Pastel de nata are traditional tarts found in Portugal. Looking like a cross between a custard tart and a cake, pastéis de nata are egg tart pastries. A simple pairing of wobbly egg custard encased in layers of buttery pastry - nata tarts are both crunchy and soft at the same time.
Pastel de nata Heritage
The original recipe for this national favourite dates back over 300 years to Belém, a civil parish located west of Lisbon. Pastéis de nata were created by monks in the Jerónimos Monastery, a major tourist attraction today and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At that time, the nuns and monks used egg whites to starch their clothes, and the leftover egg yolks became a major ingredient in desserts.
Now, the sweet tarts can be found in pastelarias across the city, each baker having their own unique, and often secret recipe.
Patisserie Valerie have their own recipe for nata tarts. It’s not a secret recipe though because master patissier Mario has shared it with us!
Pastel de nata Ingredients
For the pastry you'll need:
- 500 g sugar
- 500g butter grame
- 4 eggs
- 1 kg flour
- 400 g sugar
- 150 g cornflower
- eight egg yolks
- 1 L milk
How to Make Pastel de nata
- Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin and pre-heat oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
- Cream together the sugar and butter then mix in flour and eggs to make a smooth dough.
- Roll dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut circles for individual tarts. Lightly press into the greased tin.
- Put egg yolks, sugar & cornflour in a pan and mix well together. Gradually add the milk until mixture is well mixed and smooth.
- Place pan on medium heat and stir constantly until mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Remove pan from heat. If you want a vanilla custard, now is the time to stir in vanilla extract.
- Put custard in a glass/ceramic bowl to cool and cover with cling film to prevent skin forming.
- Cut pastry sheet into two pieces and place them on top of each other. Roll the pastry tightly, from the short side, into a log and cut the log into 12 even sized rounds.
- On a lightly floured board, roll each round into a disc (approx. 10cm) and press the pastry discs into the muffin tin.
- Spoon in the cooled custard and bake for 20-25mins until golden on top. Leave to cool in the tin for 5mins then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling although they can be eaten warm.
- Each batch of tarts will behave differently. Don’t worry if the tops don’t scorch, or if the custard puffs up in the oven (it will sink as it cools).
- Keep the whites from this recipe for other uses, such as making meringues. Lightly whisk, then freeze in freezer bags, clearly marked with the date and number of whites. Use within 3 months.