Pastel de Nata (also known as Pastel de Belém) is the national pastry of Portugal. It was originally invented to use up leftover egg yolks and although leftover egg yolks are not a problem any more, this pastry is available in all pastry shops in Portugal. They are a bit fiddly to prepare yourself, but they are worth it. The crisp pastry contrasts beautifully with the creamy custard, the caramelized brown tops give it a bit more oomph and the small amount of cinnamon gives it a delicate, aromatic taste.
Portuguese Custard Tarts (12 small tarts)
Adapted from Edible Garden
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
400 ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 squares of puff pastry (in the Netherlands most puff pastry comes pre-rolled in smallish squares)
Heat the milk until barely cooking. Mix together the sugar and cornflour in a bowl, mix together, then add the yolks, mix well again. Slowly pour the hot milk on the yolk-sugar-cornflour mixing, while stirring constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pan, place it over medium heat and cook until the mixture thickens, simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, pour over into a bowl and add the vanilla extract. Leave to cool.
Grease a muffin tin and preheat the oven to 200C. Thaw the puff pastry.
Slice each square of puff pastry into 4. Roll each quarter out to get the pastry a little thinner. Place in the muffin tin. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on the pastry.
Scoop custard to about 3/4 level of the pastry and bake for about 25 minutes. They should get quite brown on top. Leave to cool on a rack and eat fresh (they don’t store well).
Note: depending on your muffin tin, you may not need all the pastry cream. Don’t worry, it is also delicious to eat it on its own!