Portuguese Egg Tarts (Pastéis de Belém )

My friend Maria came over today to help me bake Portuguese egg tarts. She just moved to LA from Lisbon and was craving something that reminded her of home. Having grown up with egg tarts myself, albeit Chinese ones, I was excited to make these for the first time. I am also a huge fan of cinnamon, which is mixed into the custard as well as sprinkled on top.

Portuguese Egg Tarts (Pastéis de Belém)
Makes about 30 tarts

Prep time: 40min
Rest time: 15 min + Overnight+ 10 min
Cook time: 9 min

For the dough

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water
16 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature, stirred until smooth

For the custard
3 tbsp. of all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups of milk
1 1/3 cups of granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick or 1 tbsp. of cinnamon powder
2/3 cup of water
1/2 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks, whisked
Cinnamon powder


To make the dough:

In a Kitchen Aid or stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, and water until the dough cleans the side of the bowl (about 30 seconds).
Flour your work surface and pat down the dough into a 6-inch square. Use a pastry scraper to make sure the dough doesn’t stick to the surface. Flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 15 minutes.

Roll out the dough into an 18-inch square.
Brush any excess flour off the top, trim the edges if uneven and use a small spatula to spread the softened butter on the left two-thirds of the dough, using one-third of the butter. Make sure to leave the edges (about 1 inch) uncovered.
Neatly fold over the unbuttered right third of the dough using the pastry scraper if it sticks, brush off any excess flour, then fold over the left third. Pat down the dough with your hands to release any bubbles. Pinch the edges close and remove any excess flour.

Repeat the previous step: lift the dough and flour the surface again. Roll the dough out again to an 18-inch square, then dot and spread the left two-thirds of the dough with one-third of the butter, and fold the dough.

For the last step, roll out the dough to an 18-by-21-inch rectangle, with the shorter side facing you. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface.

Lift the edge closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, removing the excess flour as you roll. Use the scraper to make sure it doesn’t stick. Trim the ends and cut the log in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.

To make the custard:

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth. Set aside.
Bring the sugar, cinnamon, and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until your thermometer shows 220°F (100°C). Do not stir.

In the meantime, boil the remaining 1 cup of milk into a small pot. Whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture.

Remove the cinnamon stick if you have one in there and pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot milk-and-flour mixture, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and stir for another minute it cools down a little while still being very wam. Whisk in the yolks. Use a strainer with a fine mesh to strain the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

To assemble and bake the pastries:

Heat the oven to 550°F (290°C). Remove one of the pastry logs from the refrigerator (leave the other one in) and roll it back and forth on a lightly floured surface until it is about an inch in diameter and 16 inches long. Cut it into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place a piece cut-side down in each tart mold (you can use a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan). Let the dough sit for about 10 minutes to lee the butter soften.

Prepare a small cup of water. Dip your thumbs into the water, then straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the cup so the bottom is a little more than 1/8 of an inch thick. Smooth the dough up the sides (about 1/8 of an inch as well) then with the tip of your finger flatten the top a little bit so it creates a little lip. The pastry sides should be thinner than the bottom.

Fill each cup 3/4th of the way with the slightly warm custard. Bake the pasteis until the edges brown, about 9 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave the pasteis to cool for a few minutes, then remove them from their molds and transfer them onto a cooling rack. Sprinkle the pasteis with cinnamon powder.

Can keep up in the refrigerator for up to three days and up to three months in the freezer.

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