Pasteis de Nata

While in Porto on vacation this month, we took a class on baking Pasteis de Nata, a custard tart we fell in love with in Lisbon a few years ago. This recipe is originally from our course instructor as part of the class, with our own notes and adaptations added.

Equipment

  • stand mixer with kneading hook, or a hand mixer with beaters (be prepared to knead by hand in that case)
  • rolling pin you can use to whomp on the butter through the dough
  • 2 sauce pans
  • whisk

Dough Ingredients

Makes a double batch of puff pastry, about 20-24 cupcake-sized pasteis shells in total.
* 500 g flour
* 250 ml water
* 250 g unsalted butter, chilled
* salt

Notes on Dough Ingredients

  • In the class we actually used margarine. Our instructor, Joana, explained that it works better than butter under less-than-optimal conditions, like at normal room temperature, or when you’re not rolling the dough out on a marble countertop. I’m thinking about making this dough outside on the patio next time.
  • Joana didn’t specify the amount of salt. Our first batch at home was with a half-teaspoon, and it didn’t seem like enough.

Dough Instructions

  1. Combine flour, water, and salt in a stand mixer with a kneading attachment and knead for 4-5 minutes. Alternatively, combine and then knead by hand for 10 minutes. You want a soft, not-very-sticky dough, that springs back at you when you poke it. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes after kneading.
  2. Roll out the dough on a large floured surface in as cool a place as possible. We opened our doors and windows (in November!) to drop the room temperature down to about 15,5 °C and that seemed to help. You want a rectangular shape, about 45 cm in the long dimension, with the dough a half-centimeter thick. Put the block of chilled butter (perhaps cut it into two skinny squares) in the middle of your rolled-out dough and fold the edges of the dough over it, like you’re wrapping up a present (and you are — the butter is the present to yourself).
  3. Beat the heck out of that butter-wrapped-in-dough package with your rolling pin. You want to flatten the butter inside its doughy sleeping bag. Try to maintain the rectangle shape; rotate the dough 90° every few whomps with the rolling pin. Sprinkle flour to cover up any spots where the butter might be leaching through. If the butter has warmed up during this process, stop and refrigerate your dough and don’t proceed until the butter is cold again.
  4. Fold it again, this time in thirds, like you’re mailing a letter of confession to your cardiologist. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Roll it out again to the rectangular shape. Do this at least two more times. On the last roll-out, sprinkle a little water onto the surface of the dough and then smooth it around with your hands.
  5. Starting on the long side of your rectangle, roll up the dough like it’s a treasure map (it is) you’re going to stuff into a bottle and set adrift on the open sea. Stop rolling when you get about half way and cut the roll away from the remaining flat dough. Put that roll aside in your freezer for another batch of natas. Roll up the remaining half of the dough in the same way.
  6. Cut the dough roll into about 1-inch segments. Each segment will become one pastel. Take a segment of the roll, rotate it onto its side (so the the layers inside the roll are visible to you), and with wet thumbs and fingers, squish the segment into the cupcake pan, drawing the dough up the sides of the cupcake mold from the center of the segment with your thumbs. It’s OK to have thinner pastry coverage at the bottom; you want it to be thicker around the edge at the top.

Custard Ingredients

200 g Sugar
175 ml water
1 lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
17-20g corn starch (more starch = stiffer custard)
25 g Flour
250 ml Milk
5 egg yolks, scrambled

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, lemon zest and cinnamon stick. Let it come to boil in at medium heat. You don’t have to stir (much). Just let it come to a healthy boil.
  2. When it starts boiling, count 1 minute and remove from heat. Set it aside.
  3. In another pan, first combine flour and corn starch and then add the milk. Whisk it before putting it onto the stove. Cook the milk, flour and starch on low heat, always whisking.
  4. When the texture thickens, take it off the stove. Remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick from the infused syrup you made and discard them. Gently, add the syrup to the milk, whisking it until it’s fully combined. Let it rest a little while before adding the egg yolks, tempering first.
  5. Whisk everything together, pass it through a strainer (if you didn’t temper the eggs effectively and have scrambled bits) and pour it into the dough cups, about 3/4 of the way full.

