Friday, November 2, 2018

Portuguese Custard Tarts – The Hieronymites Got This Right

I’ve made custard tarts before, but never the world-famous Portuguese custard tarts, and I’m thrilled to report the results were shockingly good. This really was one of the best pastries I’ve ever enjoyed, custard or otherwise. 

Which is a good thing, since they do require a bit of effort to produce. The recipe itself is simple, using just a few basic ingredients, but there are numerous steps, and a certain amount of finesse is required, but the results are so worth it. After watching a few dozen videos on the technique, I decided to try the short cut version first, which uses frozen store-bought puff pastry. The results were not good. Since puff pastry is leavened with yeast, and contains so many more layers of butter and dough, my crust turned out too thick, and gummy, and wasn’t nearly as thin and crispy as it should’ve been. It may have been my technique, but officially I’m blaming the dough.

So then I attempted an “authentic” dough recipe from scratch, which was infinitely better. It’s a little tricky to work with, since the dough is very sticky, but I think that’s one of the keys here. Seems like the extra moisture in the dough, which is activated by the very hot oven, is what creates the signature flaky, crispy texture.

As far as the custard goes, it’s a relatively simple procedure, and we even streamlined one of the steps. You’ll have to decide whether you’re going to include lemon, cinnamon, and vanilla, which are apparently considered optional ingredients in Portugal, but I really enjoy the flavor, and wouldn’t change a thing. Regardless of what you decide to add, or not add to yours, like I said in the video, these should be on everyone’s baking bucket list. So, I really do hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!


For the dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup cold water
Note: adjust with more flour or water to achieve what’s shown in the video
1 stick (4 ounces) very soft, high-quality unsalted butter

For the sugar syrup:
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
zest from 1 lemon

For the custard base:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups milk
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- Bake tarts at 550 F. for 12 minutes or until the pastry is browned and bubbly, and the tops start to blister and caramelize.
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43 comments:

Ouroboros said...

These look amazing! I can't wait to try my hand at this recipe. I know you said that the cinnamon stick and lemon zest are optional, but would you say that cinnamon powder and/or a few drops of lemon juice would make poor substitutes?

Ouroboros said...

Wow, this looks amazing! I can't wait to try my hand at this recipe. I know you said that the cinnamon stick and lemon zest are optional, but would cinnamon powder and/or a few drops of lemon juice make poor substitutes? Thanks :)

Mark Lyons said...

Chef John - any tips for getting stick butter that soft and spreadable? Thx!

Dae1 said...

I want to try this for Thanksgiving I might even blog it thank you for your recipe videos

Unknown said...

I usually buy these dellicatesens from a famous bakery in Toronto. I have been looking for an authentic recipe to try at home, but I couldn't find one with the crust made from scratch. Yours look amazing. Can't wait to give it a try. Thanks so much for sharing.

Jade and Mir said...

Thank you, Chef John, for yet another beautiful recipe.

As someone who is scared of doughs, do you think I could use puff pastry, par-bake it after docking the bottom with a toothpick before pouring in the custard? Maybe puff pastry and do the butter spread only once?

Tim Morton said...

I can't wait to make this. Being a native of the south coast of MA, Portuguese food was a huge enjoyable part of my youth. I'd love to see you try a Cacoila, Favas w/ linguica & chourico, Papa secos, or Malasada. Always love your videos.. thanks.

Unknown said...

My food wish, how about making a japanese omelette (tamigoyaki)

Lyn Pask said...

I have been wanting to make these for awhile thank you I will make these this weekend

Juliat Shamoun said...

It is excellent john
Can we substitue the sugar with stevia or Xyloto
And work with free Gluten flour
Bascily i want to convert this recipe to a low Carb pastry if i can
Can you give us some tip!

Juliat Shamoun said...

Can we convert this recipe to a low carb revipe 😊
Thank you very much

Anon said...

Please make Yetsom Beyaynetu. I tried to make Injera many times but it never goes right. I would love to see how you would do it.

Unknown said...

Chef John, these look awesome! Do you have any ideas for what else you might be able to use the pastry cups for?

Unknown said...

Ok, I made these today. The custard is to die for, the crust is a little bit chewy , crispy but chewy. I followed the instructions to the tee. The smoke alarm went off , there was butter oozing and spilling . I had custard leftover, enough for one more tart.

Robert Voice said...

You're the best Chef John!

I'll never forget the first time I ate a real Pasteis de Nata in Macau. I often find substandard tarts here in SF, yet none look as delicious as what you presented. That said, can you specify the size of muffin pan you used? I have pans that appear both larger and smaller than what I am able to estimate from your video. It seems critical given you divide your dough into 12 pieces. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Holy cow Chef John. I made these yesterday only a couple of hours after your video was put up, and I have to say they were absolutely amazing. All 12 were gone in just a couple of hours, and they tasted incredible. I didn't have any lemon so I used orange peel, cinnamon and vanilla, and they were delicious. And that crust. They were super crispy and crunchy and I was pretty pleased for my first time making any sort of laminated pastry.

