Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pastéis de Nata - Portuguese for "my day has just gotten better"!

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Pastéis de Nata - Portuguese for "my day has just gotten better"!
This week, I paid a visit to the Christmas fair lining the river banks in the lovely town of Westport, Co. Mayo. Even if I hadn’t read the signs, my nose could have found it, such were the gorgeous aromas coming from the hot food stalls. My tastebuds were mugged by a hotdog stand with a range of interesting sausages on offer – for me it had to be the lamb and rosemary sausage – my compliments to Kelly’s of Newport – delicious! I nearly cried when a passerby jogged my arm and the last bite ended up on the ground - the last bite is the best bit :(

Yum, those cupcakes look fairy, fairy delicious!
There were more cupcakes than you could shake a stick at – some simple, some with little personalities of their own. I was very tempted to have these for dessert but I’d been to Sinead Lambert and Jose Barroso's Sol Rio café in Bridge Street once before and needed one of their hot chocolates. Ok, the hot chocolate was just an excuse – the real reason was that I had developed an instant addiction to their famous Pastéis de Nata – creamy Portuguese custard tarts in a puff pastry that manages to be crisp and chewy at the same time – and it was time for another hit.

Sol Rio - a friendly welcome and great food - and don't just take my word for it,
they've a gazillion plaques on the wall, underscoring their foodie credentials
 Amy, our lovely waitress, promised me the recipe and it duly arrived in my inbox. I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing the recipe for the domestic cook and adding the traditional method of moulding the pastry shell.

For 12 highly addictive Pastéis de Nata you will need...
Puff Pastry
500g cream flour
250mls water                   
pinch of salt                    
500g butter, softened and divided into 4 equal portions

1.         To make the puff pastry: In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine the flour, water and salt until it comes together in a dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick.
2.         Spread one portion of softened butter over the pastry, leaving a margin about a finger’s width all round. Fold the bottom third of the pastry in towards the centre, then fold the remaining third in to make a neat parcel. Brush off any excess flour and give the pastry a quarter turn. 
3.         Repeat step 2 until you have used up all the butter, making sure that every time you give the pastry a quarter turn that you are going in the same direction – helps give maximum rise.
4.         Once you have incorporated all the butter, refrigerate the pastry while you make the filling.

Custard Filling
250mls cream
zest of half a lemon – in strips rather than grated  
160g caster sugar
25g butter
25g corn flour
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg

5.         To make the filling: place the cream and the lemon zest a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil.
6.         Meanwhile place the sugar, butter and corn flour in a heatproof mixing bowl.
7.         When the cream has come to the boil, strain it into the mixing bowl, stirring to combine the ingredients. Turn the heat right down and transfer the mixture back into the saucepan.
8.         In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with the whole egg. Slowly add half the cream mixture to the eggs, whisking all the time (warning: if you add the cold eggs to the hot cream you’ll get sweet scrambled eggs - bleagh!).
9.         When you have combined approximately half the hot cream with the eggs, add this mixture to the remaining hot cream, whisking until well combined. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Refrigerate until ready to assemble and cook the Pastéis.

Sunrise in pastry form...
Pastéis de Nata

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C

10.       To assemble the Pastéis: remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out into a rectangle about ½cm thick (¼ inch) thick.  With the long side nearest you, roll the pastry into a tight sausage. Using a sharp non-serrated knife, cut into 12 even slices and place, cut side down, in a 12-hole muffin tin (no need to butter the tin – the pastry has enough fat to stop it sticking). Using your thumbs, press the pastry out to line the tin, starting in the middle and working it up the sides. The pastry should be slightly thicker at the top.
11.       Fill with the cooled custard mixture, leaving a gap of about 1cm (½ inch) at the top. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until a nice golden brown on top. Decorate with icing sugar or cinnamon. Finally, make sure to invite people over or you will probably end up scoffing the lot yourself!
Ooops... couldn't resist!

Disclosure: I paid for every morsel I consumed in Sol Rio and I received no incentive to share this recipe, other than the fact that they are utterly delicious and you need to try them for yourself.
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