Baking Instructions

You want it as hot as your (home) oven can go. We get ours up to over 250 °C. Make sure it has plenty of time to preheat — at least 30 minutes. We turned the convection fan on for the bake. Ours were done after about 12 minutes of bake time. Don’t touch them while they’re baking, and try to let them cool a little before you put them in your mouth. They should pop out of your cupcake pan quite easily (thank you butter!) once they’ve cooled a bit. You can sprinkle them with sugar, cinnamon, both, or nothing.

Tiramisu

Sounds fancy, but it’s an icebox cake. Raw eggs are in there, so if that’s a dealbreaker, best skip this one.

500 g / 16 oz. Mascarpone cheese
157 g / 3/4 c sugar
2 eggs, separated (I use XL; if you use smaller eggs, you might need 3)
250 mL / 1 cup strong, cold coffee
3 T Marsala wine, DiSaronno almond liqueur, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, whatever sweet booze you enjoy
1 large package ladyfinger cookies (min. 24 pieces)
grated chocolate or cocoa powder

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine Mascarpone, sugar and egg yolks. Mix until well combined.

  2. Whip the separated egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into cheese until mixture becomes smooth and light – don’t overmix!

  3. Have a deep 9×13 ready! Pour coffee and liqueur into large shallow bowl or deep plate. Dip (but don’t soak) unsugared half of cookie into coffee mixture and place wet side down on bottom of 9×13. Repeat until dipped cookies cover the bottom of your pan, breaking up cookies as needed. Spread a thick layer of your cream mixture over the cookie layer. Dip and place another layer of cookies over the cream, then top with more cream. Keep going if you have enough cookies and cream left, just make sure you end with cream.

  4. Sprinkle grated chocolate or dust cocoa over the top. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.

Cranberry Brown Butter Shortbread Bars

The cranberries are in! There isn’t a whole lot of cranberry love here in Germany, so when they showed up at the green-grocers, I came home and started strategizing. The brown butter creates an extra step, but the different flavor is very worth it. I made Cliff brown the butter (because hot popping grease freaks me out) and he did a fantastic job. I found this recipe here, and have changed very little (used a little less sugar with the berries), but I broke down the instructions into a more readable format. Don’t let the lengthy instructions put you off – it’s a lot easier to execute than to explain.

1 c + 5 T (263 g) butter
1 c (210 g) sugar, divided into 3/4 and 1/4 c
3/4 t salt
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 t almond extract (didn’t have any, so we used amaretto)
3 c + 3 T (404 g) flour
1 lb (500 g) cranberries, picked over and rinsed
3/4 c (158 g) sugar
1/3 c orange juice

  1. Prepare brown butter. In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Once it’s completely melted, turn heat up to medium and stir constantly until milk solids separate out (it will foam, just keep stirring). Butter will smell very nutty and turn golden brown. Pour into a heatproof bowl, set aside and allow to cool, stirring occasionally.

  2. Line a 9×13 pan with foil or parchment. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooled butter, 3/4 c sugar and salt, stirring until well mixed. Add yolks and almond extract, stirring until smooth. Next, add the flour. The original recipe says to use a spoon or rubber spatula, but I incorporated it with a pastry blender. Worked for me. The dough will be quite stiff and dense, just go with it. Transfer about 2 c of the dough to the lined 9×13 and press it until it knits together. It will still be kind of bumpy, but that’s cool. Put the pan of dough into the fridge for about 40 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 c of sugar to the rest of the dough and work it in with the pastry blender until it’s crumbly.

  3. Prepare cranberry jam. In a deep saucepan over high heat, bring cranberries, sugar and orange juice to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly until cranberries have popped and jam achieves chunky, thick consistency. Set aside and allow to cool a little.

  4. Heat oven to 325° F/163° C. Remove dough from fridge and prick all over with fork. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and turn heat up to 350° F/175° F. Spread cranberry jam evenly over hot shortbread, then sprinkle remaining dough crumbles over the top. Return shortbread to oven and bake for at least 25 minutes or until streusel is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on trivet for at least 1 hour.

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake

It’s the berry time of year, and while at the local farmers’ market on Saturday, I couldn’t resist a big carton of tiny little wild blueberries at a stand manned by two little old ladies, offering only blueberries and raspberries (they were near the west entrance, across from the egg ladies, in case you need to score from them next Saturday).

