These delicious custard tarts never fail to prompt a memory. A cobbled seafront in sunshine, somewhere in Luz. An elderly woman emerges from the cool, dark recess of a cafe with pastry in hand, coffee in the other. And bliss was mine for a good five minutes.
Now they are yours to make at home.
You do need to make the pastry in advance, ideally the night before so be sure to set aside enough time before you embark.
And if you can, do track down specific pastel de nata tins - they have a certain slope and depth to them, particular to this pastry. I found mine on-line and they're well worth the hunt.
For the pastry:
150g flour - I used self raising, although plain will do.
120g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
For the filling:
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 egg yolks
drop of vanilla extract
pinch of salt
In a mixing bowl, bring the pastry flour and water together until smooth. Cover and leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour. Resting and cooling will make the pastry easier to handle.
Meanwhile, prepare the butter by placing it into a small plastic food bag and rolling it out into a rectangle - do refer to my IGTV for a visual reference here. Set aside in the fridge.
When ready, transfer your pastry onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle. Take 1/3 of the prepared butter and place it onto the bottom half of the rectangle, leaving a small rim around the edge to seal. Fold the upper half of the rectangle over on itself. Press down the edges to seal and roll out once again. Repeat with another 1/3 of the butter, finishing with the pastry rolled out into a rectangle for the third time.
Spread the final 1/3 of butter all over the dough - you may need to break it up a little and a dough scraper is useful here.
Just as you would when making Chelsea Buns, working from the longest edge of the pastry, carefully and evenly roll the pastry up into a tight sausage. Cut in half, slip both pieces into a food bag and chill for at least a few hours and ideally overnight.
Preheat your oven to 200c, good and hot. Butter and flour the tart cases.
Prepare the filling. Bring the sugar, cinnamon and water to the boil for a minute in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Transfer into a bowl and set to one side to cool.
Using the same saucepan (to save on washing up), whisk the flour and milk together over a gentle heat for 3-5 minutes. Allow the mix to thicken and the flour to cook out. Add to the sugar syrup you've just made and give a good stir.
Whilst the mix cools, you may line the tart tins.
Retrieve pastry from the fridge. Working from one 'log' at a time to keep the pastry cool, cut the log into six pieces. Press each piece into the prepared tart tins, working from the centre outwards, bringing the pastry all the way to the rim. Once all 12 are done, chill for 10 minutes to set.
Retrieve the filling mix and whisk in the egg yolks until smooth.
Finally, pour the filling into the pastry cases about 1/2 cm from the top.
Bake 10-15 minutes until filling is set and blackened in patches. Allow to cool in the tins before releasing and when ready, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.