I wanted this title to say Pasteis de Nata aka Portuguese style Egg Tarts…. I should start making up cryptic titles for all my post when they are not in foreign language names. A Taste of Summer aka Lime Cupcakes, Edible Sweet Clouds! aka Meringue… this could be a fun thing maybe. >.> MAYBE.
Anyhoo, Egg tarts of any kinds, is a nice treat growing up. The traditional style we get back home is made of a shortcrust(?) style pastry and the the custard is reminiscent of a type of steamed sweet egg custard. It is sweet but very light and super jiggly. I am not a huge fan of pastries in general so I’d try to eat up the crust up before slurping custard in the middle. Good times!
Portuguese style egg tart became a huge craze after I left home to Canada, so I’d have to say I was never in on the whole bandwagon. …. anyway this really long anecdote is to tell you that I like custard, not pastry, but also never had an authentic Pasteis de Nata. The recipe I used here is a mixture of two recipes. The rough puff pastry is a bake off Paul Hollywood one, and the custard is from a different website because I found the bake off custard extremely sweet. Also, both recipes made more custard than there is pastry cases, so I am going with the one that uses less yolks.
If you wondered if I made this because of bakeoff, the answer is yes. It always looks so doable on the show. And if you wondered wasn’t that episode in October last year? You are correct! And the reason the blog post is only coming now because I have not been successful enough in this experiment to show you my results. As of this post I still have not been able to succeed in creating a proper batch of tarts. Not convinced I will do any better with more practice, I am just bringing you my experience with making this and hope you’d have better success if you decide to give this a go.
This was my first attempt. you might not be able to see it here but the custard was overcooked in the oven and has turned into VERY sweet scrambled eggs. There was also a layer of … syrup? floating on top of the custard, which I am assuming is just because it was so completely overcooked the syrup separated somehow? … after some research I have read that the syrup is supposed to float up top to create the nice burnt spots on top of the custard. …. somehow, mine did float up but didn’t burn. It never did, through all my trials.
My second attempt was … well irregularly shaped? The custard turned out okay this time but the pastry cases were not quite browned enough to be crispy. Also it is still lacking the traditional dark spots on the custard. I wasn’t going to try to make sweet scramble eggs again, once was quite enough.
I tried AGAIN. And while the pastry always have nice layers it just always look so pale! In fact this batch was so pale I ended up browning them on a fry pan. It didn’t really work but well, I just had to give it a go. Noting the syrupy thing is still on the surface.
This was two weeks ago. I had some rough pastry that uncoiled itself and I overfilled some of the pastry cases but it tasted good and generally have a good look so I was gonna call it a day and declare some success, however as I was prepping this post I got inspired to try again. Surely I can’t fail after this many times?!?!
Well I baked some today and I think it actually is the best batch so far. The custard is still lacking the dark spots. But the pastry actually come out super crispy, … that’s something right?!
…. ya. So I did a little bit of research while scouring the web for more tips and tricks on baking the pastry to perfect crisp while having non overcooked custard. Apparently that is a really difficult balance to achieve! Puff pastry need at least 12 minutes of high heat to cook, custard curdles at high heat super quickly, maybe under 12 minutes. I found a variety of different custards, most Chinese recipes(and some English language ones as well) calls for condensed milk with cream for the custard. I don’t know if that makes a difference. The one I am using in this is a sugar syrup + spice custard, if you don’t like cooking syrup I suppose you can go with that? I have no idea if it makes a difference. Oh also, spices in the custard, the recipe I use calls for cinnamon and lemon zest in the custard. I LOVE IT I feel like missing these spices the custard is just not as good. So, very different thing. I really liked this spice custard so this is what I have been making. I suppose I can cheat and use a torch? >.> I don’t know anymore.
One thing I read somewhere did resonate with me the most: it is more important to get the perfect pastry instead of the perfect custard. Curdled custard still taste like custard but undercooked pastry will ruin everything. …. which is true! So let’s prioritize cooking the pastry right!
Oh btw, I apologize for the pictures in this post. I somehow turned a setting on in my camera that made all the colours weird. I tried fixing it but it ended up looking a bit off. So sorry.
For the Pastry Cases, makes 12 in a Muffin Tin Paul’s recipe from Bake Off
Rough Puff Pastry:
Pinch of Salt
25g Butter, cold and cubed
50-75ml Water, ice cold
60g Butter, grated and frozen
1. Chill everything. The Bowl, the flour. Water, butter, everything. Start them all cold. Grate that frozen butter and keep it frozen.
