Portuguese Custard Pastries (Pastel de Nata)

These tarts are baked at a high temperature so that the tops almost blacken, and they are then sprinkled with cinnamon.

Serves: 24Hands-on: 45 minutesTotal: 1 hour 55 minutesDifficulty: Medium


Serves: 24

Ingredients

  • 1⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • ⅓–½ cup water
  • 12 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ⅓ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

Directions

  • Whisk together the flour and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Add the water gradually, stirring until mixture just comes together into a smooth dough. (You may need slightly more or less water.) Knead briefly then wrap with plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes.
  • Roll out dough on a floured surface to an 18" square. Spread 4 tablespoons of the softened butter over the dough. Fold the dough neatly into thirds, like a letter.
  • Turn the dough 90° and roll out into another 18" square. Spread 4 tablespoons of the softened butter over the dough. Fold the dough neatly into thirds. Rewrap dough and chill for 15 minutes.
  • Roll dough into an 18" × 20" rectangle. Spread remaining butter over dough, leaving 1" free of butter along one short side. Starting with the other short side, roll the dough up into a log. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
  • To make the custard, place the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Add the sugar, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and cornstarch and whisk until creamy and light.
  • Place the milk and cinnamon stick in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Remove cinnamon stick from milk, then gradually pour hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring. Return everything to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and cover with plastic wrap. Keep warm.
  • Preheat oven to 500°F. Remove pastry from refrigerator and roll dough log on counter until it is about 1½" in diameter. Cut crosswise into 24 pieces.
  • Place each piece of dough in the bottom of the wells of a muffin pan. Press dough down and up sides of well, so that it rises a bit over the top. Fill each pastry ¾ full with the custard.
  • Bake pastries until browned on top in spots, about 7–10 minutes. Remove from oven, and place on rack to cool.
  • Sprinkle pastries with cinnamon. Serve warm.