Portuguese Custard Tarts: Pastéis de Nata (Pastel de Belém)

More Than Burnt Toast invited me to her table

Scroll back up and look at that flaky pastry! The mouth feel of these flaky tender shards of buttery goodness shattering into transparent wisps of shredded delicate lusciousness is surreal. I had no frame of reference for a pastry like this. It is made in a similar (but much simpler) fashion as puff pastry, but is a completely different texture and experience. The pastry is the star.

Yet, the cinnamon scented eggy custard offers the perfect foil through it’s sweet creamy depth for this pastry. The filling coupled with the pastry is a celebration. A quiet celebration. This tart is not about flavour. It is all about texture and mouth feel and tickling that deep inner pleasure seeking core eliciting that little sideways smile. Yum. Yum. I made mini ones and ate six. I never do that.

When Valerie from More Than Burnt Toast invited me to her table, though, I am a committed reader of her fantastic (you must visit) site and look forward to each of her new posts (AND she is CANADIAN and a member of the “V club!!), I was a little hesitant. I don’t really do well with deadlines with my “hobby” website. There are too many other demands upon my time in “real life”, and this is a deadline free zone! However, I have always wanted to taste Portuguese Tarts. I was honoured by Valerie’s invitation, and we got to agree upon the date!! What fun I had “baking with Val” this past week! I learned a great deal (hers custard was much lighter than mine as she did them “properly” and finished hers first); I found I so much appreciated the gentle prod to do something out of my comfort zone. Make sure you visit her site to read about her experience making these tarts!

Invite a Blogger to Your Table is a new and innovative collaborative initiative by Val at More Than Burnt Toast. I have not yet participated in any group collaborative initiatives within the blogosphere, but this one enables the participants to set their own dates within the time frame given in the rules. I was tickled pink when Val invited me to her table to make these initially somewhat daunting Portuguese Tarts. I was a little worried about my level of success having never tasted one before. But, I have now invited Heavenly Housewife and Val to MY table and we will be posting our surprise before Valentine’s Day! This initiative by Val is going to create such a community of shared experiences and deepening friendships, so invite a blogger to YOUR table!

Here are her “rules”:

Your choice of recipe can be anything you would like it to be. Is there something you have been wanting to make and need feedback and encouragement from a friend to create on your blog? Is there a special dish that you just have to share sweet or savoury? Do you just want the fun of collaborating with other bloggers to come up with a tasty dish you feel you and your readers might enjoy. This is a fun event that creates friendships throughout the blogosphere. Invite someone you have followed for years or a perfect stranger. It is up to you!

  1. Choose a dish to prepare and invite 1 blogger to create that dish with you. You can source your recipe from a cookbook, magazine, blog or any other source. Your dish can be sweet or savoury; easy or complicated.
  2. Decide upon a date that you can both mutually post your recipe within a 4 week time frame.
  3. Link back to More Than Burnt Toast somewhere in your post as the creator of this event: http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com/
  4. Please feel free to use the Avatar/Badge above “Invite a Blogger to Your Table”.
  5. Once you have made your dish with your blogging friend or friends and posted it, you can choose to STOP or CONTINUE on and “invite another blogger to your table” to make something DIFFERENT on a mutually agreeable date within the next 4 week time frame.
  6. Cut and paste these instructions into your post and contact a friend. Let magic happen and let’s get cooking!!!


I needed 16 tablespoons of butter at room temperature. Now, I know that 16 tablespoons is one cup, but I made sure I had them separated. Otherwise, why would it say 16 tablespoons instead of one cup?

The salt, flour and water went into my Thermomix bowl. You can do it in a mixer. It took seconds to form into a lovely little dough that needed a big rest.

All pictures following go with the instructions. If you need an image to go with the recipe, just scroll back up and take a look at my journey. You will see how beautiful this pastry dough is! It was SO easy to work with!

I could not get enough shots of this dough. It was so supple!

You will find that my syrup actually caramelized at 220°F and I had two thermometers (I never trust just one)… but, I knew it was not to have turned brown; however, the flavour was not deeply caramel. The colour is somewhat deceiving. I was going to make the filling again, but as this was still delicious, and the texture was a beautiful custard, I decided against it.

The recipe called for them to be dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon (I mixed mine together), but I found them better without it in both looks and taste.


