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Cream Custards (Pasteis de Nata)
Active Work Time: 35 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 10 minutes plus 1 hour chilling
Adapted from "Foods of the Azores Islands" by Deolinda Maria Avila (Self-published, 1977). Make sure the pastry ingredients are well-chilled and the custard ingredients are at room temperature. The pastry is partially baked before filling to eliminate an uncooked pastry layer that sometimes can result.


2 cups flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
10 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks


In bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, pulse flour, salt and sugar to combine. Add butter and pulse until flour resembles coarse, uneven cornmeal, about 10 1-second pulses.

Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water over mixture. Pulse several times to work water into flour. Add remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue pulsing until mixture develops small curds. Turn dough out onto work surface, shape into a disc and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

On lightly floured surface, roll half the dough to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut out 6 (4 1/2-inch) circles. Ease dough circles into a 12-cup (4-ounce capacity) nonstick muffin pan, pressing out any overlap. Repeat with remaining dough. Place in freezer 5 minutes. Trim overhang with knife. Line dough cups with cupcake papers and fill with dried beans or pastry weights. Bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes to set.

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup cream in medium bowl. Add remaining cream and sugar and stir until mixture is smooth and sugar dissolves. Check for sugar granules with a spoon; none should remain.

In small bowl, blend yolks with fork until smooth. Add to cream mixture, stirring gently to combine.

Ladle egg mixture into partially baked pastry cups, filling to 2/3 capacity. Bake at 350 degrees until edges of custard are puffed and middle is still jiggly, 20 to 25 minutes. (Custard will continue to cook after removing from oven.) Cool completely in pan. Best when eaten the same day.

Serves 12

David Leite

© 2000 David Leite