(Pronounced Past-eesh De Nada)
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!
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 spice? And when paired with a bitter espresso – deliciosa!
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. Use phyllo dough for the crust instead of making your own pie crust. You can alternatively use puff pastry, but it won’t have the same “crunch” and will be a bit more crust : custard ratio vs the other way around. If you do use the puff pastry, make sure you roll it out as thinly as possible, otherwise it will puff up too much and push out all your custard filling.
So here it is! My recipe of Pastéis De Nata
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Baking time: 15-20 minutes
500 g Sugar (2 1/2 cups)
8.33 oz Water (1 1/3 cups)
17 oz Milk (just over 2 Cups)
75 g Flour (2/3 Cup)
5 egg yolks
1 Whole Egg
1 Vanilla Pod
2 Cinnamon Sticks
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Thawed Package of Phyllo Dough + 1-2 Sticks Butter Melted (as needed for brushing) + Pastry Brush
1. Heat the water and sugar in a small pot, bring to a boil for 3 minutes until syrupy.
2. In another small pot, heat 1/2 milk with lemon zest and cinnamon sticks.
3. Meanwhile, mix the flour with the other 1/2 of the cold milk. Get it as smooth and possible with no lumps.
4. Once the milk is at a heavy simmer, (scalding) add the flour/milk mixture to the pot. Whisk well for 1 minute, keeping the pot on the heat. It will thicken slightly.
5. Add in the syrup mixture very, very, slowly to the pot with the milk mixture, whisking well. If you add too much too quickly it will separate and you will have chunks of flour. If this happens – whisk quickly and constantly to eliminate as many chunks as you can. Then add to the egg yolks, whisk well again, and strain out the chunks.
6. Take off heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before adding in eggs, stir frequently to help cool faster. (This is so that the eggs don’t over-cook, the ideal temperature is about 90 F or warm to the touch).
7. While your mixture is cooling, grease two muffin tins and take out phyllo dough. This will come in sheets. What you need is a melted stick of butter and a brush, take the first sheet and brush it lightly with butter, top it with a second, and repeat until you have 4 layers of phyllo. Then using a biscuit cutter that is a touch wider than the widest part of your muffin tin, cut out the circles. Repeat as needed until you have 24 circles for your muffin tin.
8. Once your liquid mixture is hot to the touch but not burning, whisk in your egg yolk and egg very well until completely smooth.
9. Fill the molds you made with the phyllo dough (fill just to the edge of the puff pastry ~ 2 Tbsp/mold) and bake at 375 F until the egg mixture is firm and browning just slightly and the phyllo is golden and flakey. About 15-20 minutes.
10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Flip muffin tin over to remove the pasties de nata. Sprinkle some cinnamon over them and enjoy as is, or with a shot of espresso.