Pastel de Belem is also known as Pastel de Nata. Pluralized they read Pasteis de Belem and Pasteis de Nata. These traditional Portuguese custard tarlets originate from Belem, Portugal. In the 19th century, monasteries were places in which monks tried out different types of desserts. This one happened to be created in a Belem monastery and when the monastery closed a bakery called Casa Pasteis de Belem started selling these treats. Egg whites were in such high demand for various purposes that egg yolk desserts, like Pastel de Belem, were created to make use of the leftover yolks. Pasteis de Belem have become so popular and such an important dessert in Portuguese cuisine. I grew up eating Pasteis de Belem and as an adult I still get giddy. Even a bad pastel is a good one. They are little cups of heaven. A special puff pastry shell is filled with luscious egg custard. You'll find some with slightly burnt edges and some browning on the skin of the custard. Others will be topped with cinammon and powdered sugar. The original recipe is a secret and I'm sure the bakeries of Portugal who specialize in this dessert keep their recipes under lock and key.
I've adapted Emeril Lagasse's recipe from FoodNetwork.com and David Leite's recipe from the book The New Portuguese Table. I added my own twist. My favorite pasteis de Belem always had a slight hint of orange flavor in them. So I added orange extract to the custard. I didn't want to add fresh orange juice as I was worried that the citric acid would curdle the eggs, disrupting the creaminess of the custard. The result: one of the best desserts I have ever made.
A special thanks to Eggland's Best and Food Buzz who provided me with a carton of Eggland's Best eggs in order to make some recipes with them. This opportunity encouraged me to make something I never thought I'd be able to do on my own!
Ingredients and Materials:
A package of Pepperidge Farm's Puff Pastry*
(thawed in the refrigerator)
Dry Beans, preferably small ones
Regular sized Muffin/Cupcake tin
6 Eggland's Best Eggs, Yolks Only
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1-1/2 cups of heavy cream
1 heaping tablespoon of cornstarch
1 teaspoon of Orange Extract
Makes 18 Pasteis
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Lay out 2 sheets of your puff pastry. Cut each sheet into 9 squares, total of 18 squares.
Place each individual squares into the muffin molds and shape into the mold so that the pastry is even on the bottom and all the way up the sides. Please make sure the pastry goes up to the very top. Also, make sure there is no air bubble at the bottom. The more even you can get the dough, the better the pastry cup will come out.
Once you get them all in the molds, add cupcake liners to the centers of each. Fill each liner with small dry beans (you can use rice, but beans are easier). The weight of the beans will hold down the pastry, preventing it from puffing up too much. Bake the pastry cups in the oven for 20 minutes. Set aside and cool.