Pastel de Nata. It’s a Portuguese egg tart pastry that is somewhat the national pastry in Portugal. And there is a place where it all started. Today you can buy the Pastel de Nata everywhere and you don’t need to visit Lisbon and the Pasteis de Belem to get the egg tart. We did a test to see if it is that much better at Pasteis de Belem.
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Pasteis de Belem – the origin of the Pastel de Nata
The fascinating thing about this place is that they started making the original “Pasteis de Belem” in 1837. That is a really long time ago and to this day they are using the same recipe. I’m usually not sure that “keeping to such an old recipe” is the best idea but in this case, it really works. More often than not you will improve your recipe over time. However, in this case, we did try the Pastel de Nata in more than one place and it was a huge difference.
Their secret recipe works – let’s leave it at that for now. While in Poznan, Poland we got to try (and bake) the amazing St. Martin Croissants. They were also made from an old secret recipe. But here in Lisbon and Belem, the Pastel de Nata are made the same way that they were in the Jeronimo Convent during the old days.
Skip the line at Pasteis de Belem
While visiting Belem you are likely to see a blue marquis and a super long line outside. You have found the Pasteis de Belem – the world known place for their egg tart pastry and what to be said to be the only place to eat the original tart. There is always a line outside of this place. Whenever you visit you are bound to see a long line outside of the Pasteis de Belem. However, there is some inside info that you can keep in mind…
Both of the lines that you see are for take away. If you want to enjoy your pastries at Pasteis de Belem you dont have to wait in line. Just walk straigh inside and take a seat. Be aware that this place is huge and it can fit up to 600 people (don’t quote me on that because I’m not sure if I remember it correctly). One thing is for sure – you will not have to wait in line!
Get a cup of coffee to your Pastel de Nata
We came here while my mom was visiting and we are glad that we did. Mini had an americano coffee and me and my mom took a cappuccino. Boy they were good! Their coffee tastes incredible – it’s strong but not bitter.
And of course we each had a Pastel de Nata. And they were also really good. According to me and Mini, we felt that the taste of the filling was somewhat like a cheesecake. My mom disagreed but could not say what she thought they tasted like. They are supposed to be served lukewarm and they were!
Tasting test of the Pastel de Nata
Ok, so we decided to find out if the lines to the Pasteis de Belem were all because of a hype or if their Pastel de Nata were really that much better than all the other places. We checked out what places were famous for their egg tart (except for the obvious one). Pastelaria Santo Antonio in Lisbon is also known for their tarts. And their café is located in a super nice building. They had a lot of different cakes and goodies to choose from. Since we were here for a taste test we ordered Pastel de Nata and coffees.
Pastelaria Santo Antonio
The egg tarts at this place were ok but very sweet. I felt that they were a little to sweet for my taste. They were also served lukewarm and they were good – until we tried “the real deal“. They served huge cappuccinos that looked amazing but unfortunately, it tasted mostly warm milk.
Here you could see how they were making the pastries (you can see that at Pasteis de Belem to). And it is a cool thing to see.
So the conclusion of the test is that you have to go to Pasteis de Belem and eat a Pastel de Nata. There is a huge difference in the taste and it is worth going to the “real place”. Even if all the pastries look the same wherever you see them – the taste is different!
Pastel de Nata recipe
So after a lot of digging, I found a recipe for the Pastel de Nata. I want to say that this is “the real deal” but I’m not sure that it is. However, I’m pretty sure that they are good! We have not made them yet but they are on our to do list. If you make them please let us know what you thought of them! The recipe is for about 20 egg tarts.
Ingredients for the Nata dough
- 1 cup of flour (135 gram) plus some more for the work surface.
- 1 pinch of salt.
- 100 ml of water.
- 225 grams of unsalted butter. Make sure that it is room temperature and then you must stir it until it gets smooth.
Ingredients for the Nata Custard
- 1,5 tablespoons flour.
- 150 ml of milk.
- 130 grams of sugar.
- 1/2 cinnamon stick.
- 75 ml of water.
- 1,5 ml vanilla extract.
- 3 whisked egg yolks.
- sugar and cinnamon for garnish.
Make the pastel de nata dough
- Mix the flour, salt, and water in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix it until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Flour the work surface and pat the dough into a 6-inch square. Use a pastry scraper to make it easier. Flour the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rest for about 15 minutes at room temperature.
- Roll the dough into an 18-inch square. Make sure that the dough doesn’t get stuck to your work surface.
- Trim any uneven edges, and using a spatula, dot and spread the left 2/3 portion of the dough with a little less than 1/3 of the butter being careful to leave a 1 inch plain border around the edge of the dough.
- Fold the unbuttered right 1/3 of the dough over the rest of the dough. Fold over the left 1/3 of the dough. Starting from the top, pat down the dough with your hand to release any air bubbles. Pinch the edges of the dough to seal. Brush off any excess flour.
- Turn the dough 90° so the fold is facing you. Once again roll it out to an 18-inch square, then dot the left 2/3 of the dough with 1/3 of the butter and smear it over the dough. Fold the dough as directed in steps 4 and 5.
- For the last rolling, turn the dough 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 of the dough.
- Lift the edge of dough closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from the underside as you go. Trim the ends and cut the log in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.
Make the pastel de nata custard
- Whisk the flour and half of the milk until smooth.
- Take the sugar, cinnamon and water and make it boil until it reaches 100°C. Do not stir.
- Scald the remaining milk and whisk the hot milk into the flour mix.
- Remove the cinnamon stick and pour the syrup in a thin stream to the flour mixture while whisking.
- Add the vanilla and stir until warm (but not hot). Whisk in the egg yolks. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside. The custard shall be thin.
Make the pastel de nata – Assembly time!
- Heat the oven to 290°C.
- Take 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. Cut it into 3/4-inch pieces.
- Place 1 piece pastry dough, cut side down, in each well of a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan (2-by-5/8-inch size). Allow the dough pieces to soften several minutes.
- Dip your thumbs in water, then straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the cup to a thickness of about 1/16 inch. 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.
- Fill each cup 3/4 full with the slightly warm custard. Bake the pastels until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown – about 8 to 9 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow the pasteis to cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack and cool until just warm.
- Sprinkle the pasteis generously with confectioners’ sugar, then cinnamon and serve. Repeat with the remaining pastry and custard. They taste the best the day they are made!
Information about Pasteis de Belem
Address: Rua de Belém nº 84 a 92.
Opening hours: 08.00 – 23.00.
Make sure to check this place out. Yes, it is loud and the waiters are super stressed and might not give you the best of service. But with the number of people that have to cater to – it can’t be easy to work there! And their Pastel de Nata is the best!