Alfama’s Pastéis de Nata (Pastel de Belém) Portuguese Custard Tarts Recipe by David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (260g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup plus two tablespoons water (190g)
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, stirred until smooth

Ingredients for the custard:

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 egg yolks, whisked
  • powdered sugar
  • cinnamon
  • thermometer

Instructions for the dough:

Note: The secret to a crispy, flaky pastry is to make sure the butter is evenly layered, all excess flour is removed, and the dough is rolled very thin and folded neatly; you will need a thermometer to accurately gauge the custard.

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, and water until a soft, pillowy dough forms that cleans the side of the bowl (about 30 seconds) (Scale the three ingredients into the TM bowl if using a Thermomix, mix for 10 seconds on speed 2 and knead for 10 seconds.)
  2. Generously flour a work surface and pat the dough into a 6-inch square using a pastry scraper as a guide; flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 15 minutes
  3. Roll the dough into an 18-inch square; as you work, use the scraper to lift the dough to make sure the underside isn’t sticking
  4. Brush excess flour off the top and trim any uneven edges: I found this to be important as later all edges need to match up (don’t be sloppy :) )
  5. Using a small offset spatula dot and then spread the left two-thirds of the dough with a little less than one-third of the butter to within 1 inch of the edge
  6. Neatly fold over the unbuttered right third of the dough (using the pastry scraper to loosen it if it sticks); brush off any excess flour, then fold over the left third (ensure all edges match as perfectly as possible as this will later effect the even  “puffing up” of the pastry)
  7. Starting from the top, pat down the packet with your hand to release air bubbles, then pinch the edges closed; brush off any excess flour
  8. Turn the dough packet 90° to the left so the fold is facing you; lift the packet and flour the work surface
  9. Once again roll out to an 18-inch square, then dot and spread the left two-thirds of the dough with one-third of the butter, and fold the dough as in steps 4 and 5 (don’t forget the trimming and the matching of the edges as perfectly as possible)
  10. For the last rolling, turn the packet 90° to the left and roll out the dough to an 18-by-21-inch rectangle, with the shorter side facing you; spread the remaining butter over the entire surface
  11. Using the spatula as an aid, lift the edge closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from the underside as you go ensuring the ends are even and not rolling sideways or not having the middle stick out)
  12. Trim the ends and cut the log in half; wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or preferably overnight

Instructions for the custard:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth; set aside
  2. Bring the sugar, cinnamon, and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 220°F (100°C); do not stir
  3. Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, scald the remaining 1 cup milk; whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture
  4. Pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot-milk-and-flour mixture, whisking briskly; add the vanilla and stir for a minute until very warm but not hot
  5. Whisk in the yolks; strain the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside
  6. Heat the oven to 550°F (290°C); remove a pastry log from the refrigerator and roll it back and forth on a lightly floured surface until it’s about an inch in diameter and 16 inches long
  7. Cut it into scant 3/4-inch pieces; place a piece cut-side down in each well of a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan (2-by-5/8-inch size)
  8. Allow the dough pieces to soften several minutes until pliable
  9. Have a small cup of water nearby; dip your thumbs into the water, then straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the cup to a thickness of about 1/8 inch, then smooth the dough up the sides and create a raised lip about 1/8 inch above the pan (the pastry sides should be thinner than the bottom)
  10. Fill each cup 3/4 full with the slightly warm custard; bake until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown, about 8 to 9 minutes
  11. Remove from the oven and allow the pastéis to cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack and cool until just warm; sprinkle generously with powdered sugar, then cinnamon and serve
  12. Repeat with the remaining pastry and custard

Note: Because home ovens can’t match the heat of those at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém where these treats were first made, your pastéis may not brown as much as the traditional tarts. These are best eaten warm the day they are made. If you prefer, the components can be refrigerated up to three days. The pastry can be frozen up to three months.

I completely enjoyed the time with you, Valerie, at your table! You do know how to have a good time in the kitchen!


  1. says

    I think we both ventured out of our comfort zone with this one Valerie. Since I have never made puff pastry and am pastry challenged this was the singular reason I wanted to challenge us both. I think it was fun as well as a learning experience so am ecstatic you decided to join in. As for the pastry I think all my tarts from now on will be made this way. I have a bread doigh recipe that uses the same technique. I see another challenge coming on!!!!!PS I love how you described the tarts, it makes we wish I had even one left.

  2. says

    Fabulous step by step photos Valerie I always wondered about that pastry they use for these tarts. This is one I likely won’t be creating due to the proximity of a fantastic Portuguese bakery at the end of my street.

