I have seen these before here in local London bakeries, the lemon custard tarts. A bigger and for me at least blander version I was familiar from home is called “Vanilleplunder” . However, that cannot be compared to the original lemon custard tart, the Portuguese claim to be their national sweet – Pastel de nata. Expecting a rather plump vanilla pudding with puff pastry would make this great export injustice. In Portugal every cafe or “pasteleria” serves this rather inexpensive sweet with a small type of espresso of “Café”.
Having tried multiple pasteis de nata in Porto (one of them being the appraised by locals) and Lisbon, I decided to drop by the best known (and most visited by tourists) traditional bakery in Lisbon for producing the pastel, known as Pastéis de Belém. This shop claims to exist since 1837. Given its history and resistance to at least 3 world economic crisis, their pasteis are worth a try. And indeed, they were the best I had so far. At a bargain, they come slightly warm and with sachets of cinnamon and sugar for your own likings. The vanilla filling resembled more a crème brûlée in puff pastry. Great stuff.
Inspired by this I tried them myself. There are small variations of recipes online. I decided to follow one based of simple ingredients. For this I used pre-made puff pastry from the store.
For the creme, I combined c. 200ml of whole fat milk, sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour over the hob. The flour binds the milk. Corn starch does the same job. Who likes it creamier can use single cream instead of whole fat milk here. Add a splash of vanilla extract (or ideally fresh vanilla pod) into the mixture. Fresh lemon zest gives this the key flavor. Once cooled down the mixture should be slightly clumpy add then 2 egg yolks and one whole egg and whisk well.
I rolled out the puff pastry sheets and cut it in small squares to fit one square in a pre greased muffin tray. The filling is then poured into each muffin hole. Bake at 220°C until golden brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Grab a coffee, ideally strong espresso, and enjoy a Portuguese treat.
By the way, this makes an easy to do good office treat as well.
(Don’t put them in an airtight container as the pastry will get soft)