Flaky and delectable, Portuguese custard tarts have become a Macanese dessert institution. Buttery, sugary tarts filled with aromatic custard are the result of this dish, which is baked until the custard is just beginning to turn golden on top.
PORTUGUESE CUSTARD TARTS IN MACAU
Pasteis de nata, or Portuguese Custard Tarts, were not something I had ever tasted before visiting Macau. As a former Portuguese territory returned to China in 1999, Macau is conveniently located within a single ferry journey of Hong Kong.
The wonderfully burned custard and perfectly buttery, flaky, crisp crust set these treats apart from the usual Asian sweets. Browning is not common in Asian pastries.
You can get the best Macau egg tarts at either of these two shops. After trying both, I can’t say for sure which one is superior. A bakery at the Venetian Hotel in Macau is where I first tried one of these wonderful custard pies.
They were nearly ideal, especially when hot out of the oven and paired with milk tea.
If you haven’t guessed by now, Portuguese Egg Tarts and the famed Macau Pork Chop bun are two of Macau’s most iconic foods.
DIFFERENT TASTES: MACAU EGG TARTS VS. PORTUGAL CUSTARD TARTS
Although there are some distinctions, I’m going to use the phrases Portuguese Custard Tarts and Macau Egg Tarts interchangeably in this article. Pasteis de nata is Portuguese custard tarts that are sweeter, less eggy, and occasionally coated with cinnamon.
Hong Kong Egg Tarts have a glassy rather than burnt top and typically have a more shortbread-like crust, making them distinct from those found in Macau.
The rough puff pastry and custard filling in these Macau Egg Tarts were created from scratch in our own kitchen, and they were every bit as decadent as the tarts we enjoyed in Macau. There was a lot of experimenting that went into perfecting this recipe so that you can get consistent, high-quality outcomes every time.
Make these Portuguese Custard Tarts, and you’ll feel like you’ve taken a trip to Macau without leaving your kitchen.
- 420g of homemade rough puff pastry
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 ¼ cup of whole milk (3.5% milk fat)
- ½ cup of heavy cream (35% fat dairy cream)
- ½ cup of granulated white sugar
- 4 teaspoons of cornstarch
- 1¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract
CREATE THE PASTRY CAKES:
- Form a rectangle with the puff pastry that is 10 inches by 12 inches (25 centimeters by 30 centimeters). Beginning with the side that measures 10 inches, roll the pastry into a tight log until it measures 10 inches in length. The pastry should be chilled for 30 minutes in the freezer before being used.
- Make 12 rounds from the refrigerated pastry roll, each weighing about 35 g. A ruler will also work for this purpose. Six at a time is a good place to start; then, wrap up the remaining food and return it to the fridge or freezer.
- Place each piece of dough on a gently floured board with the swirl side facing up. Roll each part into a flat disc that is a quarter of an inch larger in diameter than the tin and three-sixteenths of an inch thick using a rolling pin. The discs should be rolled out with very little flour. Lifting the discs with a pastry scraper or metal spatula will prevent them from breaking.
- To make tart crusts, press one dough disk onto the bottom of each tart tin. To make a crust for the tart, spread the dough into the pan and shape a lip that overhangs the edge. Essential for avoiding a mess caused by the custard spilling over the top. Don’t let the dough get too warm by working too slowly. Don’t overwork the dough as you press it into the tin; have all-purpose flour on hand in case it sticks.
- The final tart cups should be frozen for at least 35 minutes. You can make pastry molds ahead of time and keep them in the freezer for up to two weeks.
BAKE THE CUSTARD FILLING:
- In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/4 cup whole milk, 2 egg yolks, 4 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract until the sugar is dissolved.
- Keep whisking the mixture as it cooks over medium-low heat until it coats the edges of the pan. A good custard requires patience and gentle heating. Steam will appear when the custard has reached the optimal temperature. This should be taken as a hint that the custard is nearly done.
- Take the custard off the heat when it’s thick enough to coat a spoon and keep whisking, making sure to scrape down the sides of the pan. Whisk it until it’s no longer a danger to your whisking hand. The pudding will become too dry if the custard is cooked into a pudding. In terms of thickness, it’s on the slender side.
- Put in the fridge to cool entirely, placing plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent skin from forming.
COOKING AND ASSEMBLY:
- Turn on the oven to 475 degrees F. (245 degrees C). Arrange frozen pie shells on a baking sheet (you can line it with parchment paper for easy cleanup).
- Fill each shell with chilled custard until it reaches within a quarter of an inch of the top. Avoid letting the custard sit for too long, or it will seep through the pastry. Once the custard has been poured into the shells, they must be baked immediately.
- Arrange the pan in the center of the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 450 degrees F. (230 degrees C). If your Portuguese custard tarts are browning unevenly after 20 minutes, rotate the pan and continue baking until they reach a golden brown color, a total of 30 minutes.
- After 25 minutes, the pastry should be golden brown and have burnt bubbles. If the crust is browning too quickly, take it out of the oven and finish cooking it with the residual heat. It’s best to go by feel when cooking using a range because the internal temperature may be somewhat higher or lower than what you’ve set it to.
- When the custard tarts are done baking, take them out of the tins and set them on a cooling rack.
- The custard in your Portuguese custard tarts will have a wonderful aroma, but you should wait to eat them until they have cooled down a bit because it will be very hot. Once the custard tarts have cooled enough to be handled, take them out of the tins and serve them warm.
- You can reheat these tarts by placing them in a preheated oven or toaster oven and heating them for 7 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.