Madeiran Custard Tarts – Pasteis de Nata

These custard tarts are very Portuguese ( Madeira is a Portuguese Island) and very delicious.  They put the English custard tart to shame with their egginess and deliciousness.  The many bakeries in Madeira are the best place to buy them, should you find yourself on the island any time soon. The tarts available in the supermarkets (Pingo Doce and SA) are just not as good. But if you find a good bakery then these little treats are divine – crusty flaky pastry filled to the brim with sweet unctuous egg custard and caramelised on top.

I was determined to have a go when I got home so I searched blog sites and YouTube and found this video.  I watched it, tried my best to translate it, and then halved the mixture (because even I can’t eat 24).  I then had a go on Monday afternoon, trying to memorise what she did.  Needless to say I got it wrong.  I forgot the boiling the sugar part and just added the sugar to the milk.  I also didn’t note that she was just using the egg yolks and so I added the whole eggs.  The result tasted pretty good but it wasn’t the same as I had when in Madeira.  So today I watched the video again, took more note of what she is actually doing and then made them again. I am pretty pleased with the result.

I used a lot more pastry than the lady in the video does but then I am a big pastry fan.  You may want to be more light handed with your pastry than I am and make the bases a little thinner.

500g puff pastry or Delia’s Quick Flaky Pastry (recipe below)
250ml milk
A good sized strip of lemon peel (removed using my vegetable peeler)
1 cinnamon stick
30g plain (all purpose) flour
250g sugar
125ml water
4 egg yolks


Place the flour in a small bowl and use about 50ml of the milk to make a smooth paste.  Pour the rest of the milk into a saucepan, add the lemon peel and cinnamon and heat to boiling point.

In the meantime, pour the sugar into another saucepan and add the water.  Place over a gentle heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Stop stirring, turn up the heat, bring to the boil and let it boil for three minutes.

When the milk has come to the boil stir in the flour and milk paste and using a whisk keep whisking until smooth.  Cook for a minute or two, stirring all the time, to cook out the flour.  Once the sugar syrup has boiled for three minutes, carefully (because it will be very hot) and gradually add the sugar syrup to the milk mixture, whisking all the time.  When it has all been added allow to boil for a minute.  Then strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick.  Allow to cool whilst you put the pastry into a muffin tin.

If you are using ready made puff pastry roll it out into a rectangle and then roll up into swiss roll shape and slice into 12 even sized pieces.  If you are making Delia’s Quick Flaky pastry then form into a long sausage before chilling.

Take each piece and mould, using your thumb and fingers, into the hole of a muffin tray ( if you watch the video you will see what I mean).

Now add the egg yolks to the custard mixture and whisk in well. Make sure that the custard mixture is not still hot or the egg yolks will scramble. Pour this mixture into the pastry moulds and cook in a preheated oven at 250°c for about 15-20 minutes.   (I cooked mine in my Aga which does not reach 250°c, so I cooked them on the floor of the roasting oven for ten minutes to cook the base of the pastry cases, then moved to near the top of the roasting oven for another fifteen minutes before they were cooked to my liking and nicely caramelised on top.)

For Delia’s Quick Flaky Pastry:

When I made these tarts on Monday I followed Delia’s recipe word for word but the pastry only stretched to fill nine muffin holes so I made 1½ times the mixture today which yields nearly 700g of pastry.  This is more than enough for 12 and a bit left over for jam tarts or cheese straws depending on how the fancy takes me later.

350g plain flour
250g butter
pinch of salt (if you are using unsalted butter)
cold water to mix ( I probably used about 1 large wine glass full)


Place the butter in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Put the flour and salt in a bowl. Grate the butter over the flour and mix with a palette knife.  Add water and continue to mix with the knife until it starts to come together.  Then quickly use your hands to bring it into a sausage shape.  Wrap in clingfilm or a food bag and chill in the fridge for thirty minutes.  The key is to handle it with your warm hands as little as possible to keep it flaky.  When you are ready, take golf ball size pieces of pastry and mould into the muffin holes.



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