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Gluten Free Portuguese Custard Tart – Pasteis De Nata

These Gluten Free Puff Pastry Portuguese Custard Tart (Pasteis de Nata) are little cups of joy that will keep you coming back for more!

Pasteis de Natal

Originally, this post was going to be Cream Cheese Danishes using a gluten free puff pastry. The puff pastry recipe, which is the star of the show, is inspired by my friend’s Nathaniel and Naëlle, of Gluten-Free DIYers. Unfortunately for me, by the time I was ready to write up my post, I saw they released an amazing Gluten Free Danish Recipe. I just couldn’t compete with their baking talent. Nathaniel and Naëlle are amazing gluten free bakers. The two run a cottage bakery from their home, in addition to sharing their recipes on their blog. Instead of treading in their footsteps, I was inspired to use the gluten free puff pastry recipe to make some beautiful Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)!

What is this Custard Tart?

Originating in the 18th century in Lisbon, these tarts were first crafted by Catholic monks. Historically, convents and monasteries used copious amounts of egg whites to starch religious garments. To prevent waste, the monks ingeniously utilized the leftover yolks to create these scrumptious pastries. The sale of Pasteis de Nata then became a means for monasteries to raise funds. Dive into this rich history by trying your hand at baking these traditional Portuguese treats!

Over the years, these little treats became one of the most popular treats in Portugal. With Portugal, at the time, being a dominant trading empire, the popularity of Pasteis de Nata followed the path of their colonies. To this day, these custard tarts are popular treats in parts India, Brazil, Africa, and Asia.

Close up of Gluten Free Custard Tarts

Weighing In

Many of us Americans are accustomed to the Imperial System of measurements—cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons. It’s what we’ve grown up with, and honestly, the thought of converting to the metric system can seem daunting. However, when it comes to baking, precision is key. Many of my international friends are bewildered by our seemingly roundabout way of measuring. “Steven, how can you bake accurately with such rough approximations? You should weigh your ingredients!” they say.

Curious, I decided to give it a try and purchased a food scale. The result? The precision improved the accuracy of my recipes dramatically. Moreover, using a scale helps avoid common mistakes—like confusing tablespoons with teaspoons, which can turn your delightful cookies into disasters!

Despite these benefits, I admit I’m still partial to the ease of approximate measurements for everyday baking. However, for those who prefer exactness—like my friends Nathaniel and Naëlle, who are both classically trained scientists and staunch advocates of the metric system, especially when managing bakery-sized orders—the scale is indispensable.

Realizing the pitfalls of relying solely on automated conversion tools, which can often lead to errors, I took it upon myself to manually convert and test recipes using my scale, making it easier for the “average Joe” to achieve bakery-quality results at home.

What’s So Difficult?

Baking pastries is as much an art as it is a science. Whether they contain gluten or not, creating the perfect pastry requires a blend of chemistry and craftsmanship—skills I’m continually striving to perfect. Making beautiful pastries isn’t straightforward; it demands mastery and patience, particularly when adapting recipes to be gluten-free, which introduces its own set of challenges.

This complexity often arises from the role of gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is crucial in giving traditional pastries their texture and elasticity. When you remove gluten from the equation, you must find innovative ways to replicate these qualities, which can be a daunting task. My journey to perfect gluten-free custard tarts involved much trial and error, but each attempt brought me closer to pastry perfection.

Puff Pastry Dough

Here’s a breakdown of why gluten-free pastry making can be a bit tricky:

Lack of Gluten: Gluten lends elasticity to dough, helping it stretch and trap gases released by leavening agents, which contributes to the light, airy texture of pastries. Without gluten, gluten-free flours tend to create denser, more crumbly textures. It’s crucial to find the right blend of gluten-free flours and starches to mimic these glutenous properties effectively.

Moisture Balance: Gluten-free flours generally absorb more moisture than wheat-based flours, which can result in dry, hard pastries if not properly adjusted. Ingredients like xanthan gum, eggs, or fruit purees are essential for adding moisture, ensuring the softness and tenderness of gluten-free pastries.

