Cooking with Jonathan By Jonathan Jolicoeur

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In this weekly culinary column, I will be focusing on one dish – giving the reader a quick history of the dish, the classical preparation of it, and of course, my own spin on the classic.

This week I have chosen to cover the Portuguese dish known as Pastel de nata. Pastel de nata is a traditional Portuguese egg tart pastry, which originated sometime before the 18th Century in Santa Maria de Belem, Lisbon. Traditionally, the tart shell is flaky, filled with custard, topped with sugar and bruleed. The recipe was created in the Jeronimos Monastery. The use of egg whites to starching clothing gave an excess of egg yolks, which would often be used in pastries.

Traditional Pastel de nata recipe

For the dough

1 cup​All-purpose flour
1/8 tsp​Sea salt
3 oz​Water
8 tbsp​Unsalted butter, room temperature

For the custard

1½ tbsp​All-purpose flour
5 oz​Milk
2/3 cup​Sugar
1​Cinnamon stick
1/3 cup​Water
¼ tsp​Vanilla extract
3​Egg yolks

In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt and water on medium speed until it forms a soft dough which pulls clean from the sides. Flour a work surface, then place the dough on the floured surface and pat down into a 6 inch square. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Roll dough out into a 12 inch square. Make sure bottom is not sticking to the work surface. Place 1/3 of the butter on the left 3rd of the dough. Fold the dough in 3 parts. Brush off excess flour, place fold towards yourself and roll out to 12 inches again. Repeat process until all butter is inside dough. Once all butter is inside dough, roll the dough into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. In a small bowl, whisk flour and 1 oz milk and set aside. In a small sauce pot, place your sugar, water and cinnamon on high heat and allow to come to a boil. Set aside. Place remaining milk in a small sauce pot and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the reserved flour and milk mixture. Remove the cinnamon from the simple syrup and pour into the milk slowly while whisking. Whisk in the egg yolks and strain into a bowl. Set aside. Preheat oven to 550 degrees and remove pastry from fridge. Roll dough out until about 1 inch in diameter. Cut into ¾ inch pieces and place cut-side down into non-stick mini-muffin pans. Allow dough to rest 5 minutes. Then press dough into pans until 1/8th of an inch thickness, allowing enough dough to have an 1/8th of an inch lip above the surface of the pan. Fill dough ¾ of the way with the custard and bake until the dough has browned 8-10 minutes. Remove pastry from the oven and allow to cool. Top with powdered sugar and powdered cinnamon and serve.

Jonathan’s Pastel de nata

For the dough

1 cup​All-purpose flour
1/8th tsp​Sea salt
3 oz​Water
8 tbsp​Unsalted butter, room temperature

For the custard

1½ tbsp​All-purpose flour
5 oz​Milk
2/3 cup​Sugar
1 oz​Cinnamon liquor
1 oz​Water
1​Vanilla bean, split, cleaned
3​Egg yolks

In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt and water on medium speed until it forms a soft dough which pulls clean from the sides. Flour a work surface, then place the dough on the surface and pat down into a 6 inch square. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Roll dough out into a 12 inch square. Make sure bottom is not sticking to the work surface. Place 1/3 of the butter on the left 3rd of the dough. Fold the dough into 3 parts. Brush off excess flour, place fold towards yourself and roll out to 12 inches again. Repeat process until all butter is inside the dough. Once all butter is inside the dough, roll dough into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. In a small bowl, whisk flour and water and set aside. Fill a medium-sized sauce pot ½ way with water and place over high heat. Place sugar, yolks and cinnamon liquor in a medium sized metal bowl. Once water has come to a boil, place your bowl of ingredients on top. Whisk until ingredients begin to thicken and increase in volume. Add your milk and vanilla bean. Continue to whisk until ingredients start to thicken and increase in volume. Add your flour-water mixture and continue to whisk until custard thickens roughly 2 minutes. Remove from heat and strain into another bowl. Set aside. Preheat oven to 550 degrees and remove pastry from fridge. Roll dough out until about 1 inch in diameter. Cut into ¾ inch pieces and place cut-side down into non-stick mini-muffin pans. Allow dough to rest 5 minutes. Then press dough into pans until 1/8th of an inch thickness, allowing enough dough to have an 1/8th of an inch lip above the surface of the pan. Fill dough ¾ of the way with the custard and bake until dough has browned 8-10 minutes. Remove pastry from the oven and allow to cool. Top with powdered sugar and powdered cinnamon and serve.

Whether you choose to prepare the classic, my twist or your own interpretation, remember that food is about bringing people together and that the act of cooking is about caring and as long as your heart is in the dish you prepare, the people you are cooking for will appreciate it (and you).

If you have any questions for me or would like to see me cover any particular dish in this column, feel free to write me, care of this publication. From my kitchen to yours, it is my pleasure to give you a peek into the mind of a chef. Thank You

Jonathan Jolicoeur is a chef at A Tavola – an Italian restaurant on Church Street in Winchester – which focuses on “farm to table” style of cooking. Jonathan was born in Somerville, lives in Woburn and has a degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

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