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!








Passport to Baked Good(nes)s

I can’t say that I’m an intrepid adventurer but I have seen different parts of the world. Many of my memories of these places are linked to food.

I spent three weeks touring Peru with my sister and her friends. The highlight of that trip was the Lares to Machu Picchu trek. During the trek, we visited with a couple living in the middle of the Andes. They kept live guinea pigs in cages underneath their beds. Later on, our group stopped at a restaurant where they served us whole roasted guinea pig. Initially, I was grossed out at seeing whole guinea pigs but the staff took them away and chopped them into bite size pieces. I did try a bit. It reminded me of herb roasted chicken, with extra gristle!  Also, while visiting Lake Titicaca I had trout. I don’t remember trying any Peruvian desserts but I do remember having banana splits for supper one night. I was young at the time so it was fun to break the rules, and it was a comforting reminder of home.


My travels have been valuable experiences. However, people don’t have to leave the comfort of their own homes to have culinary adventures. Take this blog for instance. Through it, people of different backgrounds get to share their baking experiences. We as readers get to live out their adventures through these pages and we have the option to try out the recipes. The Internet, TV, and cookbooks have opened the doors to delicious destinations.

Besides media and technology, a big part of the adventure comes through living our lives. When I went through NAIT’s Culinary arts program, I made and filled cannoli shells as a part of a test in the international food and culture course. Here’s the recipe that I used:

Homemade Cannoli Recipe with Mascarpone Cream

Becky. Homemade Cannoli Recipe with Mascarpone Cream. Accessed March 18, 2015. From

Yield: 16 cannoli

Make cream filling and refrigerate. Make dough, roll out and cut into circles. Fry dough using cannoli forms. Let cool for 15 minutes. Fill cannoli with cream and then dip ends into chocolate


Cannoli Shells

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/8 cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent cacao)
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Mascarpone Creme

  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese (drained overnight w/ cheesecloth & squeezed dry)
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt


Cannoli Shells

  1. Combine flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add Marsala and oil, and beat on medium speed until dough comes together. Using your hands, knead dough on a lightly floured work surface until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. Wrap in plastic, and let rest 30 minutes.
  2. Divide dough into 2 pieces. Pass 1 piece of dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine (keep remaining pieces covered) OR roll out into a thin sheet of dough. Continue passing through narrower settings until it is the thickness of a dime. Lay on a floured work surface. Cut out rounds with a 3 1/4-inch cutter. Gather scraps and reroll.
  3. Pour enough oil into a large, heavy saucepan to come about 4 inches up sides. Heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 380 degrees.
  4. Wrap each round of dough around a 3 3/4-inch-long cannoli form, sealing with a dab of egg white. Working in batches of 3 or 4, fry until golden, about 1 minute. Using a wire skimmer or tongs, transfer to paper towels, and let cool 5 minutes. Carefully slide out forms, and let shells cool. Continue rolling, cutting, and frying the remaining dough.
  5. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Dip ends of cannoli shells in melted chocolate. Let set 15 minutes on parchment paper.

Mascarpone Cream

  1. Mix filling ingredients together.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (at least a couple of hours).
  3. When ready to serve, use a ziploc bag (cut the corner) or pastry bag with 1/2 inch star tip. Pipe filling into one end of a shell to the center, then into other end. Repeat with remaining shells and filling. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve immediately.
  4. Let the filling smoosh out of each end of the shells, just a tad.
  5. Some people sprinkle powdered sugar on top right before serving or dip the ends into chocolate shavings.

Here’s a YouTube video showing you how to make the shells.

While going to school, I have worked part time at Popular Bakery. It’s owned by a Portuguese family. One of their specialties are a Portuguese custard tart or Pasteis de Nata, as they call them. For a recipe follow this link:

Pasteis de Nata | Portuguese Custard Tarts Recipe

Without even leaving Canada, I got to experience Italian and Portuguese desserts. Canada is a melting pot of cultures. Within Edmonton, there are many local and ethnic baked goods just waiting for you to discover.  So get out there and explore. I hope you find baked goodness and make delicious memories.


The “-er” behind baker

Food is complicated! Today, their is so much debate between what to eat, what you should eat and what you want to eat. It can get confusing. However, lately, I find myself wondering about the people producing and consuming the food. For this entry, I would like to share some of my thoughts about the people behind this industry.

Who are bakers? The Webster’s English dictionary defines, baker, as: ” a person who bakes and sells bread, cakes, etc.” and, bake, as: ” to cook by dry heat in an oven.” So, basically, a baker is anyone who uses an oven to produce food. This is a pretty simple definition. Alberta’s learning information service (ALIS) website provides a more detailed definition about bakers. Also, this video about a baker’s helper is interesting.