  3. says

    What an incredible post. Your photos are amazing and offer encouragement to anyone the least bit afraid of puff pastry. The completed tarts are gorgeous. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  4. says

    Such a wonderful challenge! I’ve never stepped into the realm of making my own puff pastry but you make it look very doable. The tarts look delicious and I think I’d prefer them without the sugar topping also. Great effort and result!

    • Valerie says

      You do it now, and then I will find a new blog and you will develop a greater friendship with one of your readers!

  5. says

    I ma so impressed you did a great job; congratulations; not an easy recipe. So so good; I remember eating these in Portugal; every pastry shop made their own and yours came out Perfect!

  6. says

    Wow! These are adorable! Never seen anything like this before. I’m not sure if I can achieve doing this, doesn’t look that easy. Great job! I agree, they look better without icing sugar on the top. Drooling!

  7. says

    What beautiful custard tarts. Wow, this is impressive. I would eat these tarts gone in no time (laugh). Are you serving coffee?

    The invite a blogger to your table is a wonderful idea. It’s a nice way to step out of your comfort zone, and get to know your fellow blogger. I look forward to seeing your valentine’s post.


  8. says


    what a fun even to participate in and what a great idea. i will go over to visit the other Valerie later as well. i have never tried a Portuguese custard before, but have heard they are amazing. i love the Chinese egg tarts and these look a bit similar, but i know they would taste much different. i’d love to try these kinds of tarts some day. your tarts and pictures look great! i’d go camera happy on that pastry dough as well. speaking of dough, as i type, my olive oil flat bread is in the oven. must go check on that now. expect a picture from me soon (if it turns out):-D. hope you had a great weekend. i’m able to finally sit down now to blog read today.

    • Valerie says

      Your olive Oil Flat bread is incredible!!!! I did a happy dance at home all by myself when I got your photo of it!
      The tarts are much sweeter than the Chinese egg tarts, but you would LOVE the pastry. it is not sweet, of course, and MUCH better than the Chinese egg tart pastry. The flavour, otherwise, is similar… the sweetness is the huge difference in the custard – and, the texture. The Chinese egg tart is quite a firm custard. This is a much looser custard.
      BIG HUG!

      • says

        i will be posting about the flatbread! that’s the least i can do to thank you! i’d also like to get your permission to post the recipe.

        when you find a Portuguese bakery in town, please let me know as I’d also love to try these babies :-P.

  9. says

    Valerie – these tarts are beautiful! I’ve never tried a Portuguese egg tart though they’re available all over the place here – they just never appealed to me as the ones I’ve come across are just too “eggy” for my taste. But, presented with yours, I would definitely try one. That’s how tempting they look!

    • Valerie says

      That is so interesting! I have never eaten a Portuguese Tart, except the ones I made, and they were definitely not too eggy. I have to find our local Portuguese Bakery, now, for sure!

      • Roxanne says

        Handy Bakery on 118 Ave makes fantastic Pasteis de Nata and other lovely treats. I married into a Portuguese family and this is where they go shopping…

        • Valerie says

          Thank you! I will definitely head over there for a taste to compare mine with them!
          I truly appreciate you letting me know this. That is what I love about blogging: the learning and the relationships!

  10. says

    What a great idea! I love the thought of cooking something “together”–even if the other person is far away.

    What cute little tarts you’ve made! The photos are mouth-watering.

  11. says

    Val! I LOVE Portugese custard tarts, so much so, that a few years ago I picked up a dozen for get-together, and ended up eating them all! I had to improvise for the get-together with a quick baked cookie..lol I would EASILY consume every single one of yours, as they look even better than the ones I gorged on! It would really be great if we could bake together, although, I would probably end up consuming most of the haul then whining about how my jeans don’t fit any longer LOL

    Gorgeous tarts, and I’m also loving the ciabatta and chili in your previous entries. Your photos are fabulous and so mouth watering!

  12. says

    Whoah, that is quite an undertaking. I’d like to try this recipe, but I am too lazy to make my own pastry, especially when you can buy such great puff pastry in the shops and not have to clean your whole kitchen afterwards (I get flour and pastry all over the place)! That being said, you did a beautiful job 😀
    Looking forward to doing my challenge with you next month daaaaahling!
    *kisses* HH

    • Valerie says

      It is not nearly as difficult or labour intense as puff pastry. Like you, (I may want to learn to make puff pastry) but, we can get such incredible stuff at the store… I would never (regularly) make my own. This pastry is different. You can’t buy anything like it. It isn’t too tough to make, really. All that being said, I won’t make it often. I am more of a traditional Canadian gal, and it is not part of my personal cultural heritage – but I am thrilled to know how and to know it isn’t too difficult and I will look for other combinations and things to do with that new found knowledge!
      I am also looking forward to our turn!

