parchment paper and place it in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes.
Clean the surface where you rolled the dough before and dust with flour again.
Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on the dusted surface. Point the open edges away from and towards you.
Dust the top of the dough with flour.
Repeat the last 10 steps twice (starting at using the rolling pin to roll the dough into a long thin even-shaped rectangle).
Once the dough comes out of the fridge for the fourth time, roll it out into a large rectangle like previously, only this time you will carefully and evenly roll the length of the dough into a tight long tube shape. Note: don't try to do this fast!
Trim the edges with a sharp knife for a nice even cut.
Cut the dough "tube" in half.
Wrap one half with cling wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes (wrap and place the other half in the freezer. it lasts about 6 months. You only need half the dough for this recipe.
Cut the dough into 16 equal size wheels, about 3/4 inch or just under 2 cm.
Have a bowl of cold water handy.
Dip your fingers in cold water so the dough doesn't stick to your fingers.
Place a round piece of dough on the bottom of the tin.
Start pressing/pushing the dough circle into the bottom and up the sides all around the tin.
This process will take a bit of time. At the end, you should have a thin layer at the bottom and covering the sides to the edge. The bottom should be thin but not ripped.
Repeat the last three steps until you've used all of the dough.
Place all the covered tins on the baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 550 °F. Our oven's regular temperature only goes to 500 °F, but I can also set it to 500 °F on convection which is equivalent to 550 °F on the regular setting. It's very important to use a hot oven. This will ensure the tops come out toasty.
Pour the water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon zest in a medium bowl and heat on medium high.
Once it reaches a slow boil, keep cooking for about 4 minutes or until you've achieved a syrup (can coat the back of a spoon and drips slowly). If you have a candy thermomter, the temp. should be 100 °C or 212 °F. Set aside off the stove (discard the lemon zest and cinnamon stick).
Place the flour in a medium bowl and pour about 1/4 cup of cream over the flour.
Pour the rest of the cream into a sauce pot and heat on medium high.
Whisk the flour and cream until smooth.
Once the cream starts to boil, pour it over the flour/cream mixture and keep whisking.
Measure 1 cup of the syrup mixture and add it to the cream mixture, whisk together. (discard the rest of the syrup or use it in a drink).
Add a spoonful or two of the custard mixture to the egg yolks and whisk to avoid turning them to scrambled eggs.
Add the egg yolk mixture over the custard mixture and whisk well.
Remove the baking sheet with the tins from the fridge.
Pour the custard mixture into each of the tins to about 3/4 of the height of the dough. Discard the rest of the custard mix. There shouldn't be much left.
Carefully place the baking sheet in the hot oven on the middle rack and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the tarts cool for about 15 minutes. They'll look puffy when they come out of the oven, but will then drop a little. This is normal.
Enjoy your homemade Portuguese custard tarts with a little cinnamon, plain, warm or cool!An espresso is a perfect match for these tarts!
- Special Note/Disclaimer: Our tagline is "Simple Delicious Recipes for the Home Cook". In this particular case, the recipe took me 8 tries until I got it to what I was aiming for. This isn't to say that you need to be a trained chef to make these tarts, you may even find it very simple, but It did take me a few attempts to get it right. Please read all the instructions and ingredients before you start cooking.
- The dough in this recipe is enough for two batches of tarts. Cut the dough in half as per the instructions and freeze half for another day. You can also double the custard if you prefer to make more tarts.
- You will need single muffin tins and a baking sheet for this recipe. Since you'll be heating the oven to over 500 °F, don't use non-stick tins or baking sheet. Non-stick coating can deteriorate at very high temperatures and be unsafe for your health.
- Our tart crust came out flaky and thin. If you prefer it thicker, use more of the second piece of dough and make the wheels thicker.
- Our instructions say 60 minutes prep time. This doesn't include wait time.
- The tins weren't readily available near us. My parent found some in the Azores and sent me a care package. I have since seen these (or similar ones) on eBay and Amazon.