Pastel de nata (Portugese Tarts)

Discussion in 'Pastry' started by Lee_C, May 8, 2019.

  1. Lee_C

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the helpful words Norcalbaker! You're very encouraging. :)

    Yes, this is definitely one of those tricky processes I had to roll my sleeves up and just go for it in order to get any good at it.

    Yep, I keep all my recipes in memos on my phone (which get backed up) and I write accompanying notes of the processes, what worked, what didn't, etc.

    So I made the custard last night from Meilleurduchef and baked just one single tart. The pastry baked up really good. Nice and crispy, about right I'd say.

    The thing is, this morning I've decided to throw away the custard and start again. It tasted fine but just don't understand what is happening with the colour. It was nowhere near yellow. I followed the recipe. It requires 80g egg yolk. I cracked 5 eggs which came to 92g of yolk so I thought it can't do any harm. The yolks themselves have a nice yellow colour. But after combining with the milk and sugar mixture, it was all just grey, not even remotely yellow!

    I even added a 6th egg which made no difference. So I don't know. You should have seen my face, lol, I was really down and upset about it last night. I'm sure the recipe I followed is excellent but I'm looking at another recipe now which is basically the same except it uses only about a quarter of the water. I wonder if less water dilution would make the difference?

    Also, and I don't know if it would have made a difference to the colour, but as I strained the custard at the end, there was lots of lumpy uncombined flour and milk in the sieve. I had really whisked hard to smooth it out but obviously I hadn't done it properly.

    20190623_010723.jpg 20190623_011241.jpg 20190623_011234.jpg 20190623_011301.jpg


    This is the custard before adding any eggs.
    20190623_000229.jpg

    This is it after adding eggs. No difference.
    20190623_004526.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
    Lee_C, Jun 23, 2019
    #41
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  2. Lee_C

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Ok, fresh start! I've remade the mixture using half the amount of ingredients from another recipe, because that recipe makes 20 pastries, and I'm making 9 or 10. I'm just waiting for it to cool down before adding my eggs.

    Less water this time. 75ml water to 250ml milk compared to 250ml water to 250ml milk. Similar process but slightly different way of doing it.

    I first boiled the water and sugar. I wisked the flour and a little milk in a bowl until it was smooth. Then boiled remaining milk and added the lemon zest and cinnamon to it instead of to the water/sugar solution. Then added some of the boiled milk to the flour and milk mixture and whisked. Then added that back to the milk saucepan and cooked for 3 minutes while continuously stirring. This is where it thickened up. Then slowly added the water/sugar to it.

    However, I eventually noticed small clumps of flour right at the bottom. This is obviously what went wrong last time. Yet I'd been whisking all the time. My whisk then broke. I'm thinking the whisk wasn't working efficiently. So I heated it up again and used a silicon spatula to try and smooth out remaining bits. Hmm, got rid of most of them I think. You might be able to see them in one of the pictures.

    Sugar water boiling.
    20190623_141719.jpg

    Flour and milk mixture
    20190623_141453.jpg

    Thickening up
    20190623_143355.jpg

    Visible lumps but smoothed out a bit in second picture.
    20190623_144007.jpg 20190623_145017.jpg

    My 4 egg yolks waiting to go in.
    20190623_145004.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
    Lee_C, Jun 23, 2019
    #42
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  3. Lee_C

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Much better now! A pale yellow but probably as good as it gets unless I buy different eggs. But I'm happy enough. You can see the amount of clumped flour. Thank god for sieves! :D I've pressed the slices of butter dough in the muffin pan and it's chilling for a few minutes. There's actually much more than I expected. I've filled all 12 with some still leftover. Oven is on at 240c. I'll post the results soon. :)

    20190623_152111.jpg 20190623_154110.jpg
     
    Lee_C, Jun 23, 2019
    #43
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  4. Lee_C

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Came out great and taste lovely. The pastry is really nice. Crispy but soft and definitely flaky, much better than my previous effort. Custard filling lovely and creamy, pudding like and sweet. I couldn't really get them to char on top though whereas I could with the meilleurduchef recipe. Maybe something to do with water content? I'm pretty pleased with them though and I made a 30g sugar/30g water glaze and brushed it on top to give a shine. :)

    20190623_175726.jpg 20190623_175551.jpg 20190623_175413.jpg
     
    Lee_C, Jun 23, 2019
    #44
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  5. Lee_C

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Bravo! The pastry is just beautiful! Excellent job! Those look professionally baked!:D

    Inverse puff pastry is one of the most difficult pastries in baking. It is the puff pastry preferred by the French pastry chefs. And you can see why, yes? You did a really great job!

    And your custard looks really good. I think what happened the first batch was the egg yolk might have overheated. The egg whites contain hydrogen sulfide and the yolk contains iron. Then the whites get too hot they release the hydrogen sulfide. That then reacts with the iron in the yolk. Have you ever noticed that when you hard boil an egg there is sometimes a greenish gray ring on the yolk between the egg white and the yolk? That the cause. So it’s the same thing I think happened in your custard. I won’t make you sick but it looks really gross.


