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How to make Portuguese custard tarts

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. Don't forget to screenshot our handy ingredients list before you go shopping.

  1. Roll the pastry

    Grease a 12-hole muffin tin. Unroll 1 sheet of ready rolled puff pastry 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.

    Roll the pastry
  2. Shape the pastry

    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 – warm, soft pastry is more likely to rise and puff than crisp up. If you're short on time, freeze it for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a pan, combine 300ml whole milk, 1 cinnamon stick and the pared zest of 1 lemon. Cook gently until just bubbling at the edges, then turn off the heat. Leave to infuse for 15 minutes.

    Shape the pastry
  3. Strain the milk

    Strain the infused milk into a jug, discarding the cinnamon and lemon zest left in the sieve. Put 50g plain 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 3 large egg yolks; set aside. 

    Strain the milk
  4. Make a sugar syrup

    In a small pan, gently heat 200g golden caster sugar and 100ml 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.

    Make a sugar syrup
  5. Cook the custard

    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. 

    Cook the custard
  6. Bake

    Preheat the oven to gas 9, 240°C, fan 220°C. 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. 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.

  7. Serve

    Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out. Serve warm.

    Portuguese custard tarts 636x418Calories 231 (12%), fat 9g (13%), saturates 4g (21%), sugars 19g (21%), salt 0.4g (6%), based on 12 servings.

  8. 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.

  9. Ingredients

    We've prepared a simple shopping list so you can easily get all you need to make these creamy custard tarts. Be sure to note down the ingredients or take a screenshot before heading to the shops.

    butter, for greasing
    1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry
    50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
    300ml whole milk
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 lemon, zest pared
    3 large egg yolks
    200g golden caster sugar