Finding the Right Flour Blend: There is no universal gluten-free flour blend; different recipes may require specific blends for the best results. Experimentation with various combinations of rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and others is essential to find the perfect balance for texture and flavor.

Leavening and Binding Agents: In the absence of gluten, alternative binding agents are necessary to help the dough maintain structure and rise properly. Xanthan gum and guar gum are popular choices, but precise proportions are crucial to avoid textures that are either too gummy or overly dense.

Yeast and Timing: Gluten-free flours often interact with yeast more quickly than traditional flours, necessitating adjustments in fermentation and rising times. For instance, where a wheat-based dough could rise for 6 to 7 hours, a gluten-free dough might exhaust its yeast activity much sooner.

Technique Adjustments: Some traditional baking techniques also require modification. For example, while overworking the dough is a concern with gluten-containing flours, ensuring an even distribution of ingredients is more critical in gluten-free baking to avoid uneven textures.

Despite these challenges, crafting delicious gluten-free pastries is entirely achievable. Success lies in understanding the unique science of gluten-free baking and embracing the art of experimentation.

unbaked pasteis de natal

Tips and Tricks to These Custard Tarts

Freezing the Dough: Prepare your puff pastry dough in advance and consider freezing it. I initially had concerns about how the dough, which includes yeast, would perform after being frozen. After conducting tests with two separate batches and freezing for over a week, I found that it holds up very well!

Refrigerating the Dough: You can store the dough in the refrigerator for up to two days. Beyond this, there’s a noticeable decline in yeast activity, affecting the dough’s performance. While refrigerated, the yeast remains active but at a slower rate, so timing is key.

Working with the Dough: When rolling out or cutting the dough, a metal dough scraper can be incredibly useful. I recommend using a high-quality dough scraper like the Pro Dough Scraper.. It features a sharp edge for easy lifting, built-in ruler lines for precise measurement, and an ergonomic design for comfort.

Quick Fermentation Tip: If time is tight, you don’t need to let your dough ferment in the fridge overnight. Instead, allow it to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before you start working and rolling it out.

Custard Tarts

If You Like These Custard Tarts, You May Enjoy These Recipes:



Gluten Free Puff Pastry Portuguese Custard Tarts

5.0 from 1 vote
Course: Dessert, SnacksCuisine: Portuguese
Servings

24

Tarts
Prep time

1

hour 
Cooking time

12

minutes

An amazingly delicious and easy recipe for a Portuguese favorite: Gluten Free Pasteis de Natal or Custard Tarts!

Cook Mode

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Ingredients

  • Custom Gluten Free Pastry Flour Recipe
  • 1 Cup 1 White Rice Flour (176 g)

  • 1-2/3 Cups 1-2/3 Cornstarch (232 g)

  • 3/4 Cup 3/4 Brown Rice Flour (141 g)

  • 1 Cup 1 Dry Milk Powder (92 g)

  • 1/2 Cup 1/2 Arrowroot Flour (49 g)

  • 1-1/2 Tbsp 1-1/2 Xanthan Gum (14 g)

  • Quick Gluten Free Pastry Flour Recipe
  • 1-1/4 Cup 1-1/4 King Arthur Measure for Measure

  • 1-1/4 Cup 1-1/4 Cornstarch

  • 1/3 Cup 1/3 Arrowroot Flour

  • 1 tsp 1 Xanthan Gum

  • Gluten Free Puff Pastry Dough
  • 2-2/3 Cups 2-2/3 Pastry Flour Blend (350 g) (3 Tbsp Separated)

  • 1 tbsp 1 Active Dry Yeast (8 g)

  • 1 tbsp 1 Granulated White Sugar

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 LukeWarm Water (80 ml)

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 Granulated White Sugar (50 g)

  • 1-1/2 tsp 1-1/2 Himalayan Pink Salt (12 g)

  • 2 tsp 2 Baking Powder (10 g)

  • 1-3/4 Stick 1-3/4 Salted Butter (200 g)- Melted

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 Whole Milk (125 ml)

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 Additional Pastry Flour (for rolling the dough)

