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A few years back I treated myself and went on a bakery course at The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School in Bath, run by the amazing French master baker Richard Bertinet.  Richard inspired me to take my baking to the next level, so I played with a few of my favourite recipes and subsequently started to push the boundaries a little and began to try some new ‘bakes’, which to date have all worked out really well.  My chief tester/taster is my youngest boy, Ashley (Ash), who is any cooks best (or worst) critic.

The first time I made Portuguese Natas was back in 2014 and I’ve been making them ever since.  Sadly, like most pastries that we love, they are really not that good on the old waistline, so I maybe don’t make them quite as often as I would like to.  Ash who is a 6′ 4″ giant of a lad, absolutely loves them and will gladly harvest a few to take to his office to snack on during the day at a busy accountancy firm on the Isle of Wight.

Part of the trick of taking this recipe to a higher level, is to roll out your pastry over a light dusting of icing sugar instead of flour.  Some recipes suggest that you sprinkle the Natas with cinnamon or nutmeg – I prefer not to do this.

Pastéis de Belém na Pastelaria de Belém, Lisboa, Portugal

NATAS

Ingredients Puff Pastry

  • 200 g plain flour
  • 200 g chilled unsalted butter – cut into cubes & into freezer for 15 mins+
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 100 g water – very cold

Quick method

  1. Squeeze the lemon juice into the chilled water at the last minute.
  2. Place all ingredients into your Thermomix mixing bowl and mix 15 sec/speed 5
  3. Mix 10 sec/speed 2/Reverse Blade and turn out onto your work surface, well dusted with plain flour.
  4. The paste will be quite loose, so lightly dust with flour and very gently work into a brick shape.
  5. Fold the top third down to the centre, then the bottom third up and over that. Give the dough a quarter turn (to the left or right) and roll out again to three times the length. Fold again for a total of 9 turns.
  6. Chill for a minimum of 30 minutes wrapped in cling film before using.

 For the crème patissière

  • 350 g full-fat milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks – large eggs, free range
  • 80 g caster sugar
  • 30 g plain flour

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Preparation

  1. Place all the ingredients into your Thermomix mixing bowl.
  2. Cook for 7 min/90oC/Speed 4
  3. Remove the crème pâtissière from the mixing bowl and scrape into a clean bowl with a silicone spatula.
  4. Cover the surface of the crème pâtissière directly with cling film (this will stop a skin forming). Leave to cool, then chill in the fridge until needed.

 

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Putting it all together

  1. Lightly ‘grease’ a 12 hole silicone muffin tray by melting a little butter and brushing the inside of the cups.
  2. Remove your pastry from the fridge a few minutes before you roll it out.
  3. Dust your work surface with icing sugar which you have passed through a fine sieve.
  4. Roll out the pastry to around 4mm thick, lightly sprinkling the surface with more icing sugar as required.
  5. Using a straight sided pastry cutter, around 8cm in diameter and line the cups.  – mine are about 3.5cm deep, so I have to roll each disc a little more
  6. Pop your muffin tray into the fridge and chill nicely for one hour.
  7. Pre-heat your oven to 200oC.
  8. Remove your muffin tray from the fridge and spoon some the chilled crème patissière into each cup, filling to near the top but don’t overfill.
  9. Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg if using.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top of the pastry is golden as per the pictures above.
  11. Allow to cool in the muffin tray for 10-15 minutes before removing and place onto a cooling wire.  If you leave them too long, the sugar coating on your pastry can caramelise and may start to stick to the sides of the cups.
  12. Allow to cool completely before eating – I say that, but these Natas really are so yummy that a few seem to disappear long before they are all cooled.

 

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Malcy Tips

  • You can, of course, use bought chilled or frozen puff pastry from your local store.
  • If the custard puffs up in the oven, don’t worry as it will sink down again as it cools.
  • I love to put a little alcohol in my crème pâtissière – a few drops of brandy, white or dark rum or kirsch is always lovely.
  • You should have a little quick puff pastry left over, so you might want to make a few tasty cheese snacks.
  • The tarts will last for up to 2 days in an airtight box but they don’t usually hang around that long in our house – nom, nom, nom!!!!

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