The Portugese Tart Story

Discover where these delicious parcels of crunchy pastry and sweet custard orignated...

November 12, 2020

The pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Hieronymites Monastery in the civil parish of Saint Mary of Bethlehem, in Lisbon.

At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes, such as friars and nuns’ religious habits. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.

Following the extinction of the religious orders and in the face of the impending closure of many of the convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the monks started selling pastéis de nata at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in some revenue. In 1834, the monastery was closed and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. The descendants own the business to this day.

The shop is located a short three-minute walk from the Jerónimos Monastery, and offers both take out and sit in services. Either way, expect a bit of a wait because there is always a line going out the door.

What exactly is a pastel de nata?

They look like a cross between a custard tart and a cake, but pastéis de nata are egg tart pastries. The outside is crispy and flaky while the inside is creamy and sweet. Each region of Portugal and each baker has their own ways of tweaking the original recipe, but the egg filling and flaky crust is the desired outcome from everyone.

 

 

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