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The best things to try in Portugal – Custard Tarts

The best things to try in Portugal – Custard Tarts

Visiting Portugal it is a must to try its outstanding Custard tarts (Pastéis de nata) or Belém tarts (Pastéis de Belém), considered as one of the best things to do in Portugal, they are sure to make you feel as your whole trip was worth it already as you taste one of the most popular specialties of Portuguese pastry, widely recognized as one of the most delicious treats in the whole world. Although these cream tarts can be enjoyed in many cafes and pastries all over the country, the original recipe is an exclusive secret of the Belém Pastéis Factory in Lisbon (the only place whose pastries should be named Belém pastries). In this historic Portuguese factory, traditionally, these heavenly pastries are eaten hot – straight out of the oven – and sweetly sprinkled with sugar powder sugar and cinnamon.

There is no doubt our local guide will take you to try the best Pastéis de nata in town during our one day PORTO TOUR!

It is like this that one understands how come Pastel de Belém got to be  elected in 2011 as one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal’s Gastronomy, a huge recognition considering how this Southern European country by the Atlantic ocean is only as famous for its natural beauty as for its unique Gastronomy.

If planning a trip to Portugal and considering where to go, it is good to know that it is said it was all the way back in 1837 in Belém, in the surroundings of the outstanding Jerónimos Monastery, in an attempt to simply make a living, that a clergy of the monastery first put up some cream tarts for sale. At that time, Belém and Lisbon were two distinct locations with access secured mainly by steamboats. However, the presence of Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower attracted countless tourists who since contributed to the neverending growing fame of Belém’s tarts, if you need help planning a trip we highly recommend you to partake in tours in Portugal that will bring you there.

Following the portuguese liberal revolution of 1820 this iconic monastery closed. Consequently, the convent’s confectioner decided to sell the recipe to Domingos Rafael Alves, a Portuguese businessman returning to his homeland after establishing his business successfully in Brazil. This original recipe continues to this day in the possession of his descendants.

While, initially, the Belém custard tarts were sold directly at a sugar refinery near Jerónimos Monastery, in 1837, around its premises an improvised pastry shop was first inaugurated in an annex but then quickly got transformed into a real pastry shop, “The Old Belém Confectionery” where both the original recipe and the name “Pastéis de Belém” are patented.

Currently, in most coffees in Portugal it is possible to buy these cream custards and this is surely an incredibly wise thing to do when visiting, you may want to try them together with a local coffee or to top it with a glass of Port wine along one Douro valley boat tour. To be considered if thinking on what to do in Porto, its tours and attractions.  In Portugal, life can be as good as you want it to be. Suggestions of where to try them are sure to be highlighted in any modern Portugal travel guide, and they can be easily baked at home but only the original ones can be called Pastéis de Belém. This Portuguese custard tart is also extremely popular in Brazil as well as in China, where they arrived through Macao at the time of portuguese presence. In Chinese Mandarin they are called “dan ta” ( ), which can be translated literally into “egg pastel”. Asian fast food companies have also broadly included “dan ta” in their dessert offering, making it possible to taste these delicious custard tarts in countries such as Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan since the late 1990s.

Contributing to the worldwide fame of Belem custard tarts is surely the secrecy involving its original recipe, which remains as one of Portugal’s best kept secrets throughout the country’s history. The old secret recipe for preparing the real Belém custard tarts is kept safely at the “Secret Workshop” room at the Belém Pastry Factory and its pastry masters are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement additionally to taking an oath on how they pledge not to ever reveal its golden recipe.

It is easy to understand why one would want to keep this treasure receipt a well-kept secret, Belém Pastéis were considered one of the 50 most delicious delicacies in the world by The Guardian newspaper and they represented Portugal at the Café Europe cultural initiative on Europe Day 2006 during the Austrian Presidency of the European Union.

Custard tarts are one of the most popular and traditional sweets of portuguese pastries, appreciated both by locals and tourists from all over the world. They are part of the culture of the country, as much as Francesinha, cod, Port wine, Ginginha and many others. Though its original recipe created by the monks of Jerónimos Monastery has not yet been revealed, we can help you replicate its soft creamy inside and crunchy outside heavenly combination in the comfort of your own home.

Here is how to prepare this traditional portuguese sweet that you cannot miss on your table:

  1.   Roll the puff pastry (over itself) and cut it into 12 equal parts.
  2.   Grease / spread the cake shape pans with butter and place one piece of puff pastry into each pan.
  3. Open up the dough inside each pan by just pressing it with both thumbs to spread the dough into the pan. The simply reserve them.
  4.   In a separate cooking pan, boil up 150 ml of milk together with pieces of lemon rind. Use for instance a large glass to dissolve flour with the remaining milk (100 ml). When the milk (with the lemon rind) begins to boil, add the milk-flour mixture and stir continuously with the help of a wire rod (fouet or whisk). The mixture should then thicken within few minutes.
  5. Remove the peel and sift this mixture to remove any lumps that might have formed. Reserve for a while more. Put water and sugar in the pan and start heating it up.
  6.   When it starts boiling, leave it be and allow it to boil for 4 minutes. Then turn it off, remove from the heat source and pour the sugar syrup you prepared aside over the cream while always stirring the mix. Let it cool down for a few minutes.
  7.   Finally, add the egg yolks and mix well. Pour this mixture into each pan (which is already with the puff pastry) but do not fill in completely, leaving a small space at the top.
  8.   Bake 15 minutes at 230 ° C.
  9.   Your cream puffs are ready. Do not hesitate to sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon powder before tasting, hot or cold. We like it most when it’s hot.

The Shapes: If you do not have the individual shapes for cream puffs, you may instead use those shaped for muffins.

Lemon: You may use it or not, opinions differ on the use of lemon in this recipe. We suggest to try both but we warn that it is not easy to elect a favorite.

Cinnamon: You can add a cinnamon stick when boiling milk together with the lemon rind if you are daring to prepare a more exotic version.

The puff pastry: You can simply cut it into circles and place them in the shapes.