A trip to the bakery!
I’m fairly certain that I can trace my love of bakeries and baked goods back to those mid-morning trips with my grandfather to the bakery at the end of the street. Picking up fresh buns was a daily occurrence. The occasional loaf of bread or hot dog/ hamburger buns may have been purchased at the grocery store, but as far as buns or bread for our meals was concerned, nowhere but the bakery would do! To this day, my Dad still stops every Sunday to pick up bread for our Sunday dinners! And while helping my grandfather fill a bag with fresh, warm buns was fun, it was when we would head to the counter that the excitement would really peak. As I stared at the display cases filled to the brim with classic Portuguese desserts and pastries, the kind staff would, without fail, “sneak” me a cookie or treat! From walking through the door, to leaving with a bag full of that fresh scent and warmth, the experience was always enjoyable.
When it comes to Portuguese bakeries, there is one dessert in particular, that is iconic.
Pasteis de Nata.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times, someone has asked me if I’ve made them. Having become kosher five years ago, the “is there anything you miss?” question is a popular one. Over the past few years, I’ve done what I can to transfer family recipes into ones that would accommodate and meet kosher dietary requirements. When friends learn this, pasteis de nata always seem to be the first thing they inquire about. I must admit, while I enjoyed them, they were never the first dessert I’d reach for. But sure enough, make something (especially a baked good!) inaccessible and it’s suddenly a favorite! Given that, I still had yet to attempt baking them, since I have never, NEVER, had a successful experience with custard or caramel.
About a month ago, I was introduced to Ricardo Cuisine. I’m always on the lookout for fantastic food/ recipe websites, and while I certainly love a good cookbook, there’s something special about the ease of searching for a recipe and having a slew of results pop up within seconds. The Ricardo Cuisine site has definitely become a favorite of mine in a very short amount of time! Its crisp and clean layout showcases the food presented beautifully. The menu can be tailored to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. The drop-down menu underneath Cook breaks down your search into mains, appetizers, desserts etc. The Discover bar leads you to videos, a menu planner and further broken down categories (i.e. summer cooking!) and more! Add special features, a boutique, a magazine and themes (i.e. Cooking for Diabetics) and this website is as comprehensive as it is fantastic!
Naturally, I gravitated towards the dessert section, where I found 17 categories! Browsing through them, it was at once clear that not only did the desserts look appetizing and great, but the recipes were also accessible and straightforward. The ingredients didn’t even need a ton of tampering with to comply with kosher requirements! Just when I thought I had hit the jackpot, I stumbled across a recipe that provided all the confirmation I needed…
The recipe, like the others I had browsed through, was so straightforward and accessible that for the first time, I really felt like I could attempt to recreate this classic! The added bonus of the fact that it didn’t require any gelatin or ingredients kosher versions of pasteis call for, was especially exciting! The recipe is inherently kosher!
Not gonna lie, I was still nervous to attempt anything involving custard, but if I was ever going to find a recipe to give it a shot, it was this one! So during the kids nap time, on a sunny afternoon, I went for it! And…
I made custard! It was a milestone moment in this Itsy Bitsy Balebusta’s kitchen! Another great thing about pasteis is that as long as you get the components right, the final presentation doesn’t have to be clean and fancy! Pasteis de Nata are known for their almost burnt looking appearance. Take one bite though, and it won’t matter what it looks like!
I’d definitely recommend taking a look at the site and using it to help you plan your next menu, meal or snack! The recipes are so great that something I’ve failed at before, I was suddenly able to make effortlessly. I wasn’t left with a sink full of dishes at the end (always a plus!), I had all the ingredients I needed in the fridge and pantry, and everything was so easy to follow that it really felt effortless. The only alteration I made was baking each tart in a ramekin. Truth be told, I didn’t have an appropriate dairy muffin pan, but in the end it was a great option! I was able to make slightly larger pasteis than the traditional ones (and really, is extra custard and pastry ever a bad thing?) and didn’t have to worry about any custard spilling out during the baking process. I generously greased them beforehand and baked them at 500F. All in all, not only is it a beautiful site to browse through, but you’ll both want to make the recipes and enjoy the seamless process almost as much as the final product!
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s been about five years and I have a few extra pasteis waiting for me!