Traveling in Portugal, I discovered how much I adore Pastel de Nata, their national pastry. Creamy and rich with the scent of vanilla, Pastel de Nata is the perfect accompaniment for coffee or hot chocolate.
Are the Portuguese or Chinese?
Last year when we were traveling in China, we encountered these little custard pies all over again in the form of a Chinese Egg Tart. There was a tart stand in Shanghai next to our hotel. However, after a few late-night prowls we determined that the best egg tarts were at KFC. (really!) Chinese Egg Tarts are so similar to the Pastel de Nata that I enjoyed in Portugal. I wondered who invented them first?
Throughout history, there was so much trade between China and Portugal that it would be hard to say who came up with the recipe. Wheat is from the Mediterranean which points towards Portugal. But eggs are universal (every bird and amphibian makes them) and milk is universal (every mammal makes it.)
Even though I couldn’t figure out who invented Pastel de Nata, one thing was absolutely clear: They are loved around the world! Who cares who came up with the idea!?
We have our own version in Texas!
There are some differences with the crust, however. Some bakers choose to make their crust with flaky puff pastry. Other bakers choose to make a short crust made with butter. I have to say I really loved the puff pastry version, but alas…I rarely have good puff pastry on hand. But I can make an all butter short crust anytime, so that is the version I am including here.
As a Texan, I grew up eating egg custard pie which was always topped with a sprinkling of ground nutmeg. I added just a touch of nutmeg to this recipe, just to remind me of where I came from.Print
Pastel de Nata (Portuguese Egg Tarts)
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 16 servings
For the Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (187g)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
1/2 tsp. salt (2g)
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1”/2.5cm cubes (172g)
1 large egg
Extra butter for greasing pan
For the Filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100g)
1/2 tsp. cornstarch (2.5g)
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk (180ml)
2/3 cup heavy cream (160ml)
8 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract (5ml)
1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg (2.3g) (optional)
To make the crust, place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric food processor. Pulse once or twice to mix, and then add the butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, about 30 seconds. Add the egg, and pulse again briefly until the dough sticks together slightly. Remove the lid from the food processor and gather the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions. (You may choose to weigh each piece so they are equal.) Roll the divided pieces into balls.
Grease muffin tins with the extra butter. Using your fingers, press a portion of the dough into each muffin tin. Once the muffin tins are prepared with the dough, place the muffin tin in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes in order to chill the dough.
For the filling, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the milk, heavy cream, egg yolks, vanilla (and nutmeg, if desired.)
Heat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Remove the muffin tins with the chilled dough from the refrigerator and fill with the custard mixture. Bake for 20 minutes.
Once removed from the oven, allow the pasteles to cool for about 15 minutes in the muffin tins. Carefully remove them from the muffin tins, and allow the pasteles to cool on a wire rack before serving.
As you are making 16 egg tarts and muffin tins only have 12 portions, you will need to grease 4 portion of a second muffin tin to complete this recipe.