Accordingly to Maria de Lourdes Modesto, Portugal's Julia Child as it is called by new your times, "These pastries are probably the most important Portuguese specialty ever sold!"
Almost four decades later, they remain the ultimate national symbol of Portugal. Today's pastéis de nata recipes are adaptations of the original that dates back to the 16th century, when they were made in monasteries and convents all over the country.
These palm-sized tarts have a melt-in-the-mouth, fragile, flaky crust and a not-too-sweet custard that is caramelized and darkened in spots.
320 g (1 1/3 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
50 g (1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons) cornflour (cornstarch)
4 egg yolks
600 g (2 1/2 cups) whole (full-fat) milk
1 vanilla pod (bean), split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
Pared rind of 2 lemons
320 g (1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons)
600 g (4 3/4 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
480 g (4 sticks + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
icing sugar, for dusting
ground cinnamon, for dusting