Cristiano Ronaldo, or Portugal, as he is often referred to, hasn’t had a great World Cup so far, and probably the less said the better. So let’s quickly move on to something much more pleasant, namely these delicious custard tartlets called either pastéis de nata, cream tartlets, or pastéis de Belém, after the district in Lisbon where the dessert was invented. According to the article in the Zeit, where I got this recipe from, the nuns in the local convent invented it in order to use up the spare egg yolks – the whites were used to starch their headdresses.
These tartlets have taken the Portuguese-speaking world by storm and can be found anywhere from Brazil to Macao, Mozambique or Goa. And you can even bake them in your own kitchen, as this easy version (ready-made puff pastry and non-industrial oven) illustrates.
Pastéis de Belém or Pastéis de Nata (for 12 muffin cases)
- 200 g sugar
- 2 tbsp flour
- 8 egg yolks
- ½ liter of cream
- 1 pinch salt
- zest of 1 lemon, peeled in one piece
- a pinch of cinnamon
- 450 g puff pastry
Preheat the oven to 250 to 260 degrees. If you have a grill you can use it as well.
Mix the sugar, flour, egg yolks, cream and salt with the mixer until smooth. all the ingredients for the cream (except puff pastry, cinnamon and icing sugar) in a saucepan with a whisk until smooth. In a medium saucepan, heat it up, together with the lemon zest. Keep stirring until it begins to boil and thickens slightly. Remove the lemon peel, add the cinnamon and leave to cool.
Roll out the puff pastry to a very thin rectangle, then roll it up into a tight roll. Roll it – with cool hands – until the roll has ca. 2.5 cm, then cut it into 12 pieces. Put one into each of the holes of your (ungreased!) tin and press them from the centre outwards until they fill out the hole. By doing this you are creating the twisted bottoms of the pastéis.
Fill in the custard to just below the rim of the pastry and bake on the middle shelf for 8-12 minutes. Stay close: the pastéis should slightly burn at the top to give them their wonderful caramel flavour.
Let them cool down before removing them from the tin; use a sharp knife to loosen them. Serve with coffee and tuck in before someone the others finish them!