There is history associated with the pastel de nata, as there must be with any celebrated Portuguese dish, and the story of its beginnings traces back to religious orders. I’ve heard two versions. The first goes like this: since egg whites were historically used to starch monks’ habits, what in heaven’s name to do with all the leftover yolks? And so was born the custard tart. The other story is less romantic. Funds were needed when the Portuguese monasteries were secularized and shuttered by the state in the 1830s. The custard tart recipe was created under a dome of secrecy in the seafaring town called Belém, on the outskirts of Lisbon, and sold at public markets.
- Puff Pastry 600 g
- All Purpose Flour 60 g
- Whole Milk 500 ml
- Cinnamon Stick 1
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Sugar 500 g
- Water 250 ml
- Egg Yolks 7
- Powdered Sugar for dusting
- Ground Cinnamon for sprinkling
- With a rolling pin, extend the dough into a rectangle. Roll the dough into a tight spiral, to make a long cylinder. Cut the dough into round slices with a thickness of 1.5 cm.
- Place the slices in the bottom of metal cupcake moulds, greased with butter.
- With your thumbs, dipped in water, begin to press into the centre of the dough, spreading it out to the edges. The edges should be thicker, leaving the dough thinner in the bottom. Place the moulds on a baking sheet.
- Dissolve the flour in 100 ml of milk. In a heavy bottomed pot, bring remaining milk, cinnamon stick and the lemon zest to a boil. Reduce heat, add flour and stir continuously until it begins to boil again. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a second heavy bottomed pot, combine sugar and water, and stir over medium-high heat to boiling point. Boil for 3 minutes. Add sugar syrup to milk and mix well. Strain and set aside to cool.
- Add the egg yolks to the milk mixture and stir well. Fill the moulds with the cream. Bake in a preheated 500˚F oven until golden (around 12 minutes).
- Serve hot or cold, sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon powder.