Pastéis de Belém

Maybe you’ve heard of these addicting world famous little Portuguese egg custard tarts..

If not..

Well. You’re missing out.

A flaky, buttery crust, delicate creamy custard with a characteristically rustic charred top  that is typically dusted in a thin layer of icing sugar and cinnamon. Served warm.



I went to Portugal for 1 month in July of 2014 for a student exchange trip with 5 other lucky people from our Culinary Arts Program at NAIT. We traveled around Portugal as beautifully spoiled tourists for three weeks and each did a stage at separate restaurants/hotels for one week. Pretty good deal.


An awesome opportunity both personally and professionally. We were treated like superstars with drivers/tour guides (who felt like family after the month), tours to wine cellars, vineyards, art galleries, a sea salt producer, an olive oil producer, a coffee factory/museum, historical sites, castles, and culinary schools (went to three! All very different).



Also wine tastings…Lots of wine tastings. Before Portugal I did not like wine..

Three hour long dinners in the late evening (nine pm usually) full of various small courses with wine and all ending with desserts, espresso and chats.



Every where we visited from the North to the South of Portugal, Pasteis de Nata was a proudly evident dessert and tightly grasped secret recipe as a staple Portuguese dessert item.

When we arrived in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, our BFF “tour” guides took us on a special trip to the district of Belem just outside of Lisbon, where we were introduced to the adorable bakeshop where the tarts originated in 1837.



This pretty little bakery was the origin of Pasteis de Nata and held the top secret family formula that has been passed down for four generations and is still famously known and redone around the world.  But only the tarts made at Antig Confeitaria de Belem can be called Pasteis de Belem, they are otherwise known as Pasteis de Nata.

Here is a brief history video as well as a look at the bakery cafe where they are made.


Each day they pop out about 10 000 of these pastries and there is a window while inside the cafe that lets you see the production area.




With lines up and down the street on a typical day, it is still definitely worth the wait.

Went in to try one. Ending up buying six…for myself.



Lisbon, Portugal - Belem Pasteis de Belem pastel de nata2 - Lisbon Airport car hire

It is baked in a oven that blasts up to 800 F for these little guys, or to make at home try and reach 550 F. They are not as easy as they look to make, with many variations on how it is done. I tried making my own of these and they turned not too bad but not nearly as good as the original. Of course.

Also my oven definitely doesn’t go up to 800 F to get the proper bake.

While at a tour in Portugal we went to a school in Lisbon where we watched as they prepared their version of this special tart for us.

And I got the recipe!


Pasteis de Nata

Masa Folhada – Puff Pastry

  • Bread FLour 55% – 1 kg
  • Water – 600 ml
  • Butter – 800g

Calda Da Acucar – Sugar Syrup

  • White Sugar – 1 kg
  • Water, room temp – 500ml
  • Lemon Peel – To taste or 1 lemon
  • Cinnamon Stick – 1


  • 1/2 and 1/2 Milk – 1L
  • Bread Flour – 55% – 150g
  • Maize Flour – 35g

Egg Mixture

  • Egg Yolks – 11
  • Whole Egg – 1


Puff Dough

(I don’t have great notes on how they made the puff dough!)

  1. Give 2 turns, brush with water after rolling out. 3/4 inch thick. Don’t chill.
  2. Cut little strips and roll up into a spiral and place in small  muffin tin molds. (They have special little tins made especially for these tarts in Portugal!)
  3. Wet thumb and with one smooth movement, press inside the spiral and spread the dough to the edges of the mold. Set aside.

(This picture doesn’t show how the dough was a little spiral that they placed inside then spread apart)



Custard Filling

  1. Whisk flour and milk until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Bring sugar syrup to 100 C.
  3. Remove cinnamon stick and peel and  pour a thin stream, while whisking into the flour and milk mixture.
  4. Temper in the egg mixture. Strain, and set aside.



  1. Set oven to 550 F.
  2. Fill each pastry cup 3/4 full with the warm filling.
  3. Bake 8- 9 minutes until the tops are brown and slightly blackened. Cool slightly.
  4. EAT.


Serve with Port wine or coffee, a light dusting of icing sugar and or cinnamon while warm.

*Don’t get them at TNT, pastry is all wrong! Try Popular Bakery on 118th street to get the most authentic taste in Edmonton!

Happy Baking!








My Gelato Fix

I make ice cream for a living these days.

It’s fun. It’s from scratch. We have 100 or so varieties so far.


Ice Cream – is an emulsion and then after churning is classified as a foam, in which air bubbles are stabilized by freezing large amounts of liquid around them. 

More specifically I make Gelato and Sorbetto; Italian style ice cream and sorbet.

I have yet to work a summer at this job to see how crazy in demand specialty ice cream will be, but I get the opportunity to make enough each week to toss in some creative flair and judgement on what I decide to make.



As far as ingredients go its fairly simple. Milk, heavy cream, eggs, sugar for ice creams and water, fruit juice or puree and sugar for sorbets.

