Portuguese custard tarts recipe

  • Serves 12
  • 15 mins to prepare and 60 mins to cook, plus chilling
  • 231 calories / serving
  • Healthy
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Known as pastéis de nata in Portugal, these classic tarts are a winning combination of flaky pastry and sweet, creamy filling. Follow this easy baking recipe and rustle up a batch to share with friends and family alongside a cup of tea.

  1. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin. Unroll the pastry sheet and peel off the paper. On a lightly floured surface, tightly reroll the pastry from one short end, to make a log shape. Roll it under your hands, until smooth, then trim the ends (discard). Cut the pastry into 12 even pieces. 
  2. Put one piece of pastry, on its side, in each hole. Using your thumbs, press the dough into the base and up the sides. Chill for 1 hour. Meanwhile, in a pan, combine the milk, cinnamon and lemon zest. Cook gently until just bubbling at the edges, then turn off the heat. Leave to infuse for 15 minutes. 
  3. Strain the infused milk into a jug, discarding the cinnamon and lemon zest left in the sieve. Put the flour in a mixing bowl. Pour in a little milk and whisk to make a smooth paste. Gradually add the remaining milk, whisking until combined. Stir in the egg yolks; set aside. 
  4. In a small pan, gently heat the sugar and 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water, until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil briskly for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually pour the hot syrup into the milk and flour mixture, whisking until it forms a smooth, runny custard. 
  5. Spoon the custard into a clean pan and cook, over a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thickened (about 8 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes. To stop a skin forming as it cools, cover the custard surface with a sheet of clingfilm. 
  6. Preheat the oven to gas 9, 240°C, fan 220°C. Using 2 teaspoons, divide the custard between the pastry cases. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the custard is blackened in places and the pastry is flaky and golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out. Serve warm.

Delicious spins 

Spiced orange custard tart: Unroll the pastry and sprinkle with a mixture of 2 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tsp each ground cinnamon and mixed spice; use a rolling pin to help it stick before tightly rerolling. For the custard, swap the lemon zest for orange. Grate a little fresh nutmeg over the custard before baking.

Coconut custard tarts: Spoon the coconut cream from the top of 1 x 400ml tin coconut milk into a small pan. Add the sugar, swapping the water for 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of the watery coconut milk; set aside. For step 3, replace the regular milk with the remaining 300ml (1/2pt) coconut milk and the lemon peel for lime. Before baking, scatter each tart with 1/2 tsp desiccated coconut. Bake until the coconut is just toasted. 

Mini blueberry tarts: Reroll the pastry from the long side and cut into 24 rounds; press into a 24-hole mini muffin tin. Add 3 blueberries to each custard-filled tart; bake until just golden. 

Expert tips 

To get 12 even rounds (step 1), cut the pastry log in half, then halve each piece before cutting into 3. 

Don't cut short the chilling (step 2). Warm, soft pastry is more likely to rise and puff than crisp up. If you're short on time, freeze it for 15 minutes instead. 

Use a peeler to pare the lemon zest into large pieces - if your strips are too thin they may disintegrate, which can affect the custard's consistency.

To prevent your tarts having soggy bottoms, preheat a baking sheet in the oven (step 6) and put the muffin tin on top. The heat from the tray will start to cook the bases straight away, ensuring a crisp underneath.

If you make a double batch of custard tarts, boil the sugar syrup for 1 minute extra (step 4). The increased volume of liquid will take a little longer to reach the same stage. 

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  • Ingredients

  • butter, for greasing
  • 1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry
  • 50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 300ml (1/2 pt) whole milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 lemon, zest pared (see expert tip)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
  • Energy 975kj 231kcal 12%
  • Fat 9g 13%
  • Saturates 4g 21%
  • Sugars 19g 21%
  • Salt 0.4g 6%

of the reference intake
Carbohydrate 34.5g Protein 4.4g Fibre 0.2g


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