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portuguese egg tarts – pastéis de nata

let me start by apologizing for my lack of posts lately. moving into a new apartment coupled with a vacation in california (including a much-needed vacation from the computer) left me with little free time to bake. but now i’m back, wooden spoon in hand, ready to take on another recipe and make up for lost time. let’s get to it.

[1]

i had my first portuguese egg tart in america, but they did come from a portuguese bakery. during college, my old roommate’s mom came to visit for a few days, bringing with her boxes and boxes of pastries, including about 4 dozen egg tarts. let’s just say they didn’t last too long in our house. unfortunately, they’re not something you typically see in american bakeries, but if you look around a little bit, you’ll come across them.

[2]

pastéis de nata are thought to have been created by catholic sisters in a convent in lisbon. the convent belonged to the belém parish in lisbon, and so they are known there as pastéis de belém. pastéis de belém is also the name of a now world-famous pastry shop in lisbon, specializing in, of course, these egg tarts. my girl was lucky enough to eat there during her trek around europe last year and can attest to their incredible and well-deserved reputation. as for my tarts, she thought they tasted more like the chinese egg tarts you can get at dim sum places, which i am still happy with.

this week i used *gasp* store-bought puff pastry instead of homemade pastry dough. two reasons – i made these on a weeknight where time constraints kept me from dedicating the proper amount of time to a pastry dough and leaving me enough light for photos. secondly, i’ll be making a homemade pastry dough in a day or two for another recipe i can’t wait to make. and while store-bought puff pastry may make some of you cringe, the real star here is the creamy and decadent filling. if you’re going to sit and eat a dozen tarts at once (which is more plausible than it seems once you eat one), just avoid looking at the filling ingredients in the recipe. i’m almost glad i don’t have a neighborhood bakery churning these out – i’d be an extra 200 lbs by next month.

pastéis de nata
adapted from several websites (can’t find the originals, sorry).

1 box puff pastry dough
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks

1. dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup of the heavy cream in a medium bowl. add the remaining cream and sugar and stir until the mixture is smooth and the sugar is completely dissolved.

2. in a small bowl, blend the yolks with a fork until smooth. add the yolks to the cream mixture and stir gently to combine.

3. thaw 1 sheet of puff pastry dough until workable by hand. roll out on a floured surface until 1/16 inch thick.

4. roll the puff pastry like a long cigar, snugly but not tight. just avoid a lot of space in between layers. you may want to put the dough back in the fridge for a few minutes.

5. place the pastry roll length wise and cut into 6 equal sections. repeat entire process with the second sheet of puff pastry to get 12 snugly rolled dough spirals.

6. take each piece of dough and gently press down the center of the roll to meet the opposite side, creating an indentation with your thumb. carefully work the spiral into a dough cup with your fingers and place into muffin tin. i should note that there tons of different ways to make dough cups with frozen puff pastry. this was the easiest for me, but my tarts didn’t puff quite as much as i had hoped.

7. fill each dough cup a little bit more than 3/4 full with the egg cream mixture. bake at 350 for 25 minutes. allow the tarts to cool completely in the muffin tin before gently taking them out. they can be eaten warm or chilled in the refrigerator, and with a little sprinkle of powered sugar or cinnamon.

8. to get the slightly burned tops, you can sprinkle with white sugar and either use a little kitchen torch or put in the broiler on high for just a few minutes. if you go with the broiler, watch your little tarts like a hawk. they can go from golden brown to black in seconds.