I have made custard tarts, or Pasteis de Nata, three times so far and each time I've been struck at how deceptively simple they are to make and how much of a hit they are with my friends, so I decided to spread the good word and share the recipe with the blogosphere. I first tasted these little wonders at a portuguese bakery in Sydney, Sweet Belem, and I think the reaction I had to these was the same sort of thing Homer experienced when he bit into his first Ribwich. Given that regular access to these things involves a 7 hr return trip to and from Sydney, I needed to find a better way, so I was pretty chuffed to find an online recipe that was relatively simple, tasted very much like the tart(s) I sampled in Sydney, not to mention had plenty of helpful step-by-step photos. The link can be found here and here's my interpretation of it:
Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tart)
1 pack of defrosted puff pastry
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of cream
4 egg yolks
4 tbs sugar
2 tbs plain flour
pinch of salt
1 cinnamon quill
2 strips of lemon peel
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. To make the custard, add all the ingredients except the cinnamon and lemon peel (and of course the puff pastry) into a saucepan and whisk them together. Add the cinnamon and lemon peel and place on a stovetop to simmer.
2. Keep whisking the custard at a low temperature (don't be tempted to turn the heat up otherwise its likely to curdle) and keep a watch for when it starts to thicken. When its thickened to your accustomed custard standard, take the saucepan off the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool down (take out the cinnamon & lemon peel). Line a piece of either cling wrap or baking paper over the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming and leave aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 190oC. Take a square sheet of puff pastry and lightly dust with flour before rolling it into a cylindrical shape. Cut the puff pastry cylinder into equally sized segments - I got 12 segments out of my puff pastry sheet. Take each segment and flatten it with your hand, then roll it out using a rolling pin to get a circular piece of pastry (approx 10 cm diameter). 4. Line a muffin tin with the pastry, shaping it into tart form and fill the tart shells with the custard. I sprinkled the top with a bit of cinnamon & sugar (though you may opt not to do that) before chucking the tray into the oven to bake until golden.
The only modifications I made to the recipe were to bake at a higher temperature (190C) than that recommended by the Algarve Buzz website (120C). Other than that the recipe is foolproof and the combination of these simple & basic ingredients yields very high dividends, so do yourselves a favour and try today!