  13. says

    Nice! Your pastry looks so good, Valerie. I bet it’s much easier to make in Canada too;) Sometimes I start to make it in Florida, and the day is so hot that the butter starts to almost melt even after the flour has been added. It’s crazy.
    Anyway, yours looks wonderful, and I really like the idea of an apple custard. Que Rico!
    Oh, and that’s a neat initiative. Hmm, I’ll have think about that one (smile)…

  14. says

    You made a gorgeous pastry Valerie.I always wished to it but end up using store bough ones because I m so lazy and the hot weather here is Vegas is also a culprit:) beautiful Beautiful tarts.Butter, milk,sugar, flour, cinnamon-how can I go wrong with these.

  15. says

    Oh wow, does that pastry look divine! So light and flaky…absolutely perfect, Valerie! Thanks for sharing the info on Invite a Blogger to Your Table, it sounds like a great initiative!

  16. says

    I’m just jumping back in to tell you I’m thrilled you came to visit. I have talked about my family in the past and will, for better or worse, talk about them in the furure. I hope you have a great evening. Blessings…Mary

  17. says

    a lovely concept, invite a blooger to your table..and your first treat is a hit!! I love the step by step pics and yes the douhg looks amazing..can’t blame you for numerous shots!! I would have to make these bueaties now, during our cooler months..imagine me making this supple douhg in the dead of summer..oh goodness!

  18. says

    Wow, Valerie…what a delightful post to read and to see. This pastry dough looked just heavenly. Although it required a lot of work, the end result looks stunning (and I’m sure it tasted even better!) This puts my lemon tarts to shame! I’m going to have to step it up :-) Thank you for sharing such a unique and tempting dessert recipe with me. I hope you have a safe and warm day tomorrow…we’re about to get very cold in Austin! And thank you for all your kind words on my blog. They mean so much!

  19. says

    That faint noise you can hear Val…., that’s me cheering you guys on all the way from Australia for this fantastic initiative, what an awesome way to build friendships & become a better cook. I love, no…., that doesn’t say it loudly enough…, lets just say I LOVE your photos of the pastry making process…. fabulous, it makes it look so easy & achievable & looks like its mouth wateringly wonderful in taste too. Wish I could taste one :) Can’t wait to read the next challenges.

  20. says

    As I mentioned to Val…I fell in love with these pastries in Portugal a few years back. Ever since then, we’ve been getting them a several specialty shops.
    Now that I’ve seen the incredible dedication that goes into them…I’ll be more appreciative of every single bite. This weekend, I’ll be showing off your post to Hubby who devours these pastries in two bites ;o)

    Valerie…your baking skills and dedication blow me away…great work! I’ll have to come back and take a few notes on how to do tarts like you 😉

    Have a great week,

  21. says

    Absolutely STUNNING photos, Valerie! I love Val too – such a dear lady. :-) Your pastry looks fantastic. :-) Thank you for visiting my blog today. I honestly do work very hard. Last year I didn’t take a vacation until just before Christmas, and this year I took my vacation right at the beginning. Now I have to work all year without one. But that’s OK. :-) My Europe and Aussie adventures will last me for a long, long time. :-)

    • Valerie says

      Maybe you can travel and work… if you can work online… and I can see how ingenious, skilled, talented and tenacious you are… maybe you will find a little travel work cooking and eating gig.
      Wouldn’t that be lovely!

  22. says

    Valerie, I only cook for family and friends. Most of the desserts I make go down the hill to our neighbors. I’m of an age where I’d have to spend the entire day on a treadmill if I actually had more than a bite of the sweet things I fix. The peanut butter torte is an exception because I love it so. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

    • Valerie says

      I had to ask because almost daily you post the most exquisite pleasures and there is just too much to eat there as often as you are posting them! Not impossible, for sure (insert wicked laugh!) but not probable!

  23. says

    *Gasp*! I adore natas, and have never worked up the nerve to make them myself. These look so perfectly crisp and browned, I can almost taste them! Just beautiful!

  24. bert says

    Mmm! I had the opportunity to sample the real thing in Belem in November, it was delightful.

    I’ll have to try this out at home.

    Thanks Valerie!

  25. says

    I love these, but have never made them. I have been looking at the same recipe on Leite’s. I need to get going on these, after your gorgeous photo tutorial!

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