Pastry week’s technical challenge gave us the perfect excuse to have a go at making pastéis de nata!

Pastry week is always one of our favourites and this year was no different and the cherry on top of the pie was that Liam got star baker! He’s definitely become one of our most loved contestants this year (Sophie also gets a lot of our affection). We really like that pastry week takes away a lot of the decorative elements in a challenge and puts a lot of focus on the technical aspects due to the nature of the bake, you can’t hide a soggy bottom!

We’ve been talking about making this famed Portuguese pastry items for quite some time, so the fact that the bakers took it on for their technical this week was just the incentive we needed (But boy do we understand their stress and confusion!) Even having the full detailed recipe to hand there was still many moments of ‘I have no idea if what i’m doing is at all correct’…

First things first was the pastry, and in the spirit of the technical we made it from scratch, rough puff is way easier to make than traditional puff pastry, the initial dough and folding just seems to take much less time. Once you’ve rubbed together the butter and flour you bring it together with water – so it’s very much like a shortcrust recipe, then grate butter over 2 thirds, fold over, grate the rest of the butter, fold, roll and then fold again… then put it on the fridge and roll and fold again! (And then do that again). That’s the easy part done, next is making the cases, in the recipe it says with wet fingers – and definitely listen to this, it makes it way easier to push the pastry up the sides of the tin. And if while you’re doing it you keep things, i’m destroying this pastry and i’m going to have no swirl then you’re on the right track!! We spent the whole time thinking that but it all turned out okay, swirls and all!

This is not a conventional custard recipe, so we were unsure of the steps as we went along but having trialed it and it thankfully working we’re here to guide you as best we can! First mix together and hat the milk and flour – the recipe just says until thick, (how thick we all cry in unison…) we let it thicken until it was similar to a thick custard, almost like a creme pat. Then set this aside and make a sugar syrup, we monitored the temp of this with a candy thermometer to make sure we got it hot enough, then mix this with the milk mixture. Many of the bakers in the tent got out electric whisks for the yolks, we stuck to usual custard principals and used a hand whisk just to slightly aerate the yolks, the slowly poured in the hot milk/flour/sugar syrup mixture whilst whisking continuously. When it comes to baking, the recipe dictates to use an oven at 240 on top and bottom heat, our oven is just a straight up fan so fan was all we had – we baked at 225/230C for 15 mins, and they worked out just right – the lovely cooked blotches on the top and all – custard nice and soft, not too firm at all. So we were very pleased with the outcome, and boy oh boy do they taste great, like booking flights to portugal as we eat them great (no flights were actually booked but we sure wish we would’ve!)


Paul's Pastéis de Nata
Yields 12
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For the rough puff pastry
  1. 150g plain flour
  2. 25g butter, chilled and cubed
  3. 50 – 75ml chilled water
  4. 60g butter, frozen then grated
For the custard
  1. 375ml milk
  2. 45g plain flour
  3. 2 strips of lemon zest
  4. 1 cinnamon stick
  5. 185ml water
  6. 375g caster sugar
  7. 7 large egg yolks
For the pastry
  1. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Rub in the chilled butter using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually add enough water to form a dough (about 4-6 tablespoons of water).
  2. Roll the dough out into a rectangle on a lightly floured work surface. Grate half of the frozen butter over the bottom two thirds of the dough. Fold down the top third and fold up the bottom third as if folding a letter.
  3. Turn the folded dough through 90 degrees and roll it out into a rectangle again. Repeat the process of adding the remaining frozen butter and fold as before. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Roll and fold the pastry twice more, then wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  5. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to a rectangle measuring 20cm x 30cm. Roll the pastry tightly, from the short side, into a log and cut the log into 12 even sized rounds.
  6. Place one disc into the cup of a 12 hole muffin tin, swirl-side up. Using wet fingers, carefully press the pastry up the sides with your fingers, working from the centre out, until the pastry just pokes over the top. Repeat with the remaining pieces of pastry. Chill for 20 minutes.
For the custard
  1. Pour the milk into a pan and whisk in the flour. Add the strip of lemon zest and cinnamon stick. Bring to a simmer, whisking continuously. Cook for 2-3 minutes until thick. Remove from the heat.
  2. Tip the sugar into a small pan with the water. Heat gently to melt the sugar, then increase the heat and boil until the syrup reaches the short thread stage (106C – 112C). Gradually whisk the boiling syrup into the milk mixture.
  3. Put the egg yolks in a large bowl and strain over the milk mixture, whisking continuously until combined. Place a sheet of clingfilm over the surface and leave to cool. Once cooled, remove the strip of lemon zest and cinnamon stick.
  4. Heat the oven to 240 top/bottom heat. Pour the custard into the pastry cases to 1cm below the top, then bake in the oven for 15 -18 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp and the custard is bubbling with tiny brown spots.
  5. Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then gently turn out the tarts and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Baking a Mess