(Pronounced Past-eesh De Nada)
How we discovered Pasteis de Nata in Portugal
Have you ever been to Portugal? If not — add it to the top of your “post-covid travel plans” list.
It is one of the most incredible countries I have ever visited. The people are incredibly kind, and patient if you can’t speak fluent Portuguese (or any Portuguese at all, really).
They have really amazing food and stellar wines that you really can’t get outside of the country. The wines themselves will have to be a different blog post though – actually many different blog posts. There is so much history and variety there!
Okay – back to the food. My first day in Portugal was an adventure – my (now) husband (soon to be fiance at the time) and I were traveling together and we got the car insurance with the rental – so of course, they decided to upgrade us. They upgraded us to this brand spanking new Mercedes C Class. We were expecting the smart car from 2006. Naturally, it was quite exciting, and well… nerve-wracking. Regardless, because of this new car, we knew we couldn’t park it half-on the street and half on the side-walk like everyone else. We had to find a garage. Well, the garage we found didn’t tell us that the next day would be a holiday – so it was closed. And our Air BnB was booked the next night so we had to be out of there ASAP.
Long story short – we found this wonderful man named Louis, and he actually used to date a girl from Minnesota, where we were from! He was able to sort it all out, called a guy from the garage, and asked him to come up and open it up for us. These are the types of people you want to be around, am I right? Talk about good samaritans! Well – the guy from the garage (Ricardo) wasn’t going to be there for about an hour, so Louis showed us the best cafe, a block away, to get Pastéis De Nata and espressos. We bought his, of course, and spent the next hour chatting and learning all about Lisbon and Portugal!
Pasteis de Nata became a staple food
Not only was my faith in humanity re-ignited, but also my faith in desserts making any situation better. The Pastéis de Nata – a classic dessert from Portugal. It was heaven. It was better than that. Vanilla beans, cinnamon, custard, and a crunchy crust?! I was so hooked. I could have eaten ten right then and there. I only ate 1 to be polite, and then proceeded to stop at, at least 1 cafe per town we visited (which was many in a single day often-times) for the next 13 days we were there.
THAT’S how good they are. So good. So, so, good. It also didn’t help that everywhere we went knew how to attract tourists with them. All the bakeries would have windows with large sheet pans containing row upon row of Pastéis De Nata. They had other things of course too, but who could pay attention to a croissant with a million layers next to one of these bad boys lined up in perfect rows??
Naturally, as any human would, when I came back I went through serious withdrawals. No other sweet satisfied. Creme brulée was just brulée, creme-filled doughnuts were just… too creamy. Creme Anglais was… exactly that, Anglais, not Portuguese! Not custard and crunch. Where was the warm cinnamon spice? And when paired with a bitter espresso – so delicious!
This is my favorite dessert/snack/brunch item/sweet treat/breakfast of all time. And, I have a hack to make it a bit easier to make.
There is an element of this recipe where it can get a little dicey — but I know you can do it, and you will be SO proud of yourself when you do.
Part of this recipe is a bit like making a creme Anglaise. Basically, a custard that is used as the base for many ice creams. It is made by tempering egg yolks with hot milk and sugar and then re-heating on the stove until the entire mixture has thickened. It thickens just to the point where if you dip your spoon in, it lightly coats it, but if you swipe your finger across the middle of it, it won’t dribble down to recover the spoon. You must be careful to not have your heat too high and to continue stirring constantly so the bottom doesn’t scramble the yolks. I recommend a wooden spoon for this, but use a whisk if you prefer.
So here it is! My recipe of Pastéis De NataPrint
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