  • Lemon Syrup
  • 3/4 Cup 3/4 Water

  • 1.5 Cups 1.5 Sugar

  • 1/8 tsp 1/8 Himalayan Pink Salt

  • 1 1 Cinnamon Stick

  • 1 1 Full Lemon Peel (Use a vegetable peeler)

  • Egg Custard Base
  • 6 Large 6 Egg Yolks

  • 1 Cup 1 Whole Milk

  • 1/2 Cup 1/2 Heavy Cream

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 Himalayan Pink Salt

  • 1/3 Cup 1/3 Gluten Free Flour Mix (I use King Arthur Measure for Measure)

Directions

  • Gluten Free Puff Pastry
  • In a small bowl, proof your yeast with warm water, yeast, 1 Tbsp Sugar, and 3 Tbsp of Pastry Flour. Mix well and let it sit for 15 minutes while prepping your other ingredients.
  • In a second bowl (3 Cups or larger) pour in your milk and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes to get chilled. In the meantime melt your butter and let it cool until the milk is ready.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine your pastry flour, ¼ cup sugar, Salt, and Baking Powder. Mix well.
  • Slowly pour your melted butter slowly into the near frozen milk while stirring. The butter should start clumping slightly. Then pour this slurry along with the proofed yeast into the dry ingredients and mix until all ingredients have been combined. Let the dough sit out for 30 minutes, then refrigerate overnight. (If skipping the overnight, let the dough sit for an hour, then refrigerate for an hour and continue.)
  • Use your additional pastry flour to roll out your dough. Start by heavily sprinkling your rolling surface and on top of the dough. Initially take the ball of dough and press it flat with your hands. The dough will be crumbly, that’s okay! The more the dough is worked, the less crumbly it will become.
  • After you roll the dough to about a ½ inch thick, laminate the dough with flour and fold over. Add more flour under and to the top of the dough. Then roll the dough again to about a ½ inch and laminate folding the dough the other way. Continue this pattern 3 more times, then roll the dough to an 1/8th inch of thickness.
  • Set aside 2 well greased muffin tins and preheat your oven to 525-550°F (the hotter the better).
  • Using a large biscuit/cookie cutter/wide mouth jar lid, or coincidentally, a custard cup (3.5-4 inches) cut out the dough and press each circle into the greased muffin tin slots.
  • Egg Custard
  • In a medium sized saucepan, combine the water, sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel. Cook over medium high heat, stirring often until you reach a rolling boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for another 5-6 minutes.
  • Remove the Lemon Syrup from the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes. Feel free to transfer to a separate bowl to reuse the sauce pan for the rest of the custard making.
  • At this point, preheat your oven to high heat: 525-550°F.
  • While the syrup is cooling, in a medium sized saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream, and salt. Set your burner on medium heat and bring the milk to a simmer. Add your gluten free flour blend and bring it back to a simmer. Continue stirring until the flour is totally integrated. Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes or until the mixture thickens to the density of a light bread dough. Turn off the heat and quickly mix in the egg yolks. Once the egg yolks are combined into the custard, slowly pour in and mix the lemon syrup.
  • Pour the custard into each puff pastry lined muffin tin ¾ full! The custard will expand as it bakes, so don’t over do it!
  • Place your filled muffin tins in the oven for 6 minutes on the middle rack or until the custard has caramelized on top.. Then turn off the heat and let it cook for an additional 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • If using Sea or Table Salt, cut the salt in half. Pink salt does not have as high a salinity as Sea or Table Salt.

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2 Comments

  1. Rosie Stephens

    The Portuguese custard tarts are on my list to try to make….soon. I have a couple of recipes for baking a Basque cake using King Arthur flour. One recipe calls for using basically pie crust dough and that is The hardest part. I also tried to make lemon pudding cakes and they were a flop.
    Have you ever tried making these two recipes and if so, can you share?

    • Hi Rosie! I haven’t yet made either a Basque Cake or Lemon Pudding Cakes. I reviewed a few gluten filled recipes that look amazing and making me kind of hungry. I think I’ll take up the challenge in the next week or two.. I’ll get back to you as soon as I have something solid! Thank you for the message!

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