Pastéis de Nata

Pie (pastry?) week on the Great British Bake Off – was the technical going to be sweet? Savoury? It could have gone either way. Luckily, it was a classic sweet treat I’d actually had before while on holiday with my mum years ago. I’ve actually just had a dig around in my old photos folder, and found this little gem of the shop they’re famous for being made in, from back in 2005 (?) when we went. I was 14 so I am choosing not to include any pictures of me from that trip! So just trust me when I say I didn’t just find this picture on Google!

The recipe was Paul’s again, and copied below with my notes once more. This was definitely the strangest custard I’ve ever made, as you mix milk and flour and heat in one pan, then separately create a syrup (soft thread stage) and pour into the milk. Then you just add the egg yolks. I didn’t think this was the best custard I’d ever had. It actually ranked pretty low on the custard leagues I’d say.

Pasteis de Nata

Makes 12

For the rough puff pastry

150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

pinch salt

25g butter, chilled and cut into cubes

50 – 75ml chilled water

60g butter, frozen then grated – I thought the butter would be really hard to grate frozen, but it turns out it wasn’t


For the custard

375ml whole milk

45g plain flour

2 strips of pared lemon zest

1 cinnamon stick

185ml water

375g caster sugar

7 large egg yolks

Step 1 – For the pastry, mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Rub in the chilled butter using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually add enough water to form a dough (about 4-6 tablespoons of water).

Step 2 – Roll the dough out into a rectangle on a lightly floured work surface. Grate half of the frozen butter over the bottom two thirds of the dough. Fold down the top third and fold up the bottom third as if folding a letter.

Step 3 – Turn the folded dough through 90 degrees and roll it out into a rectangle again. Repeat the process of adding the remaining frozen butter and fold as before. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Step 4 – Roll and fold the pastry twice more, then wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Step 5 – Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to a rectangle measuring 20cm x 30cm. Roll the pastry tightly, from the short side, into a log and cut the log into 12 even sized rounds.

Step 6 – Place one disc into the cup of a 12 hole muffin tin, swirl-side up. Using wet fingers, carefully press the pastry up the sides with your fingers, working from the centre out, until the pastry just pokes over the top. This sounds hard but just trust in the recipe and youtube it or watch the relevant Bake Off episode if you have to – it’s really not that tricky. Repeat with the remaining pieces of pastry. Chill for 20 minutes.

Step 7 – For the custard, pour the milk into a pan and whisk in the flour. Add the strip of lemon zest and cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer, whisking continuously. Cook for 2-3 minutes until thick.  Remove from the heat.

Step 8 – Tip the sugar into a small pan with the water. Heat gently to melt the sugar, then increase the heat and boil until the syrup reaches the short thread stage (106C – 112C). Gradually whisk the boiling syrup into the milk mixture.

Step 9 – Put the egg yolks in a large bowl and strain over the milk mixture, whisking continuously until combined. Place a sheet of clingfilm over the surface and leave to cool. Once cooled, remove the strip of lemon zest and cinnamon stick.

Step 10 – Heat the oven to 240 top/bottom heat. Pour the custard into the pastry cases to 1cm below the top, then bake in the oven for 15 -18 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp and the custard is bubbling with tiny brown spots. I found that the pastry cases didn’t go very high up the muffin tin, and therefore I couldn’t fill them with that much custard. I didn’t leave a full cm from the top of the pastry cases, which is good because the custard has a tendency to shrink down slightly when cooking. I also had LOADS of custard left over too, which would be ideal except that I didn’t love this custard..

Step 11 – Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then gently turn out the tarts and leave to cool on a wire rack.

I think I did pretty well.. the puff on my rough puff pastry was strong. I would definitely use this recipe if I wanted to make puff pastry again. It worked much better than the last time I made puff pastry. I just wasn’t that sure about the flavour or fill of my custard.

Pasteis de Nata

Finally, how did they taste? Actually, pretty good. Although I didn’t love love the custard on its own, it worked nicely with the pastry and it had a good mixture of textures – smooth, creamy custard with the rougher, puff chew of the pastry. Not bad..Save