    So you can prevent it by cooling down your flour mixture a bit before you add the egg. Then add some of the slightly cooled flour mixture to the egg to temper the eggs, then add the tempered eggs into the flour mixture. A little extra work, but it might save your eggs from turning gray.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 24, 2019
    #45
  6. Lee_C

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Thanks very much for the kind words NCB! Unfortunately my euphoria from your awesome response is short lived. I read all the nice things you said and felt over the moon. Then I called my mum to ask what she thought and then it went downhill. :(

    I think they taste nice but I've tried them on a couple of people, and the response was not great. I gave a couple to my mum, she took a bite or two and hated it, lol. She said it felt too heavy in the hand, that the pastry should be lighter and almost falling apart in the mouth, and didn't like the custard at all. She said 'what is that stuff in the middle?' She said she knows I can do better. In my mind I was thinking that she's 92 now and I've become aware that her tastes have changed. I can't say she's wrong, but I know she's not liked some other things I made that I love and am 100% confident are done correctly, and others thought were great. So I took it with a pinch of salt, yet felt deflated with a big question mark over my head, thinking "hmm, maybe they really are terrible.."

    Then I gave one to my neighbour and one to her son. The son liked it. But he's only 8 and all 8 year olds like anything that's sweet. :D The mother used to work in a place that served portugese tarts, she took a bite and I could see straightaway it wasn't going to be the reaction I was hoping for. She didn't dislike it and said there's nothing wrong with the flavour at all. But that the pastry was a bit tough and the custard should be creamier. I have to agree that the pastry is tougher today than yesterday.

    Although the photos look like good puff pastry, I don't really know if I did it right and got the layers to separate properly. Even on the second day, should it be tough?
    I put clingfilm over them since yesterday, although kept them at room temperature, I didn't refrigerate them. When I say tough, it takes a bit more tearing to pull it apart and perhaps it was never quite as flaky as I thought it was.

    As far as the custard, I read somewhere last night that if custard is overcooked it curdles and creates a more granular pudding like texture instead of creamy. That a solution would be to cook them at the top of the oven and for a shorter time. I baked mine for 15 minutes. Mine have a granular texture. Perhaps I could blind bake the puff pastry separately, and then pour in the custard and bake for just a few minutes to keep it creamier. I've watched a ton of youtube videos of people making these at home. I always look for when they slice them in half to see what the texture looks like. To be honest, it looks to me like most people are also getting a granular texture.

    Even if I manage to resolve the custard texture, the pastry is somewhat defeating me. I've done three different types of puff pastry now, and every time I think I've done it right, it's not really right, lol. The recipes are fine, apart from the Paul Hollywood one, but I must just not be getting them executed well enough to make them super flaky, and to stop them from getting tough.

    Maybe I should give up and just buy shop puff pastry! :D
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2019
    Lee_C, Jun 24, 2019
    #46
  7. Lee_C

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Don’t be so hard on yourself. This was the first time that you tried the puff pastry. And this is an advanced pastry. You accomplished it without any instruction, and with very little baking experience. That in itself is pretty extraordinary.

    The tarts that were made and sold at the establishment where your neighbor worked, were made by professionally trained bakers. Bakers who had years of experience. You have not had the benefit of professional training. In fact this is only the second time that you’ve made this tart. And it’s only the first time you’ve made this puff pastry. So you can’t compare your tart to the tart sold at a professional bakery. You wouldn’t compare a new music student’s performance on a song with your own performance. You have years of training and years of experience playing the drums; your student does not. But you can recognize there’s talent in some of your students, yes?

    So I’m telling you there is talent in your ability to bake.

    And I have to say I got a good chuckle
    when I read your mother’s response. At her age she’s entitled to say whatever she wants:D And really honest feedback is good. While it always feels good to get great feedback, it doesn’t help our development when people are more concerned about hurting our feelings rather than being honest.

    I really depend on those closest to me to be honest with me. It helps me get to a better product. And when they tell me something is really good, I know then that I have really succeeded:D

    But we do have to recognize that there’s always personal preference. Five years ago I baked so many chocolate chip cookies, people started getting sick of eating them. My youngest son finally said, “Mom, they’re better than anything you’re going to get in a bakery. So stop.” And it finally dawned on me that there’s no such thing as “the best.” There’s no such thing as perfect. Everyone has different tastes and preferences. Make something that is delicious. That most people can really enjoy. And then let them enjoy it.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 25, 2019
    #47
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  8. Lee_C

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Thank you NCB. Amazing words as usual and comforting. :)

    Everything you said is on point. Yes you're right, it is like comparing myself to a student. Thank you for having belief in me. I'm not trying to be a professional baker, it's only a hobby. I just get a bit down when there's a lot of time and effort put into something and it only yields average results. I'm a perfectionist, that's the problem :D

    With music, I can practise and practise until I'm happy with the results, it costs nothing. The thing with baking is that it's expensive to keep practising, so it will take a lot longer to get good at it.

    Lol you're right, my dear old mum is totally entitled to say it like it is! I'll have to get your choc chip cookies recipe one day. :)
     
    Lee_C, Jun 25, 2019
    #48
  9. Lee_C

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I will definitely get you my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jun 25, 2019
    #49
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