What makes it Gelato is the amount of overrun; the amount of air incorporated into the mix when churning. Gelato is denser and less airy, therefore has a more concentrated and strong flavor. Although opinions on what make Gelato, Gelato differ from chef to chef.

Fun Fact  – The history of frozen desserts dates backs to almost three thousand years ago, with credit to the Chinese with producing the first frozen dessert; flavored ice. There are also hieroglyphs from the Egyptians that show images of fruit and ice together. Hm.

I’ve been working at Cococo Bernard Callebaut Chocolaterie since last fall. Each week I make approximately 15 varieties of Gelato and Sorbetto.

A couple flavors I get to do are; Bittersweet Chocolate (Our chocolate; Bernard Callebaut!), Pink Guava, Popcorn, Lemon, Banana Cream Pie, Blueberry Yogurt, Strawberry Cheesecake, Raspberry,  White Chocolate Passion Fruit Lemon Cookie…lots.

Also there are seasonal flavors; Pumpkin Pie, Eggnog, Mojito.

Another reason I enjoy making it so much is that it reminds me of my backpacking days through Italy, where I made sure I tested out a “few” types of Gelato. Each day. Every town. It was for my culinary education..


Sometimes the freezer door may get left open.. and  then all the ice cream melts.




Then it’s not so fun that day!

But overall..I love making Gelato. I love all the flavors we make, how happy it makes customers and the freedom I get in what flavors go out. It’s a pretty cool job.




Spencer Berge




We all know cinnamon.



It’s that warm fuzzy feeling, cozy spice that reminds me of my favorite dessert from my down
home- life- on-the-little-Saskatchewan-farm background (not too sound too cheesy and clichéd)

Hot homemade apple pie with cold vanilla ice cream… possibly with crab apples.

It can be used for a variety of warm desserts or an interesting dimension of complexity to a spicy savory dish.

For such a popular, well known and recognizably used spice I realized that most people (myself included) do not know some key things about this particular spice

FUN FACT = Boosts Brain Function: Smelling the scent of cinnamon can boost brain activity.

In research reported by, cinnamon “enhanced study participants’ cognitive processing,” with the following activities:

  • Tasks related to attention processes
  • Virtual recognition memory
  • Working memory
  • Visual-motor speed while working on a computer-based program


That being said…


There are TWO main types of cinnamon we should know about!

Ceylon cinnamon

Cassia cinnamon

Here’s a fun 5 minute clip explaining these two varieties with an interesting video style in an easy to follow point form format. Trust me, I really did watch the whole thing.

Two Main Types of Cinnamon!

But the main information to gather from this is that between these two varieties Ceylon cinnamon is “true” cinnamon while Cassia cinnamon is more widely available and affordable. Although both Cassia and Ceylon are derived from the inner bark of Cinnamomum trees, Ceylon cinnamon is preferred as better quality due to it’s sweet, more delicate and complex flavor and Cassia contains much higher levels of Coumarin which is a substance that may cause liver damage or complete failure in larger doses.



Ceylon VS Cassia


  • Made with one thick piece of bark rolled into a hollow tube
  • Dark brown in color
  • Hard to break
  • Strong scent
  • Spicy flavor
  • High levels of Coumarin (German government once had cassia banned because of this)


  • Thin fragile layers
  • Light brown in color
  • Complex subtle taste
  • Refined scent
  • Breaks easily
  • Low levels of courmarin

FUN FACT = The two main components that make up cinnamon are extremely flammable, so much so that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Board issues warnings for manufacturing plants for the risk of cinnamon explosions.  

Here is a video showing just how combustible cinnamon can be.

Flammable Cinnamon









Now that we’ve learned a few fun things about cinnamon, I wanted to include a couple cool recipes that have cinnamon as a main component.


Spiced Cinnamon Poached Bananas

From (love this site)

  • 4 each, Banana
  • 112 g Butter, unsalted
  • 40 g Dark Rum
  • 50 g Sugar
  • 2 g Salt
  • 70 g Raisins
  • 2 g Mace, microplaned
  • 6 g Green Cardamom
  • 10 g Cinnamon, stick

spiced poached bananas_3

These guys (Chef Steps) like to sous vide everything, but in case you are like most people and do not own a sous vide machine you can just gently poach them in a water bath.
This is a two minute link to a quick instructional video on how to prepare this as well as a serving suggestion! Cinnamon Spiced Poached Bananas
And in honor of my love of apple pie..
Apple Pie Bars


Yield: 12-16 bars


Shortbread Crust

  • 115 g  unsalted butter, melted
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 125 g all-purpose flour


  • 2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced (1/4 inch thick)
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  • 40 g old-fashioned oats
  • 70 g packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 30 g all-purpose flour
  • 60 g unsalted butter, cold and cubed


Click here for full instructions – Apple Pie Bars

Optionally you can make them into Salted Caramel Apple Bars by drizzling some home made (or store bought) salted caramel sauce over the squares after baking.

Salted Caramel Sauce


Ceylon Cinnamon can be purchased in Edmonton at Earth’s General Store on Whyte ave!

Spencer Berge