I tried making these a few different times using different recipes online, and although this was probably not as authentic as others, I found the streamlined steps made this the easiest to follow, and the results are spectacular! If you have an extra 12-count muffin tin, you’ll want to double the recipe, because 12 custard tarts are hardly enough, especially when you want to share them with people.
Speaking of sharing this with people, I wanted so much to make these again and bring them to work for the monthly potluck that we have to celebrate birthdays for the month, but alas, we are all working from home now and in the foreseeable future, to combat the global pandemic. We live in surreal times, but I’m so grateful to be alive and to be able to continue working.
If you’re on the fence about whether you should make these or not, I know exactly how you feel. Baking anything over 500 degrees in our oven usually is enough for the smoke alarm to go off. Before I baked these, I took out the batteries of the smoke alarms in my apartment, but I was still worried someone else’s smoke alarm in the building I live in would go off! But it didn’t. It was very smoky. but I opened the windows and doors afterward and it was fine. And I had 12 of these delectable morsels of custard tarts with an unexpectedly crisp crunchy exterior. It was love at first bite. These became an instant favorite with me and Ben, and I now understood what all the fuss was about!
pasteis de nata (recipe from Allrecipes/Food Wishes)
for the dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup cold water
Note: adjust with more flour or water to achieve what’s shown in the video
1 stick (4 ounces) very soft, high-quality unsalted butter
for the sugar syrup:
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
zest from 1 lemon
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
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and cold water. Mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a dough starts to form and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be sticky; try not to add water or flour, but if the dough seems too wet, add more flour, a little at a time, and conversely, if the dough seems a bit too dry, add a little water.
Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface. Dust more flour over the top and knead for a minute or two to form a ball. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
Roll the dough into a square shape that is about 1/8 inch thick. Dust with flour if needed due to stickiness.
Using 1/3 of the butter, imagine the square has three equal columns vertically and cover the first two columns with the butter, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Make sure the butter is warm enough to spread easily.
Spread 1/3 of the butter over 2/3 of the square using a silicone spatula, leaving a 1/2 inch border. On the right edge with the unbuttered column, flip it over the middle column that’s buttered. Take the left edge and flip it over the towards the right and straighten the edges as needed.
Use a rubber spatula or dough scraper to unstick the dough from the work surface and flip it over; dust with flour. Sprinkle more flour on top. Roll dough into a 1/8-inch-thick rectangle, carefully stretching edges as needed.
Repeat the process of spreading another 1/3 of the butter over 2/3 of the dough. repeat the folding, starting with the right side again towards the middle, followed by the left edge being flipped over the middle column.
Sprinkle dough with flour and roll into a square a little over 1/8 inch thick. Spread the remaining 1/3 butter over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on the top edge.
Using a clean finger dipped in water, moisten the unbuttered edge of the dough to help it seal. Starting from the side closest to you, roll dough tightly up to create a log. Dust with more flour and polish the ends as needed. Seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Combine sugar, 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon water, the cinnamon, and the lemon zest (if using) in a pot. Boil over medium heat, without stirring, until syrup reaches 210 to 215 degrees F (100 degrees C). Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven 550 degrees F. If your oven doesn’t go that high, heat as high as it will go. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
Whisk flour, salt, and cold milk together thoroughly in a cold pot. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until milk thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes.
Whisk egg yolks into the cooled milk. Add the sugar syrup and vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Strain custard into a glass measuring cup.
Unwrap the dough and trim any uneven bits on the ends. Score log into 12 even pieces using a knife; cut through.
Place a piece of dough in each muffin cup. You’ll notice the dough will have a swirl that starts in the middle. Dip your thumb lightly in some water and press your thumb into the center of the swirl; if the dough seems to thick and doesn’t reach the sides of the mold, push the dough down against the bottom and push the sides so that the dough is thinner and goes up about 1/8 inch past the top. Fill each cup 3/4 of the way with custard.
Bake in the oven until the pastry is browned and bubbly, and the tops start to blister and caramelize, about 12 minutes. Cool the custard tarts somewhat before eating so that you don’t burn your lips or tongue! Enjoy!