Let me tell you – I thought I loved flan. I thought I loved Spain, because they understood my passion for egg-y custards.
Then I went to Portugal.
I may be a fickle food mistress, but Portugal has my heart forever when it comes to custards. A popular Portuguese pastry is Pastel de Nata (pronounced “pashtel de not-uh”), though they have many others created around an egg-based custard. While in Portugal, my husband and I would sit at a cafe every morning to have espresso and pastel de nata for breakfast. It was a heavenly way to start the day.
I honestly felt a little conflicted in trying to find a recipe for this dessert because I thought it may be the end of my waistline. These are definitely NOT healthy pastries and, since they’re fairly small, it’s easy to eat more than a daily recommended amount. I finally did try making them, but am still perfecting it to taste just like Portugal. My waistline? Well, I’m biking more.
The first step to Pastel de Nata is a good puff pastry. This can be store bought, or you can easily find a standard puff pastry recipe online (I particularly like this one from Sophisticated Gourmet).
Roll the dough into a log, and slice off circles. Mold them into a muffin tin. Cover and put in freezer.
Make the custard:
1 cup sugar
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon custard powder
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dissolve the sugar in 1/3 cup water in a saucepan over low heat.
Mix the milk, cornstarch, and custard powder so that there are no clumps. Add to saucepan.
Add egg yolks and vanilla.
Stir over low heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Continue stirring for 1 minute.
Pour custard into a bowl. Cover and let cool.
When the custard has cooled, spoon it into the puff pastry dishes and cook at 425F for 30 minutes, or until the tops have browned a bit.
Let the pastries cool for a few minutes, and remove them from the tray. They can be served warm or at room temperature, but store them in the fridge if you won’t be eating them right away.