Points2Ponder said...

These look so good!

Marcin said...

Dear Chef John, thank you so much for sharing this. After having eaten the original pasteis in Lisbon a couple of years ago I've been trying to recreate them back at home. And I confirm your recipe is the best I have tried! From my side I would only suggest a little less sugar and a zest of orange instead of lemon. Also after applying the third layer of butter I dusted over some ground cinnamon over the dough which added a nice flavor. All the best from Poland! Marcin

Unknown said...

Hi Chef John, yet again another awesome recipe! I tried making the pastry today but have some trouble with laminating the dough. For some reason, butter just kept on spilling out as I was rolling it. Do you have any advice on this? Fyi, I live in a tropical country so it gets hot in the kitchen... Maybe is it because I was placing on too much butter? Or was the dough too dry?

Thank you!

Krista Ogburn Francis said...

We haven’t tried this recipe yet but wanted to say we love your videos and sense of humor. And we just picked up a couple freakishly small wooden spoons today so now we can make official Chef John food!

CHIHANGLEUNG said...

Just tried it. It's very similar to egg tart in Hong Kong and it's curing my homesickness. Awesome recipe Chef John!

Toni Baloney said...

A W E S O M E

LifeofPie said...

Am I the first commentor?

Grew up in china I ate so many of the Asian version of this tart! Can’t wait to try making them myself.

박성하 said...

Good

Unknown said...

Hi Chef Jobn,
I am always a big admirer of yours. I have followed your recipe and it turned out superb. Recently I was in an African Portuguese speaking country Angola, where I have to buy these pastries but now after watching this video I can make my own. Thanks for sharing this. Live healthy, live long. Have a great day and as always... enjoyyyyy :-)

Unknown said...

Hey chef. I am making these for a dinner party tomorrow. I will let you know how they turn out!

Shanda said...

Chef,
Would you please make a steamed pudding? I'm curious about them after watching an unnamed British baking show. Perhaps a Christmas pudding or a Bakewell? Or freestyle it.

Btw thanks for introducing us to Detroit style pizza. I had never heard of it before.

Unknown said...

Could this style of crust be used for tarts with other fillings? Something like a Canadian butter tart filling.

TaraB said...

Ooooh they turned out perfect. Thank you for these videos. I feel like a pro.

Unknown said...

I've been craving these bad boys ever since a trip to Lisbon a few years back. Making the dough tonight and will report back tomorrow with results. Thanks for another awesome recipe Chef John!

Stacy M said...

I made these tarts for dessert last night, following the recipe exactly as shown. And I have to say, these tarts were very possibly THE most delicious sweet things ever to come out of my oven! It isn't often that I'll follow a recipe for the first time and have it come out exactly as described, but that is exactly what happened here! I feel like a baking superhero :D

Unknown said...

My Pasteis de Nata turned out wonderfully. Thanks to Chef John for the video (and to the spirit of my Great Uncle Frankie, a Master Pastry Chef). Paul Matthew St. Pierre

Dornfield said...

So these look fantastic: can they be stored and then gently reheated before serving? They might go soggy if not served immediately, but I'm not sure I could co-ordinate preparation and devour(ation) to the precision that would maximise crispiness!!!

Dornfield said...

So these look fantastic: can they be stored and then gently reheated before serving? They might go soggy if not served immediately, but I'm not sure I could co-ordinate preparation and devour(ation) to the precision that would maximise crispiness!!!

Yang Lin said...

ah! Finally!

Unknown said...

Wowza, looks delicious! This is on my list of techniques to perfect (the dough) and these are right up my alley flavor-wise. Thanks as always, Chef!

Kefka Palazzo said...

Thanks for this superb video. They were awesomely delicious. We had to wrest with the pan and dough. They stayed crispy till the next day too. It was fun to make. You are the best !

Evone said...

Well you didn't explain how you have to fold the dough that is extremely important.

Glauco said...

I love those. With lots of cinnamon.

Pastel de Belem so se fores a Belem, pastel de nata em todo Portugal.

Unknown said...

Hi! Im dying to try this recipe but it doesnt say if you've greased the muffin tin before hand. It looks like you did, what would be the best thing to use?

Cara Mia said...

Chef John,

You're right . . . not only was this recipe extremely simple to follow but the tarts are mind-blowingly delicious! Thank you, THANK YOU!

dado said...

question...should it not be 2/3 cup of water..since 1/3 cup will be 30% water and sticky dough should be around 75% water?

Unknown said...

Hi Chef John. Thanks for all your great work!

A little fyi: puff pastry does not contain yeast, so if the store bought stuff you experimented with did, it was not real puff pastry. I'm a recovering pastry chef who used to make puff pastry, croissant and danish doughs, about 500 hundred pounds of each per week. If you use regular puff pastry and roll it thin enough, it works in this recipe. Basically the dough you made is a version of puff pastry.

Grew up eating Pasteis de Nata. They are inexplicably addictive.