Portuguese Custard Tarts

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” ~ Julia Child

It is a long weekend here and I have a day off work this fine Monday.  I relish days like this.  Days where I’m home and doing my own thing, time on my side.  Time to be used any way I please.

Today’s theme is trying something new and having fun doing it.  I decided to be brave and try baking something different.  Something that I have been afraid to try but love to eat – Portuguese custard tarts. Known as Pasteis de Nata, this egg tart pastry is  believed to be created before the 18th century by Catholic monad at the Jeronimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon.  For this reason, they are also known as Pasteis de Belem.

It begins with the pastry shell, or puff pastry.  As I learned how to make puff pastry from a couple bake classes ago, I looked forward to trying again, on a smaller scale and using butter.  It’s no joke that you need to work fast with this dough and that it is time-consuming.  More so because of the freeze time in between.  The butter melts so quickly and makes the dough too soft to handle.  I wasn’t about to spend hours, so only a few roll outs and turns here.  Once rolled out, I cut and flattened the dough into my sprayed muffin tin.  

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I put these into the freezer to chill while I began work on my custard.  Milk, whipping cream, powdered sugar, lemon peel and of course eggs.

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Eggs were lightly beaten and set aside.  In a pot, on low heat, I dissolved the sugar into the milk and cream.  Once it started to feel warm, I dropped in the lemon peel and cinnamon.  Stirring on the low heat, making sure not to boil.

photo 3-31 photo 4-20Just allowing the flavours to steep together.  Once the mixture was slightly hot to touch, I tempered the eggs with some of the milk mixture so as not to shock the eggs.  We don’t want scrambled egg remember!  I poured the rest of the eggs into the milk and stirred.  Waiting for it to thicken a bit, not become scrambled but just coat my wooden spoon.





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Once it was ready, I spooned the custard mixture into my puff pastry shells, not filling them to the top, but close.  photo 2-34

I had extra custard filling and being one who doesn’t like to waste, I located some mini pie shells in my freezer and filled them up too!

photo 3-30I was stalking the treats, opening the oven door a few times to check them out. They seemed to be blowing up. photo 1-33It was about 30 minutes later that they came out of the oven.  In retrospect, I probably should have left them in a bit longer, broiled the tops a longer too to get those fabulous brown spots that Pasteis de Belem are known for, but I am always fearful of burning.  I haven’t mastered the art of knowing the perfect time to take something out of the oven.  In any case, I think they still looked good.  photo 2-33 photo 2-33 photo 3-29 photo 1-32 photo 5-15 photo 4-18 photo 5-14

Beautiful yellow colour, with flecks of cinnamon peaking through.  Golden flakey pastry.  Tasted amazing slightly warm.  The custard was not as smooth as I hoped it would be, but it was lemony and creamy and accented perfectly with the cinnamon. I love this puff pastry.  I think at this point anything can be added to puff pastry and it would taste delicious.

I was super excited with my first attempt at baking this crowd pleaser.  I did have fun playing in my kitchen today and now I can mark these tarts off my bucket list of desserts to try and bake.  =)


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