While it would be more traditional to make the pastry from scratch, you can easily substitute store bought puff pastry sheets, though using the all butter ones is best.
The filling for these tarts follows the traditional method for making the custard, involving a flour and milk paste, a sugar syrup, hot milk and egg yolks. While this sounds complicated, each little component is very easy and results in the exact texture of a proper Pastéis de Nata. Using other French or English methods to make a custard filling will result in something very different.
The custard bakes and sets quickly in a very hot oven and if anything is similar to the custard you get in Cantonese egg tarts as in dim sum, though not quite so sweet.
Who doesn’t love a Portuguese custard tart?
3 sheets of frozen puff pastry or about 400g of home made puff pastry rolled to about a 2mm thickness
4 egg yolks
¾ cup milk
½ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup water
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cut circles of puff pastry large enough to line the cups of an average size muffin tin. About 8-9cm in diameter generally fits. Press each circle gently into the tin and set aside.
- In a small pot, combine the sugar, water and cinnamon and bring to the boil until the syrup reaches 100 degrees Celsius. This is absolutely before the thread stage, when the syrup is thickening but still very loose. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile in a large bowl whisk the flour ¼ cup of the milk together.
- In another saucepan, add the milk and vanilla and bring to a simmer before removing from heat. Whisk the milk mixture into the flour and milk.
- Remove the cinnamon stick from the sugar syrup. Pour the sugar syrup into the milk mixture in a thin stream, whisking the whole time.
- Whisk in the egg yolks quickly and thoroughly.
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius.
- Fill each pastry cup ¾ full with the custard mixture
- Bake the tarts for about 8-10 minutes or until the pastry is brown and starting to frill and the top of the custard has blackened spots (as is proper and traditional)
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool to just warm before serving
- Tarts will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.