Pasteis de Nata

I’ve been on a bit of a kick cooking challenging and/or time-consuming recipes that typically have much simpler alternatives.  I made burgers from scratch, Bolognese sauce for hours, countless tortillas, dozens of pancakes, and now beautiful egg custards.  Ev and I first tasted these “Pasteis de Nata” 8 years ago on our first vacation abroad together to Portugal and Spain.  Just outside of Lisbon, Portugal, the town of Belém stakes its claim as the creator of these little treats, which is why they can also go by the name Pasteis de Belém.  That’s where we had them and we haven’t been able to find anything like them since.  Enter: the kitchen.

And serve for a beautiful breakfast the next morning.

The process is twofold: 1) make your own puff pastry, and 2) make the custard filling.  While the puff pastry frustrated the dickens out of me at first, I wrangled it together with a decent amount of success.  Lots of rolling, measuring, folding, and repeating.  Then let it chill in the fridge before rolling out and slicing into discs that go into a mini muffin pan.  The trickiest part is to get the pastry spread out in the muffin tin.  It took a little finesse before getting the hang of it.

The custard, which I had (incorrectly) assumed to just be a matter of combining ingredients, turned out to require a little more attention.  Scald milk in one pan, heat up sugar to 220°F in another, and carefully combine everything with egg yolks so that they don’t scramble on you.  It wasn’t difficult, but it resulted in more dirty dishes than expected.

All that remained was filling the pastry-lined muffin tin with the custard and bake in a crazy-hot 550° oven.  Once done, let them cool, pop them out of the muffin tin, and then if you’re really serious about doing it “right”, get out the torch and brown ’em up a bit!  Dust with cinnamon and powdered sugar for good measure.  Man these were good.

If you want to try for yourself, here’s the recipe I used:

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