If you want to know what happiness is, then walk through Lisbon with a Pastel de Nata in your hands. Yes, our next sweet of the bucket list is the traditional pastry Pastel de Nata, which you can find at every corner of Lisbon.
Looking for the best Pastel de Nata
Our search for the best Pastel de Nata was quite difficult considering that there are so many of them. Some delicious, some rather not. However, we trusted our feeling that we will know the best when we see it. So it happened, when we passed by the small pastry shop Nata LX owned by João Henriques. For those who did not know, LX stands for Lisbon.
João lived and studied pastry in France. Six years ago, he decided to move back to Portugal to open his first French pastry Shop L´Éclair. Lucky for us and his customers, since May 2019 also his Portuguese roots should not come too short and can be tasted at his shop Nata LX.
27 TRIAL & ERROR
For the perfect Pastel de Nata, João took the Recipe of his grandmother and mother to start the making of his own recipe. Good things come to those who work hard and after 27(!) times of reinventing the recipe, João created the perfect Pastel de Nata of his family´s recipe. He didn’t tell us exactly the recipe but mentioned two important things: first, the use of the right amount of sugar and second, the perfect relation between butter and margarine.
In Lisbon, Pastel de Nata is that popular, that there are even competitions for the best in town. If you win, crowds of tourists and locals will run your door. Although Nata LX has not participated in this competition yet, there are people lining up for his Pastel de Nata. Once they even sold 1000 pieces during a day. Thanks to pastry chef João, we were able to gain a deep insight into the history and making of this delicious little pastry.
How it is done
The Puff Pastry of Pastel de Nata
- For Pastel de Nata, you need a puff pastry made out of only two simple foldings. And at the end you roll it into sticks. Then you cool it.
The Puff Pastry Dough is always made with a mix out of margarine and butter. Historically, pork fat was used, because of its ability to withstand high temperatures and giving a very good taste. Normal butter would burn in the hot oven before it is completely cooked. Luckily João´s recipe was pork fat free and also Christina, as a vegetarian, could enjoy it.
- Heat up the oven until it is 400 degrees celsius. The super high temperature is crucial for the perfect consistency.
A perfect Pastel de Nata has to be super crispy on the outside and dense and creamy in the inside.
- Prepare the tartlet shells by spraying them with oil.
- Then cut the strings of puff pastry in small pieces (20g each) and place them in the moulds.
- Apply a little bit of water on your finger tips and „press“ the dough into the shells. Watch my small video to see how it is done :P.
It is important that the dough on the bottom is thinner than on the side. Press it a little bit over the shell.
The Filling of Pastel de Nata
Now it is time to fill it up.
- For this, you have to boil a mixture of sugar, water, cinnamon, orange zests and vanilla. Leave it to rest for about 15 minutes to infuse all of the flavour.
- Strain it.
- Mix flour with a little bit of cold milk.
- Boil up the rest of the milk.
- Once it is boiling, pour in the flour-milk mixture and keep stirring. It is getting thicker like a Souce-Bechamel.
- Pur in the Sirup.
- Add the eggs and egg yolks.
The baking of Pastel de Nata
- Pour in the mixture just a little under the rim of your moulds. Now you can put the tray into the oven.
- After around 4-5 minutes, turn the tray and switch off the top-heat.
- Wait additional 4-5 minutes. Then you can see the Pasteis becoming more dark and getting black spots. This is the moment to put them out of the oven.
- Leave the tray to cool down for 15 minutes.
- Take them out of the metal shells and serve them at room temperature with an espresso
Now you have a super crisp, tartlet with a creamy filling and a delicious milky, cinnamon taste. But when you ask João to describe the taste of his Pastel de Nata he will only say:
It is a little piece of happiness!– João Henriques
We have to agree with him in all terms!
If you wish to know, what we did besides eating sweets, then check out our stories about Lisbon.