Monday, March 15, 2010

Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

For Group Meeting this week the presenter requested Pasteis de Nata from his country of origin, Portugal. I was a bit intimidated when he described them to me. I was thinking these sound a lot like Creme Brule and was a bit resistant to the idea mainly because I would have to go find about a dozen more ramekins to house these creme brules. I quickly found out though that these custards are in fact, tarts, which means the custard sits in a puff pastry shell, which also means I can just bake them in a muffin tin. Easy.

You might be thinking I'm going to say "or so I thought..." or "little did I know how hard this was going to be...", but acutally, they were, very, easy. I was nervous to replicate a cherished childhood treat not to mention one that originated so very far away from here. Never the less I was excited after reading the recipes because they were painfully simple. Just cream, eggs, sugar, lemon, vanilla, cornstarch. There was a bit of discrepency about the ingredients once they were tasted. Apparently, they don't have vanilla nor do they have quite so much sugar (there really wasn't much as all and to my American/high threshold for sugar-palate it barely tasted sweet). Also, some think that there is less lemon and some think it was the right amount. I usually pick the self depricating road mainly because I should even if I don't want to because the baked item needs some improving. This time however, I'm not going to do that. They were delicious. Got to say. Sugar, lemon, vanilla, I don't care. They were so good I ate many in one day. It's really hard to stop. I'm not really even that much of custard person, but man these are good. A great breakfast/brunch treat if you want to switch it up from the usual cinnamon rolls or pancakes etc. Yum. Can't wait to make them again.

A couple pieces of advice:
Don't overcook them just to get the burnt spots on top. Yes, the burnt spots are very important, they kind of make the treat, much like the hard shell on creme brule. I really need to get a mini blow torch for this kind of stuff. Would work so well on these.

Buy the puff pastry. God I hate saying that. It's true. To be fair to myself, I didn't actually try because I was scared into submission by EVERY SINGLE RECIPE I found that explicity said DO NOT MAKE THE PUFF PASTRY!! Ok OK!! I wanted to. I really did. But how could I defy such forboding statements? So I went to the store and bought it. It was good. And much easier even though I get really impatient with it and don't let it thaw and just break it and end up having to let it thaw anyways so I can roll it back together and/or mash the seams with my fingers. Stupid sheets.

Anyway, with the puff pastry bought, all you really do is mix everything together and heat it up. Then pour it in to the muffin tins lined with the pastry dough. You just cut out circles with a cup and then mold them to the muffin tin cups.

Here's the recipe. Scroll down to find it. I compared many different recipes and this one had all the elements I liked and seemed well written. I tried to really hard to find one from a person actually from Portugal but never did. Give these a try. They are seriously easy and so worth the minimal amount of time to make them.

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