Pasteis de nata dough:
275g organic pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
210ml cold water
225g unsalted butter (it needs to be very soft)
25g plain flour
300g milk (divided)
265g organic sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2tsp vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
Making the dough:
Fit a stand mixer with a dough hook and mix the flour, salt and water until a soft dough forms that pulls away from the side of the bowl (this takes me at least 45 seconds, usually longer).
Generously flour a large work surface and tip the dough onto it, using a pastry scraper to form it into a 15cm square. Flour the dough, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Roll the dough into a 45cm square. As you work you'll need to use the pastry scraper to lift and add more flour underneath. At this point the dough will be extremely wet and sticky, so keep adding flour as you need to.
Brush the flour off the dough with a soft brush and then carefully spread 1/3 of the very soft butter in a thin layer across 2/3 of the dough, leaving a small border around the edge clean. Carefully lift and fold the unbuttered 1/3 of the dough like the first fold when folding a letter. Do the same with the other side. Gently pat down the dough to release any air bubbles, the seal the edges and brush off excess flour.
Carefully turn the dough 90° (adding more flour as you go - it will still be quite wet and tend to stick). Roll it into a 45cm square and repeat as previously with 1/2 the remaining butter. When buttered, fold both sides over and turn, flouring underneath.
Now roll the dough slightly larger, 45cm by 50cm. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface.
Carefully roll the dough into a tight log, brushing the excess flour from underneath it as you go. Cut the log in half, wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. Leave it for a minimum of 2 hours. (The pastry will last three days in the fridge, or can be frozen if necessary.)
Making the custard:
Whisk the flour with 60ml of milk until smooth. In a saucepan, bring the sugar, cinnamon and water to the boil and cook until a thermometer reads 104°C. Do not stir!
In another saucepan, scald the remaining 240ml of milk and whisk the hot milk into the flour mixture.
Take out the cinnamon stick and pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream into the hot milk and flour mixture, whisking briskly. Add the vanilla and stir until warm but not hot (this could take a few minutes). Whisk in the egg yolks, pour the mixture through a sieve and set aside. The custard will be thin - that's intentional. If need be, refrigerate custard for up to 3 days.
Assembling the pastries:
Heat your oven as hot as it will go. Take a pastry log from the fridge and roll it gently on a lightly floured surface until it's about 25mm in diameter and 40cm long. Cut it into 20mm pieces, and place one piece in each well of a muffin pan. If necessary, let the dough warm up until pliable.
Keep a glass of water handy. Dip your thumbs into the water and then push straight into the middle of the dough spiral. Flatten it against the bottom of the tin and press it evenly up the sides until it creates a raised lip above the pan. The bottom should be thinner than the top.
Fill each cup 3/4 full with custard. Bake the pastries until the edges are brown and the tops have started to bubble and caramelise. For smaller pastries, 8-10 minutes. For larger, 15-20.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for five minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack. To serve, sprinkle with cinnamon and icing sugar.
Best eaten the day they are made - so save the remaining pastry log for another day if you won't finish them all. Very moreish and excellent with an espresso (as the Portuguese tend to serve them).