Baker Profile:

Baker’s Helper video:

Now that we know a little about who bakers are and what they do, what about why they do it. While reading Professor Ken Ashwell’s book, The Brain Book, I came across interesting information about taste that could be relevant to this topic. He says;” our sense of taste allows us to enjoy the flavor of food and drink, and also warns against toxins. Taste includes very specific sensations from receptor cells on the tongue, as well as related input from nerve endings in the mucous membranes of the mouth, and textural feelings provided by touch receptors on the tongue or in the jaw.” He goes on to explain;” some taste information triggers reflexes that originate in the brainstem (salivation, swallowing, and coughing), but most of the information reaches the higher parts of the brain for conscious awareness. Taste is important for influencing behavior, causing us to seek out some foods and avoid others, so taste information must be able to influence memories and motivations in the cerebral cortex and limbic system.” In essence, within our brains their our two pathways taste can follow. One a conscious appreciation for taste and the other an unconscious taste pathway affecting emotions and appetite.

I’m no neuroscientist, but I think this means that some people eat for taste whereas others eat because of experiences. In other words, food for fuel versus being fueled by food. This is one of the reasons why I believe food and eating are so complicated. Taste is only one of our senses but we eat with all of them, and no two people eat the same way. Bakers enter this industry for many different reasons and their customers are led to it for various reasons as well. We really need to know what kind of baker we want to be to serve the right type of customer. I came across this automobile commercial that illustrates my point.

Back in November, I attended the TEDMED 2015 session called Food Fix at the University of Alberta ( Topics ranged from how sugar has become the new drug to insects as the new source of protein to a plant based hamburger substitute. The topic that really stood out to me was Raj Patel’s presentation on gender equality related to cooking.

Watch the video here:

After the session, the UofA organizers brought in local foodies from the area to have a panel discussion. The discussion eventually led to the idea that any significant changes to the food scene starts through education.

This leads to my next thought.  During NAIT’s open house, I had the opportunity to discuss the baking program with potential students. All of the people I spoke to were female. It seemed like males only came to our display to get a cookie whereas females saw baking as a possible career choice. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking but I can relate to those guys. While we were decorating wedding cakes, I found myself goggling wedding cake ideas and I even walked into a wedding store. I felt very unmanly. Around that time, Aaron told us how he had a toolbox full of cake decorating tools and his daughter called him out on it. I find it strange how when I went through culinary arts we had a fairly even distribution of students but in baking its 90% female. Does our society have a hunter gatherer mindset toward gender and cooking? Are we seeing a slow change to this mindset or should we even change it?

In this blog, I wanted to discuss the baking industry and the people behind it. I tried to show who bakers are and why they do this. I touched on redefining our stereotypes about who should be in this industry. I don’t have the answers but I hope this discussion was food for thought.

Cobs Bread: My Practicum Experience

It’s been a hard two weeks. Getting up at three in the morning to work at Cobs Bread for my practicum was not at all easy. However, so worth it! Between juggling working at my current job in the evenings and working at Cobs in the night into the afternoon, I have never been so sleep deprived in my life. I learned so much about how a bakery works and about their products and what the company does for their employees, customers and the community.

Their products are all made from scratch, and baked fresh daily. From chocolate scones, to freshly baked breads and Danishes, the aroma alone was worth the few hours of sleep.

All the left over products that were not sold by the end of the night were given to the homeless shelter and food bank. I thought that was one of the nicest things a company could do for its community.

I got to learn how to use the “bread machine” to roll and cut the right size portions for various breads. I also got to use the machine that makes buns and scones which was a work out on its own, but made the process so much easier than rolling each piece of dough by hand.

I made cinnamon buns daily, which weren’t my favorite, but definitely a challenge that I felt like I got better at after making it each time.



 I really enjoyed making one of their signature items, called, “Teatimes” which was a bread twist filled with raspberries and custard, cranberry and custard, coconut and lemon filling or apple with cinnamon-sugar. They are shaped a certain way and I think after the two weeks I got the hang of them and got a lot faster at making them.



Although, the hours were long, and the work load left me sore, and everything was super-fast paced I wouldn’t change it for anything. I do believe that my time management got a lot better, and throughout the two weeks I got a lot faster and making the products and making sure that the presentation and quality was acceptable.

I think my favorite part was getting to try everything that we would bake!

The owner of the store, Christian, was super nice, and made me feel like I was part of the team. He even offered me a job after my first week! I made a lot of new friends. They treated me like family and were also NAIT baking graduates. They always had the music blasted, and I never felt like I was going to work. It always felt like a party. The environment and the people were so nice and positive and always had good things to say. They encouraged me so much and I can’t thank them enough for all the support! I will miss my Cobs family dearly!

Thank you NAIT & Cobs Bread for the opportunity.

Feel free to check out their website and all the amazing products they have to offer!