Recipes·Technical Bake

Pastéis de Nata

A custard filling and laminated pastry dough are characteristic of the Portuguese-inspired Technical Bake for Pie and Tart Week.

This week’s Technical Bake takes inspiration from Portugal’s popular custard tarts

(Geoff George / The Great Canadian Baking Show)

Pastéis de nata, or Portuguese custard tarts, are distinct from other tarts due to the pastry shell’s laminated spiral, which is visible on the bottom. While the process for producing the layers may be tedious, the result is worth it: a buttery and flaky shell holding a custard filling with a caramelized top.

Pastéis de nata were the Technical Bake for Pie and Tart Week in Season 5 of The Great Canadian Baking Show.

Pastéis de nata

Special Equipment 

  • 14 egg tart tins, measuring 2¾ in. wide at the top; 1½ in. wide at the bottom; and ¾ in. deep
  • Baking stone

Ingredients

Pastry:

  • 1 cup (142 g) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 7 tbsp ice water
  • 9 tbsp (129 g) unsalted butter; softened at room temperature (you should be able to spread it with your fingers), divided

Custard:

  • 3½ tbsp (31 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp plus 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp (173 g) granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup plus 2 tbsp water
  • 6 strips strips lemon peel
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Preparation

Pastry:
In a medium bowl, stir the flour and salt together using a fork. Stir in the ice water until a ragged dough forms, then turn it out onto a work surface. Gently knead until it forms a very soft, pillowy dough. Flatten, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. 

On a floured surface, press and shape the dough into a 12-inch square, lifting it and flouring your work surface as needed. Brush any excess flour off of the dough. Starting at one edge, distribute 4 tablespoons of the butter on two-thirds of the dough’s surface and spread evenly with an offset spatula, leaving a ½-inch border around the dough’s edge. 

Fold the unbuttered third of the dough over the centre third, brushing off any excess flour; then fold the remaining third on top of the unbuttered third, brushing off excess flour. Pat down the dough to release air bubbles, then pinch the seam to seal. 

Turn the dough so the fold is facing you. Lift the dough and flour the work surface, then roll it out into a 12-inch square. Distribute 3 tablespoons of the butter on two-thirds of the dough and again spread it evenly, leaving a ½-inch border. Fold the dough as in the previous step. 

Rotate the dough a quarter turn to the left and roll it into a 17-by-14-inch rectangle. Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over the entire surface. Trim the short end and roll the pastry into a tight log, pinching the seam to seal and making sure it’s even. Cut the log in half to create two even pieces, then wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Custard:
Whisk the flour, 2 tablespoons of the milk and the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Heat the remaining milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just hot. Gradually whisk about half of the milk into the egg mixture, then whisk in the rest of the milk until smooth. 

Combine the sugar, water, lemon peel and cinnamon in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high, allowing it to reach 220 F. Whisk the syrup into the egg mixture, then whisk in the vanilla and salt. Let cool completely, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-cup measure. 

Adjust the oven rack to the top third position and place a baking stone on top. Heat the oven to 500 F. 

Remove the dough from the fridge and set out a small bowl of cold water. Cut each log into seven pieces — each measuring roughly 1 inch thick — then place a pastry disc in the bottom of each tin swirl side up. Dip your thumbs in the water, then press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the tin, working from the centre of the base outward and rotating the tin until the dough pokes over the top edge by ¼ inch and is about 1⁄16 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining discs. Place the tins on a baking sheet and chill for 20 minutes. Quickly press the pastry back above the rim, chilling again for another 20 minutes. 

Pour the custard into each tin until they’re three-quarters full and place the baking sheet in the oven on the heated baking stone, quickly closing the oven door to prevent heat from escaping. Bake until the pastry is browned and the filling is puffed and blistered, 14 to 17 minutes. Remove the tarts from their tins immediately and let cool slightly. 

Makes 14 tarts

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