Portuguese Custard Tarts (Pasteis de Nata)

by Sheryl

For world-famous Pasteis de Nata, this slightly streamlined recipe uses only a few basic ingredients but needs numerous steps and a certain finesse. But you’re going to want to make a twin batch of the results. The additional humidity within the sticky dough, activated by a heated oven, creates a flaky buttery and crispy crust with subtly sweet custard, lemon, cinnamon, and vanilla.

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup cold water
1 stick of high-quality unsalted butter (fully softened, divided)

For the Sugar Syrup:

3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon water
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1 lemon, zested in large strips (optional)

For the Custard Base:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups milk
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

1. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, and cold water. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough combines and away from the sides of the bowl. deDough should be sticky, you can use more flour or water to achieve your desired stickiness.

2. Transfer dough to a floured surface. Dust over the top a bit more flour. To form a round shape, knead for a minute or two. Cover for 15 to 20 minutes and set aside.

3. Roll in a 1/8 inch thick square dough, dust as required with flour. The dough should still be sticky by now.

4. Spread one-third of the butter across 2/3 of the plate, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Use a silicone spatula. Flip the side over the center of the square and fold it like a letter to the opposite end. Trim the edges as appropriate.

5. Turn dough from the counter with a bench scraper, dust it with flour. Sprinkle over and flip with more flour. Roll dough into a 1/8-inch rectangle that extends the edges carefully when necessary. Spread another one-third of the butter over two-thirds of the dough. Fold into thirds. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and freeze for approximately 10 minutes until the butter is mildly chilled.

6. Spread the flour and roll the dough over 1/8 inch thick in a square. Put the rest of the butter in the dough and leave the border 1 to 1 1/2 “on the top side. Roll the dough from the lower side into a log. Dust and polish, if required, end with more flour, stick on the plastic wrap and cool for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

7. In a pot, add 1/4 cup of sugar, plus 1 tbsp water, cinnamon, and zest of lemon. Stir it over medium heat, until syrup reaches between 210 to 215 degrees F (100 ° C). Take it out of the heat.

8. Preheat oven 550 degrees F (288 ° C). Grease a muffin tin of 12-cup.

9. In a cold pot, whisk together flour, salt, and cold milk very carefully. Cook over medium heat until the milk thickens for about 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove from heat for at least ten minutes and let it cool down.

10. In the cooled milk, whisk egg yolks. Add the extract of sugar syrup and vanilla. Combine to mix. Put the custard into a cup of measurement glass.

11. Remove the wrap the dough and cut the ends into uneven bits. Score log in twelve even pieces with a knife.

12. In each muffin cup, place a piece of dough. Dip your thumb in cold water lightly. Push the thumb into the middle of the swirl; push the bottom and the cup’s sides to the top for at least one-eight inch. Fill custard for every cup 3/4 of the way.

13. Bake for about 12 min in a preheated oven until the pastry is browned and bubbled and blistered. Briefly cool tarts and serve warm.

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