Portuguese Custard Tart or Pastel De Nata is a small tart which uses flaky puff pastry crust that has been filled with smooth and creamy custard filling, then baked until the top is beautifully shiny with black burnt spots.
What You Need To Know About This Portuguese Tart
- Preparation: The end to end process could take more or less 2-3 hours. This is assuming using a store-bought puff pastry and that you are making the puff pastry shell the same day. The most of the time is consumed in baking the tart, which is 45 – 50 minutes. The rest of the time are for preparing the ingredients, cooking the custard, chilling the puff pastry shell and cooling the tart. It does sound long, but when you get the hang of making it, it is actually easy and the process gets faster. If you want to make it shorter time, make the puff pastry shell ahead of time and keep it the freezer. This way, on the day you want to serve it, all you have to do is make the custard filling and baking the tart.
- Ingredients: This recipe uses only 7 ingredients. Most of these you probably already have, except for puff pastry. You can make your own puff pastry or use a store-bought one. Puff pastry is very easy to find in most big supermarkets. You can find it in the ready to use frozen dough and pie tarts and shell. Aside from the puff pastry, all the rest of the ingredients are pretty basic and again, easy to find if you do not have it on hand (like the cream and corn flour).
- Texture: The texture of the crust will depend on the puff pastry you are using. Brand differ from one another and even more the homemade puff pastry. The store-bought puff pastry that I used here is quite thick and so it produces a really nice flaky layers. The custard filling is smooth and creamy. I did not have to pass it through the strainer because it was lump free. The top is smooth and shiny some burnt spots which is the trademark of a Portuguese Tart.
- Taste: This Portuguese Tart has a nice flaky crust, with a creamy smooth custard filling that have just the right sweetness. Not too sweet, and not bland at all. Just like the most Portuguese that I am used to eating.
How to Get The Signature Burnt Top
What makes the Portuguese Tart appealing is the shiny top with dark spots. I think this is only one occasion that having a semi brunt top made me feel accomplished rather than disappointed. But how do you get that signature black spots?
- Hot Oven Temperature: Portuguese custard tart must be baked in a very hot oven, at least 220C to get their signature burn marks. The high temperature also help the puff pastry to puff up.
- Enough Milk: Custard is basically milk, egg and sugar. So what is in the milk that helps the forming of the burnt top? Protein! Protein when heated creates a film, and this protein film when burnt is what creates the dark spots. So if you do not have enough milk, then there will be not film forming, thus no beautiful burnt top.
How About the Shiny Top?
The shiny top is attributed to the sugar. Custard when heated separates the sugar from the mixture, and goes up on the top. When you start to see the custard bubbling, that is the sugar that bubbles up on the top which gives it a nice shiny top. Do not be tempted though to add to much sugar to get more shine. Adding too much sugar could cause a soggy bottom because not all the sugar could make its way to the top. Some of it could go down to the bottom thus creating a soggy crust. This is another reason why we add cornstarch to the mixture. Cornstarch not only help thicken the mixture, it also help prevent the sugar from being stuck in the bottom.
Puff Pastry – Make it or Buy It
You have to options here. You can make your own puff pastry or you can buy one. The choice depends on how much time to have on hand. Buying is of course the easier option, quick and easy especially if you are busy. I often go for store-bought when making this recipe because it just makes the process so much easier. But if I am too lazy to go out and I have extra time, I make my own puff pastry using my short puff pastry recipe. It produces a really nice flaky crust, and it is so easy to make. Again, not as easy as grabbing a ready made puff-pastry but still not as difficult as it sounds. If you decide to make you own puff-pastry, roll the puff pastry to 10 x 12 -inch rectangle size. This makes it 1-inch per piece when you cut it.
How to Store Leftover Portuguese Tart
Usually, tarts that uses Puff Pastry as base are best served and consumed the same day it was made. Better yet, few minutes after taking it out in the oven when it is still crunchy, flaky and puffier. However, if you have few pieces left, you can store it in an air-tight container. You can leave it 1 day outside the refrigerator, but more than that, keep it refrigerated. This is an egg tart, so keeping it in the fridge is the safer way to store it. Expect that the texture will be different after few days. The crust will not be as flaky and crunchy as when it was made the first day.
Re-Heating Leftover Portuguese Tart
Re-heat leftover tarts in the pre-heated 300F oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until the crust is crunchy again. As I mentioned earlier, the texture will not be as good as the day it was baked, but nonetheless, delicious.
- Puff Pastry (Store bought or Homemade Puff Pastry)
- 1 cup Full-Fat Fresh Milk – do NOT substitute with non dairy milk, you need the fat and the protein in the milk to produce the burnt spots
- 1/3 cup Heavy Cream, 35% fat
- 1/3 cup Caster Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
- 2 Egg Yolks – room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Cornflour/Cornstarch
Other Flavoring Options:
- 1/4 teaspoon of Cinnamon Powder add with all the custard filling ingredients
- Lemon Rind – big strips of lemon rind added in the custard mixture. make sure it is big enough to easily remove it after cooking the custard. I like to use 1/4 of lemon skin just to flavor the custard.