2. In your cold bowl, rub the cold cubed butter into your cold flour. Once it resembles breadcrumbs, add in the ice cold water and mix into a dough. Give it a bit of kneading, roll it out into a rectangle(ish) shape.
3. Put half of the frozen butter on the lower 2/3rd of the rectangle. Fold the bottom up to the middle, then the top half down. Seal the edges like you would a parcel. Turn the whole package 90°, then roll it out into a rectangle again.
4. Put the other half of the butter in the lower 2/3rd of the rectangle and repeat what you did. Now depending on your kitchen and weather and your body temperature, if at any point you felt that the parcel has gotten too warm, stick it back in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm and let it chill for another 20-30 minutes or so.
5. Roll it out to a rectangle again, you don’t have any more butter to add but fold it up from the lower 2/3rd, make the parcel. Then do it again once more. If you need fridge time, go for it. You are creating nice butter layers between the dough and those will crisp up and become amazing. Again you need to make sure the butter is cold or else it gets absorbed into the dough and you will have no more layers. When you are done, chill the dough for 30 minutes to an hour. (I can’t stress this enough!)
6. What do we do with the dough? You guessed it, roll. Roll it out to a rectangle, 20cm x 30cm. What is super important is that you will trim the rectangle down to an actual rectangle so roll them out a bit larger. Why? Because if you don’t actually have an even sheet of pastry when you roll it up into the above roll you won’t get an even pastry log and each section you cut to become the cases will be different and you don’t want that. Trim the rectangle. Then, roll the pastry up from the short side into a tight roll much much nicer than what I have above.
7. Cut into 12 even pieces. If you look at the ones I have above, they are not even. And that is because I didn’t trim the sides, they were all different sizes and shape.
8. With wet fingers, take each pastry disc and press down to your muffin tin. Take care not to spread the bottom too thin. Just work gently with your pastry and make sure to push the sides to reach the top and higher if you can manage. This pastry will shrink a bit in the oven, make sure you have it as high as you can manage. Slightly over the top is best.
9. Pop it back into the fridge for at least an hour. Or whenever you have your custard ready. The above picture showed pastry that has been in the fridge overnight, they have dried out a bit, which maybe or may not have contributed to some breakage between layers when baked.
Custard: Recipe adapted from Leite’s Culinaria, combining with Paul’s method (to infuse spice flavour)
297ml Whole Milk
23g AP Flour
2 strips Lemon Zest
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
6 Egg Yolks
1. In a small saucepan, combine milk, lemon zest and cinnamon stick. I just never keep cinnamon stick in the house so I added ground cinnamon, I am sure it is sacrilege but see if I care. Heat the milk mixture over low heat and simmer, then whisk in the flour until it thickens. Once the flour is cooked, remove from heat and set to the side.
2. In a different sauce pan, or the same one washed, combined sugar and water and cook over medium heat. Do not stir. Heat the sugar syrup to 106°c-112°c. Remove from heat and whisk the syrup into the milk mixture. Make sure you whisk non stop! You will need a thermometer for this, it is hard to tell what stage sugar is in. I know you can scoop it out, dump it into cold water then feel what the consistency is like to determine…. but … mess? Extra work? Thermometer super useful if you ever want to make caramel, candy, other syrup, meringue etc!
3. More whisking whilst you strain the egg yolks over a strainer into the milk mixture. Once combined, set aside to cool. Make sure you put a sheet of clingfilm down and push it to the surface of the custard or a skin will form. I learned the hard way once the skin forms you will have to scoop precious custard out, it will not mix back in no matter how hard you try. Remove the cinnamon stick and lemon zest once the custard has cooled.
4. Preheat oven to at least 290°c/550°f. Recipes have suggested various temperature but this is the temperature I got my pastry to really crisp up. Any lower than that you will have to cook your pastry for longer, and hence higher chance of sweet scrambled eggs. so BEWARE!
5. Spoon the custard into the pastry cases. Fill it up about 2/3. The pastry will shrink and if you overfill the custard…..
6. Bake in the hot oven for 12-18 minutes. Watch closely! When the pastry is baked till golden brown it is probably done! Give the pan a shake and look at the custard, as a general rule if the centre of the custard jiggle and the edges are set, that custard is done. I keep having problem of the custard done but not the pastry, your mileage might vary. Again, priority is the pastry, make sure your pastry is cooked through!
So. I had some leftover custard. Seems a shame to throw it out. So I put them in a heatproof bowl and put it into a small saucepan with some water. Put the cover in and steam till it is done! …. Chinese Portugese custard!
I hope you give this a try and if you have better result than me, let me know what I did wrong!!!!