Today I’m sharing one of my favourite pastry recipes of all time, and the real beauty of this one is that is far, far easier to make than you might think.
Pasteis de Nata are probably one of the first things that come to mind when you think of traditional Portuguese cuisine, and for good reason: These little beauties are by far one of the most popular treats among both locals and tourists in Portugal.
Now, I’m going to caveat this easy pasteis de nata recipe with the fact that I am not Portuguese, and so my recipe might differ from more traditional takes. However, this is the recipe I’ve always used, and it’s served me brilliantly ever since I first tried it.
As you’ll see from the recipe, it’s quite long-winded so do be prepared to give yourself a bit of time and give it a read through before starting. Like I say, it’s a lot simpler than you might think, but there are quite a few stages to it.
OK, enough talk – it’s pastry time!
- 290 g plain/all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 210 ml water
- 240 g soft unsalted butter
- 300 ml whole milk
- 40 g plain flour
- 6 egg yolks
- 165 ml water
- 240 g caster sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Like with all good recipes, we’re going to kick this thing off with the pastry. Set up a mixing bowl with a dough hook attached on your kitchen counter. Combine the flour, salt and 210ml of water, mixing together with your dough hook for a couple of minutes until it all comes together as a sticky dough. You’ll know when it’s ready when the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Once that’s done, we’re going to rest the dough. But before that, throw a heap of flour on your counter surface to avoid sticking. Remove the dough from the bowl using a pastry or dough scraper (the dough can get pretty stubborn) and put on the floury surface. Try to vaguely form a cube with the dough, but don’t panic if it doesn’t retain the shape - the dough can ooze a bit. Put a generous amount of flour over the top of the dough and wrap in cling film. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.
- After you’ve let the dough rest, put more flour over your counter surface, and make sure you don’t have any obstructions around you: We’re going to need plenty of room for the next bit!
- Dust your rolling pin with more flour and roll your dough out into a 16x16 inch square. We’re now going to laminate the pastry, which is what gives the croissant-like layered look of the pastries.
- Use a soft baking brush to brush away any excess flour. Mentally divide your pastry into three equal-size columns. Apply 80g of your soft butter (and make sure it is soft!) to the two left-most columns of your pastry, and spread it out evenly, leaving an unbuttered inch-wide perimeter around the edges
- We’re now going to fold the pastry. While you’ve been spreading the butter, the roll might have gotten stuck to your counter surface so use your pastry scraper and a bit of flour to help unstick it.
- Take the right-most column of your pastry (the one you didn’t butter) and fold that over your middle column. Then take the left-hand column and fold that over that.
- Are you still with me? Good! We then want to rotate our pastry 90 degrees clockwise, and then roll out the pastry into another 16x16 inch square. Guess what - we’re going to repeat the laminating and folding process again.
- Once you have folded it after buttering it again, we then want to roll the pastry a third time. But this time, instead of rolling into a 16x16 inch square, we want to roll it to 18x21 inches, with the 18-inch side facing you.
- We’re going to try to keep this as neat as possible this time round, so use your pastry cutter to trim off the rough edges around your pastry.
- This will then leave us with a lot of layers of very thin pastry and butter. This third time however, rather than only covering two-thirds of your pastry rollout with butter, we’re now going to instead cover the entire thing.
- We’re now ready to roll this thing. First start off by using your pastry cutter to unstick the edge nearest to you from the surface, as well as use your brush to brush away any excess flour. Ensure that you do the very first roll as tightly as possible. From there, continue to use your cutter and brush on every roll of the pastry, ensuring it’s as tight as possible.
- Once it’s all rolled up, trim the ends with a sharp knife and cut the entire roll in half across. Each half will then make 12 pastries.
- Wrap each half in cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Now onto the custard! This is the straightforward part (promise). Add 60ml of the whole milk to the flour, and whisk together until smooth. Set to one side.
- Put the water in a medium-large saucepan, as well as the caster sugar, and a cinnamon stick for flavor. Heat on low for a few minutes until it reaches 100ºC (use a thermometer for this - we want to be exact), without stirring.
- On the side, bring a small saucepan of the remainder of the milk to the boil. Once the milk comes to the boil, pour it over your milk and flour solution and stir it at the same time.
- Add about half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and continue to stir in.
- Once your water and sugar mix reaches 100c, remove the cinnamon stick and slowly pour the mix into the milk-flour mixture, whisking throughout. Continue to stir for 10-15 minutes (yes, you read that right: 10-15 minutes) as it cools. Then add six egg yolks to the mix and continue to whisk in.
- Once whisked, pour the mixture through a sieve into a jug. Then cover in cling film and set to one side.
Time to bring it all together. Remove your pastry logs from the fridge. Use a sharp knife to cut each log into 12 equal pieces, giving you 24 in total. If you don’t want to make all of them at once, then you can leave one log in the fridge and just make 12 for now.
- Grease a 12/24 piece cupcake pan with butter, and put one piece of pastry in each of the cups. Leave to sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature to help soften the butter.
- Place a small bowl of water to one side, and use it to wet your fingers and thumbs. Then push down into the middle of your round of pastry, and draw the pastry up the sides of the inside of the cupcake pan, to help form pastry cups. Be careful not to make the pastries too thin.
- Fill each cup ¾ full with your custard mix, then put in the oven at 280ºC/540ºF. It’s a high and scary temperature but it’s exactly what we need! This will help give us that characteristic scorched or blistered look on the top of the pastries. Leave in the oven for 8 minutes, but keep a very close eye on them!
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool down (they will be hot).