Try your hand at these delicious, beautiful Portuguese egg custard tarts—and do your best to only eat one!
“Tastes like home—even if you’re not from Portugal.”
-FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES, AMBASSADOR OF PORTUGAL
🇵🇹 Pastéis de Nata
- Mixer with a beater and a hook
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus more for the work surface
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water
- 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature stirred until smooth
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups milk divided
- 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ⅔ cup water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 large egg yolks whisked
For the Garnish
- Powdered sugar
- In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, and water until a soft, pillowy dough forms that pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 30 seconds.
- Generously flour a work surface and pat the dough into a 6-inch square using a pastry scraper. Flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
- Roll the dough into an 18-inch square. As you work, use a scraper to lift the dough to make sure the underside isn’t sticking to your work surface.
- Brush the excess flour off the top of the dough, trim any uneven edges, and, using a small offset spatula, dot and then spread the left two-thirds of the dough with a little less than a third of the butter, being careful to leave a one-inch plain border around the edge of the dough.
- Neatly fold the unbuttered right third of the dough (using the pastry scraper to loosen it if it sticks) over the rest of the dough. Brush off any excess flour, then fold over the left third of the dough. Starting from the top, pat down the dough with your hand to release any air bubbles, and then pinch the edges of the dough to seal. Brush off any excess flour.
- Turn the dough 90° to the left so the fold is facing you. Lift the dough and flour the work surface. Repeat steps 3-5.
- For the last rolling, turn the dough 90° again to the left and roll out the dough to an 18-by-21-inch rectangle, with the shorter side facing you. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface of the dough.
- Using the spatula as an aid, lift the edge of dough closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from the underside as you go. Trim the ends and cut the log in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours, or preferably overnight. (The pastry can be frozen for up to 3 months.)
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and ¼ cup of milk until smooth.
- Bring the sugar, cinnamon stick, and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 220°F. Do not stir.
- Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, scald the remaining 1 cup of milk. Whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture.
- Remove the cinnamon stick and then pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot milk and flour mixture, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and stir for a minute until very warm but not hot. Whisk in the yolks, strain the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. The custard will be thin. (You can refrigerate the custard for up to 3 days.)
Assemble and Bake the Pastries
- Place an oven rack in the top third position and heat the oven to 550°F.
- Remove a pastry log from the refrigerator and roll it back and forth on a lightly floured surface until it’s about an inch in diameter and 16 inches long. Cut it into ¾ inch pieces. Place one piece of pastry dough, cut side down, in each well of a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan (2 ¾ inch wells). Allow the dough pieces to soften several minutes until pliable.
- Have a small cup of water nearby. Dip your thumbs in the water, then straight down into the middle of the dough in the muffin tins. Flatten the dough against the bottom of the tins to a thickness of about 1.5 millimeters, then smooth the dough up the sides and create a raised lip about 3 millimeters above the pan. The pastry bottoms should be thinner than the tops.
- Fill each cup ¾ full with the cool custard. Bake the pastries until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown, about 8-9 minutes for the mini-muffin tins. If you only have regular-sized muffin trays, bake 15 to 17 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow the pastéis to cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack and cool until just warm. Sprinkle the pastéis generously with powdered sugar and cinnamon and serve. Repeat with the remaining pastry and custard. These are best consumed the day they’re made.