When I first moved to London, I lived near Portobello Road, and it was always a pleasure to go to the Lisboa patisserie for one of their famous and beautiful Portuguese pies. I say one, but the problem is that you always wanted more. Although I called them cream pies, I make my natas with pastry cream rather than custard, which is baked until you get dark brown spots on top. In France, I had grown up eating flan, which is a similar kind of pie, but usually a large pie cut into slices. The small, deep, irregularly shaped natas have a higher proportion of pastry to custard, and as you roll the pastry in sugar, it becomes caramelized in places: irresistible! You can top the tarts with a sprinkling of or nutmeg if you like, but I prefer them plain.
- Butter or baking spray, for greasing the tin
- Icing sugar, for dusting
- 1 quantity of home-made puff pastry (see p44 of Pastry for recipe) or 500g of good ready-made butter puff pastry
- About 100g icing
- 1 quantity crème patissière (see below for ingredients and method)
- or nutmeg (optional)
- For the crème patissière:
- 250ml full fat milk (semi-skimmed can be used, if you prefer, but the cream will not be as rich)
- 1 vanilla pod
- 3 yolks
- 60g caster
- 25g plain flour
Essential kit :
You will need a 12-hole muffin tin and a cutter.
- Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin with buttered paper, or melt some butter and brush it into the holes. Even if you're using a non-stick pan - unless it's brand new - it's worth doing so because the in the batter will caramelize and cling to the parts of the pan that have lost their non-stick properties.
- Sprinkle your work surface with powdered sugar. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out to 4 to 5 mm thick, dusting it with powdered as you go.
- Using a cutter, cut out 12 rounds of dough about 10 cm in diameter - they should be large enough to cover the holes and leave a little extra. Place the pan in the refrigerator to rest for about 1 hour.
- Now prepare the pastry cream. Put the milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape the seeds into the milk, then put the halved pods in.
- Put the yolks and in a bowl and whisk until pale and creamy. Add the flour and mix until smooth.
- Put the saucepan of milk over medium heat, bring it to just below boiling, then slowly pour half the milk into the mixture, whisking well. Add the remaining milk and whisk again, then pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking the whole time, then continue to boil and whisk continuously for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
- Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and remove the vanilla beans (you can wash them, dry them, and store them in a jar, giving you vanilla to use in all your baking). Immediately cover the surface of the bowl with parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool, then store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use the pastry cream.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.
- Remove the muffin tin from the fridge and fill each tin with custard. Sprinkle with or nutmeg, if using. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the batter is golden brown, the it was rolled in is caramelized and the custard is darkened in spots. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan; do not leave for too long as the caramelized may weld the pies to the pan. Let cool completely before eating.