|Preparation time: 15 minutes||Cooking time: 20 minutes|
|Difficulty: Easy||Serves: 12|
- A little butter, for greasing
- 160g/5 1/2 oz/half a pack of puff pastry
- 400ml/4dl/3/4 pt/1 2/3 cups of semi skimmed milk
- 200g/7oz/1 cup of sugar
- 30g/1oz/3 heaped tablespoons of plain flour
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 1 cinnamon stick
- A little extra flour, for rolling the pastry
- A whisk
- A rolling pin
- A wooden spoon
- A large saucepan
- A 12 hole muffin tin
- A pastry brush
- Prepare the muffin tin by gently brushing butter over each muffin well.
- Pour the flour, sugar and milk into a large saucepan and whisk them together until uniform.
- Place the pan on the hob over a medium heat, and continue to whisk its contents. After a few minutes’ whisking, the milk mixture should be thickened and smooth.
- Add the zest and cinnamon stick to the pan and stir them in with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the mixture to cool down a little.
- Preheat the oven to 250’C/480’F/Gas Mark 9.
- When the mixture is lukewarm, remove the cinnamon stick. Then, whisk in the egg yolks.
- Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface, and cut it into 12 squares. Use your fingers to press these into the muffin wells, pulling the pastry up to the edges so that entire wells are covered.
- Then pour the custard mixture over the pastries, pouring as much into each well as you can. Put the muffin tin in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, turning halfway through if necessary. You can remove them from the oven when the pastry seems lightly browned and the custard is slightly caramelized and wobbles gently when the tin is shaken. If it seems too liquidy and leaky, bake for another few minutes.
- If desired, dust the Pastéis with powdered cinnamon and sugar.
- Bom apetite!
- To get the lemon zest, gently grate the lemon peel onto a plate. Try to avoid the white pith as much as possible.
- Accompany the Pastéis with a good Portuguese wine, coffee or cherry liqueur
Pronunciation: /pɐʃˈtɛɫ dɨ ˈnatɐ/ (pastays dei natta) (Pasteis is plural-a singular pastry is a plural)
Relatives: Egg Custard (United Kingdom), Egg Tart (Hong Kong), Flans Pâtissiers (France), Alivenci (Romania), Melktart (South Africa)
Pastéis de Nata were created and eaten by monks at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belém, a parish in Lisbon. We don’t know exactly when the Pastéis were first made, but it was certainly before the 18th century. In this era, religious houses needed egg whites to starch their religious habits. As a result, monasteries and convents were left with a surplus of egg yolks, which they used to bake cakes and pastries. The recipe developed by the monks at Belém made use of other ingredients readily available in Lisbon: locally grown gallego lemons, and cinnamon, brought over by Portuguese traders from Sri Lanka.
Their monastic lifestyle abruptly came to an end in the early nineteenth century. The Portuguese Liberal Revolution of 1820 sought judicial reform, and hoped to curtail the power of the nobility and church. As a result, the liberal constitution adopted in 1821 provided for the suppression of the Inquisition and the selling of church lands. Hoping to avoid the loss of their monastery, monks from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos began selling the Pastéis for revenue, as a way of keeping themselves afloat.
By 1834 however, the monastery’s closure was unavoidable. The monks sold their recipe to a local sugar refinery, whose owners founded the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém in 1837. The Fábrica still does a roaring trade to this day, and the nearby Mosteiro is now a major tourist attraction and World Heritage Site.
Because the Pastéis hail from Belém, they are often known as Pastéis de Belém instead of Pastéis de Nata (which means cream pastries.) But such is their popularity that there are regional varieties of Pastéis de Belém all over Portugal, complete with local tweaks and changes.
Japanese cuisine was heavily influenced by Portuguese cuisine because of the presence of Portuguese traders in Japan in the early modern era. As a result, Pastéis de Nata are popular in Japan, South Korea, and surrounding countries: local varieties include Pastéis infused with green tea.