Alfama's Pastéis de Nata

(Portuguese Custard Tarts) Makes 40 pastries



Ingredients

Alfama's Pastéis de Nata
For the pastry
  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup plus two tablespoons water
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, stirred until smooth

For the custard
  • 3 tablespoonsall-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
Cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • egg yolks, whisked
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cinnamon

Instructions

MAKE THE DOUGH

  • In a stand blender fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, and water until soft, pillowy dough appearances that cleans the side of the bowl, about 30 seconds.
  • Generously flour a work surface and pat the dough into a 6-inch square using a pastry scraper as a guide. Flour the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • Roll the dough into an 18-inch square. As you work, use the scraper to lift the dough to make sure the underside isn't sticking.
  • Brush surplus flour off the top, trim any uneven edges and using a small offset spatula dot and then spread the left two-thirds of the dough with a little less than one-third of the butter to within 1 inch of the edge.
  • Carefully fold over the unbuttered right third of the dough (using the pastry scraper to loosen it if it sticks), brush off any surplus flour, then fold over the left third. Starting from the top, pat down the packet with your hand to release air bubbles, then pinch the edges closed. Brush off any excess flour.
  • Turn the dough packet 90 degrees to the left so the fold is facing you. Lift the packet and flour the work surface. Once again roll out 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 as in steps 4 and 5.
  • For the last rolling, turn the packet 90 degrees to the left and roll out the dough to an 18-by-21-inch rectangle, with the shorter side facing you. Spread the remaining butter over the whole surface.
  • Using the spatula as an aid, lift the edge closest to you and roll the dough away from you into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from the underside as you go. Trim the ends and cut the log in half. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or preferably overnight.

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 simmer in a small saucepan and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 220°F (100°C). Do not mix.
  • Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, scald the remaining 1 cup milk. Whisk the hot milk into the flour combination.
  • Pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot-milk-and-flour combination, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and mix for a minute until very warm but not hot. Whisk in the yolks, strain the combination into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.
  • Heat the oven to 550°F (290°C). Remove a pastry log from the refrigerator and roll it back and forth on a lightly floured surface until it's about an inch in diameter and 16 inches long. Cut it into scant 3/4-inch pieces. Place a piece cut-side down in each well of a nonstick 12-cup mini-muffin pan (2-by-5/8-inch size). Permit the dough pieces to soften various minutes until pliable.
  • Have a small cup of water nearby. Dip your thumbs into the water, then straight down into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the cup to a thickness of about 1/8 inch, then smooth the dough up the sides and create a raised lip about 1/8 inch above the pan. The pastry sides should be thinner than the bottom.
  • Fill each cup 3/4 full with the slightly warm custard. Bake until the edges of the dough are frilled and brown, about 8 to 9 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and permit the pastéis to cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack and cool until just warm. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar, then cinnamon and serve. Repeat with the remaining pastry and custard. If you prefer, the components can be refrigerated up to three days. The pastry can be frozen up to three months.

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