It is believed that pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon: for this reason, they are alternately known as Pastéis de Belém .During Portuguese medieval history, the convents and monasteries of Portugal produced large quantities of eggs, whose egg-whites were in demand for starching of clothes (such as nuns' habits) and also in wineries (where they were used in the clearing of wines, such as Porto). It was quite common for these Portuguese monasteries and convents to produce many confections with the leftover egg yolks, resulting in a proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 2 lemon slices
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 250ml semi-skimmed milk
- 30g plain flour
- 20g cornflour
- few drops vanilla extract
- 3 egg yolks, plus 1 whole egg
- 375g puff pastry
- flour, icing sugar and ground cinnamon, for dustin
- butter, for the muffin tray
- Tip the sugar, lemon and cinnamon into a pan with 125ml water and bring to a boil. Mix the flour, cornflour and vanilla with a small amount of milk until you have a smooth paste. Bring the rest of the milk to a boil, then pour it onto the flour mixture, whisking continuously.
- Pour back into a clean pan and bring to a simmer, whisking until the mixture thickens.
- Remove the cinnamon and lemon then stir both mixtures together and add the eggs, bring back to a simmer and whisk until smooth.
- Pour into a jug, cover the surface with clingfilm and allow to cool
- Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7 and put a baking sheet in the oven for bottom heat. Roll out the puff pastry on a clean work surface lightly dusted with flour and icing sugar. Cut the pastry in half and lay one sheet on top of the other.
- Roll the pastry sheets up like a Swiss roll and cut the roll into twelve slices about 1 cm – 2cm thick.
- Lay each of the pastry slices flat on the work surface and roll them out into 10cm discs.
- Press a pastry disc into each of the wells of a buttered muffin tray.
- Divide the custard between the pastry cases.
- Bake the tarts for 18-20 minutes on the preheated baking sheet, or until the custard has puffed up and is pale golden-brown, and the pastry is crisp and golden-brown.
- Allow to cool in the tin. Before serving dust with some cinnamon and icing sugar.