I transcribed this recipe from an allrecipes.com video on a recipe page for blueberry sour cream coffee cake1. I like the streusel topping so much I plan to use it on future cakes, too.


Equipment

  • Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C
  • Grease and flour a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) baking pan or 9″ Bundt pan

Ingredients

Batter

  • 2/3 cup (146 g) softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (315 g) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (200 g) sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 5/8 cups (224 g) flour + 2 Tbsp flour (for blueberry flotation)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries

Topping

  • 1/2 cup (105 g) brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (just eyeball it) chopped pecans
  • optional powdered sugar for dusting the final product

Method

  1. Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs one at a time. Gently stir in 1 cup sour cream and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

  2. In a separate bowl combine

    • 1 5/8 cups of flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
  3. Combine with butter mixture, just until blended. Toss 1 1/2 cups blueberries with 2 Tbsp flour to keep them from sinking in the batter2, and gently fold into the batter. Put half the batter into your greased and floured pan.

  4. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar to a bowl, along with 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Stir together, sprinkle half over the batter. Spread the rest of the batter into the pan, and top with the rest of the pecan/sugar mixture. Swirl the batter/topping layers around with a chopstick for a nice artsy touch.

  5. Bake about 55 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Ours needed an extra 10 minutes, but it’s really hard to tell with all those blueberries at the bottom moistening your toothpick. Cool completely in the pan, and optionally top with powdered sugar just before serving.

  1. which, oddly, doesn’t seem like exactly the same recipe depicted in the video []
  2. this proved completely ineffective, but I guess I don’t care. []

Ginger Cookies

I saw @LivWrites and @Rachel_Munich tossing ideas around about ginger cookies, including this recipe from allrecipes.com: Big Soft Ginger Cookies

I thought to myself, “Self! You have everything you need to make those!”

But I looked more closely at the recipe and decided, mostly out of laziness and efficiency, to swap in ingredients of my own choosing: some coconut oil and butter instead of margarine What follows are the ingredients I used — the steps are the same as the original.

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups (311 g) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
110 g coconut oil
50 g butter
1 cup (210 g) white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup (about 100 ml) molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar for rolling

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls*, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

They don’t look so great, but the flavor is very good. As usual, I tried to get too many cookies onto one sheet and I totally forgot that step about letting them cool before trying to move them. I like the subtle addition my coconut oil substitution lends.

These will be good eating as an ice cream topping. Next time, I think I’ll try oomphing up the ginger flavor another notch with either even more ground ginger or perhaps some freshly minced ginger root in the dough. Not to mention sticking closely to the sizing guide and making four or more trays worth instead of just two.

*Really, tend toward smaller if you can help it. Walnut-sized must mean “half the edible nut part inside of a walnut shell,” and not the greeny fleshy ball thing containing the shell containing the edible nut parts that falls from the tree. Too literal, I know.

Blueberry Ice Cream

Blueberry Ice CreamIt’s farmers’ market season in Regensburg. One of the things I look forward to every year are the tiny little “Forest Blueberries” — Waldheidelbeeren — we can (sometimes) find at the Donaumarkt. They make for a nice sauce, perhaps to use with a lovely brunchy plate of crêpes.

But this oppressive heat (now that it’s finally here!) calls for something more seasonally appropriate to be done with these berries. Continue reading Blueberry Ice Cream

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie. Moving to Germany and having to make the puree ourselves (really, it’s not that hard) has raised my appreciation for that pie. It’s strongly connected with the season…but wouldn’t it be nice to have a slice in July? Continue reading Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Homemade Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

The strawberries have been calling to us. Yesterday at the Donaumarkt we heeded their summons. We picked up a kilo (2 × 500 g Schalen, which I guess are about a pint each).

It’s been so dang hot around here lately that we only wanted to do something cool with them. Having had such great results with homemade chocolate ice cream and a few other varieties so far, we tried our luck with homemade strawberry frozen yogurt. Big benefit here: it all happens at room temperature or cooler. Not an ice cream = no custard = no cooking! (And it was the logical next step after loving David Lebovitz’ chocolate and vanilla varieties). Continue reading Homemade Strawberry Frozen Yogurt