Portuguese Recipe: Pasteis de Belem

Ingredients for Pastries of Belem (Pastéis de Belem)


Portuguese Recipe:  Pasteis de Belem
Portuguese Recipe: Pasteis de Belem

Traditional Portuguese recipe

  • 1 liter of whole milk
  • 500 gr. of white sugar.
  • 100 gr. of wheat flour.
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 600 gr. of puff pastry dough (2 rectangular plates of 300 gr.)
  • The skin of half a lemon.
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • Butter to spread the molds.
  • Metal molds: small and low if possible.

How to prepare cakes from Belem. Lisbon is a city that “hooks”, once you visit for the first time you are already thinking about going back to enjoy its charms. Perhaps it is because of its hospitable people, its mixture of modernity and tradition or, as it happens to me, for the excellent cuisine that it offers us.

Of her, along with the bacallao a bras, her sweet recipes are well known, among which are these Pastéis de Belem. Some puff pastries and cream originating in the neighborhood of Belem, on the banks of the Tagus River at its mouth in the Atlantic. Formerly Belem was a separate town of Lisbon but over time has ended annexed to the great city.

The “pastéis de belem” or similar can be found throughout Lisbon and the rest of Portugal, and of course they have a curious history. At the moment they are elaborated in the “Factory of pastéis de Belem” with a secret recipe that they keep jealously under lock and key that they keep since 1837. At the beginning of the 19th century in Belem next to the Jerónimos Monastery there was a sugarcane factory. In 1834, with the Liberal Revolution, many Portuguese convents were closed leaving their inhabitants in distress.

To survive some members of the convent set up a small shop attached to the cane factory, where they prepared the pastéis de belem with an old and secret recipe from the Monastery. Three years later the manufacture of these sweets began in a more organized way and in greater quantity. Since that year they continue with the tradition and keep the original recipe, something that is very meritorious and that gives these sweets an added value.


Portuguese Recipe:  Pasteis de Belem
Portuguese Recipe: Pasteis de Belem

The chefs working in the factory must sign a confidentiality contract assuring the secret of the recipe, which is only prepared in an exclusive room called by them the Oficina de Segredo. At the Belem Factory, some 20,000 “pastéis” are made per day, sometimes doubling that number if it is a special date or holiday. Both the recipe and the name are registered internationally, since its popularity has reached the rest of the world, especially the former Portuguese colonies of Brazil, Angola and Macao.

I leave you with the closest recipe to the authentic ones, I hope you like them. Of course they are yummy, once you eat one you can not stop.


Preparation of dough for Belem cakes

We start with the puff pastry because we need to rest for a while inside the molds before adding the filling.

With each layer of puff pastry (which should be rectangular) we will do the same process: roll up the dough making a roll or cylinder. We cut portions of about 3 cm.
Butter the molds and place a cylinder in the center of each one. The molds that I have used are egg flan type, in Spain it will be difficult to find them the same as the Portugal but as you can see in the pictures they serve. Aluminum foil molds may be the ones that most resemble each other.

Little by little we adapt the dough so that it takes the shape of the mold, from the center outwards, leaving the edge a bit more chubby. We also puncture the base of the dough with a fork. Let it sit for 20 minutes.


Portuguese Recipe:  Pasteis de Belem
Portuguese Recipe: Pasteis de Belem

Preparation of the cream to fill the cakes of Belem

Separate about 200 ml of milk in a cup and add the flour. Beat well with a fork, so it is diluted. There should be no lumps so we can even give it a touch of blender. We reserve In a saucepan, heat the milk together with the lemon peel (without the white part, so that no bitterness) and cinnamon stick, so they are infused and give it flavor.

When the milk begins to boil, add the mixture of flour and milk little by little without stopping to stir. When it returns to boil, remove the lemon peel and the cinnamon stick.
Now add the sugar, again little by little, at the same time that we stir continuously. When we obtain a well homogenous mass, we extinguish the fire and let it rest for 10 minutes. During this time it will thicken a bit.

We separated the whites from the yolks of a dozen eggs.

We keep the egg whites as they can be used for other preparations like an omelette. Make clear mounted or some other dessert as the white bica of Laza (Ourense).
In a bowl or cup beat the yolks lightly and incorporate them by passing them through a sieve to the rest of the ingredients.
Mix well until you get a smooth and homogeneous cream, of an intense egg color. The desired texture is that of a semiliquid pastry cream.



Baking and final presentation of the Belem cakes

We preheat the oven 5 minutes at 220º C (total heat function).
Place the molds in the oven tray, transfer the cream to a jar and fill the tartlets without reaching the edge of the dough. We leave a little margin so that the cream does not overflow.
We introduce the tray in the central part and bake 15-20 minutes at 220º C. Until we see that the cream is golden / toasted. Each furnace is a different world so be careful not to burn.
Do not worry if you see that the cream goes up a lot while it is baked. It is normal and then it will go down staying at its optimum point. After the time, we remove and let temper a little before tasting them.

At the time of eating, you can enjoy both hot and cold, depending on your tastes. It is typical to sprinkle them with icing sugar or cinnamon just before tasting them.
Particularly I like to eat them as they are served in the Belem Factory, tempered and then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon powder on top.

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