Caster Sugar is similar to granulated sugar, only the granules as finer. This fine texture makes it easy to dissolve in the milk. If you do not have one, you can make your own by using a food processor to finely grind the granulated sugar. If you do not have a food processor, the go ahead and use granulated sugar instead. Not that I am making it complicated, but finer sugar dissolves faster when cooked.
How to Prepare the Puff Pastry Shell
- Cut: Roll the puff pastry to form a log. Rolling will produce the layers in the crust. Divide the puff pastry into 12 small pieces (or 6 if using a muffin tin). Roll each piece into 3.5-inch circle.
- Press each of this piece to into the tart tin (or muffin tin). I like to use small piece of paper towel to press the dough to the tin then I use my fingers to firmly press it down. Leave an extra dough protruding, this blocks the custard from overflowing, and will also allow each tin to hold more filling.
- If using Muffin Tin: Make sure that the puff pastry covers the entire inside of the tin up to the top. Fold the excess puff pastry towards the inside to create a extra thick edges.
- Freeze the puff pastry shell at least 35 minutes or until hard. The pastry shell can be made ahead of time just like when making pie. You can make it 1 day ahead or even 2 weeks ahead!. Keep it in a ziplock freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to use. Freezing will help prevent the puff pastry from pulling down as it bakes, and will prevent ending up with a soggy crust. Do NOT attempt to use a hot custard filling and a soft pastry shell. That is a recipe for total disaster. Freeze it for better texture.
How to Make the Custard Filling
- Make the Custard Filling: To make custard filling, whisk cream, sugar, yolks, milk and cornflour till smooth. Stir over medium-low heat until thick enough to coat pot thinly or back of the spoon. This could be around 10 – 12 minutes. Do NOT leave the custard unattended and keep stirring the entire time to avoid forming lumps. Worst comes to worst, if lumps formed, pass the mixture in the strainer to remove the lumps. Place the pot in water-bath (pan with cold water) to stop cooking. Add vanilla extract and stir. Stir until the mixture is half-cool. Cover and leave to cool completely. Do NOT leave uncover as this will dry the top, and a “film” or “skin” will form.
- Divide the Custard Filling: Pour custard filling into the puff pastry shell you made. Fill only to the top of the tin, NOT the extra rim. Look at the edge of the tin and use it as a guide. The extra rim should not be filled as this will serve as a n allowance to prevent over flowing.
- Using Mini Tin (Dimension: Top 2.5-inch, bottom 1-inch, Height 1.5-inch): Divide the mixture into 12
- Using Regular Muffin Tin: Divide the mixture into 9.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Bake till crust is brown, and custard is burnt and just stops bubbling. This takes about 45 – 50 minutes. The browning of the top will happen in the last 10 minutes of baking. Rotate the tray midway the baking time as necessary so that all tarts brown evenly.
- Cool: Remove tarts from oven to wire rack, leave the tarts in the tin to cool. The remaining heat will crisp up the bottom of the tart. Let the tart to cool completely to allow the custard to settle. This produces a better texture. If you cut it too soon (or serve), the custard could still be too runny and wet.
- Storage: You can leave this at room temperature for a day, after that, keep it refrigerated.
- Reheating – Re-heat tarts on a baking tray at 300°C for 10 minutes. Pastry would turn soggy after 5 minutes, then crisp up nicely after another 5 minutes or so. Custard would be creamy and smooth but a bit sunken.
What If I Do Not Have Small Tart Tin?
You can use a regular size muffin tin to make this Portuguese Tart. I’ve done it quite a few times before and they came out good. Since muffin tin holds more filling, you will be able to make 6 – 9 pieces instead of 12. The baking time is about 45 – 50 minutes. As always, keep an eye on it to monitor the browning of the top. Rotate the pan mid-way the baking time.
- Cinnamon Glazed Apple Turnover (VIDEO)
- Mini Caramel Apple Tarts
- Apple Hand Pie
- [VIDEO] Small Batch Bite Size Apple Pie
- Apple Danish
- Mini Chocolate Puff Pastry Croissant
- 2 Ingredients Nutella Puff-Pastry Croissant
- Bite Size Apple Pie
- Raspberry Frangipane Tart
- Pear and Almond Tart
- Portuguese Custard Tart
My Latest Video
Thank You for visiting my website. Please don’t forget to click the “Like” button below if you like this recipe. Lastly, did you know that I have a YouTube Channel? Please support my channel by clicking on the “Subscribe” button in my video and the “Bell” icon to get notification of new videos.
Recipe Adapted from: Kitchen Tigress