Natas do Céu – Portuguese Cream from Heaven

If a Portuguese pastry has egg custard in it, it’s very likely it was invented in a monastery. That’s because during the 15th century it was common for monks and nuns to use egg whites to starch their clothes, so they would end up with a large amount of egg yolks leftover.

To prevent waste, they would combine the yolks with sugar (that’s probably how doce de ovos or ovos moles was created) and use it as a filling for several different pastries. However, this was not exclusive to pastries, and in modern days several Portuguese desserts have egg yolks in them. That’s the case of Natas do Céu, literally translated into ‘Cream from Heaven’, a dessert made from layers of Swiss meringue, crumbled biscuits and Portuguese egg cream. I don’t know for sure if the name is a religious reference or if its inventor loved it so much that decided to call it heavenly!

doce de ovos

Natas do Céu Recipe

Although this recipe has three different layers, you will only need a handful of ingredients. You will need: egg whites, sugar, fresh whipping cream, Marie biscuits (which is similar to an English rich tea biscuit), and doce de ovos or ovos moles. Doce de ovos can be easily found in most supermarkets across Portugal. Traditionally, it’s this final layer of vibrant yellow egg cream that decorates the dessert. I decorated mine with some fresh berries, but that’s entirely optional. I portioned my natas do céu into individual pots, but you can also serve it in a large dessert bowl!

How to Make Natas do Céu

  • This makes 8 individual portions, or one large dessert for around 6-8 people.
  • 389 Calories per portion estimate.

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 400g fresh whipping cream – chilled
  • 125g sugar
  • 100g Marie biscuits
  • 300g doce de ovos (store-bought or homemade)
natas do ceu meringue

Preparation

  1. Start by making your Swiss meringue. In a heat proof mixing bowl, combine egg whites and sugar.
  2. Bring a saucepan (one that’s narrower than the base of the mixing bowl) with about 1 cup of water to a simmer.
  3. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan, make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Gently stir the mixture until the egg whites are warm, and the sugar grains are completely dissolved. You can dip your index finger into the mixture and rub it on you thumb to check for any sugar grains.
  5. Transfer the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer, with the whisk attachment beat the meringue on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes, until foamy.
  6. Slowly increase the speed until you achieve stiff peak and the bowl no longer feel warm to the touch. Set the meringue aside.
  7. Add your fresh whipping cream to a different mixing bowl, with a hand or stand mixer, start to whisk it slowly. Once it starts to thicken up a little, increase the speed until medium peaks form.
  8. Immediately fold your cream into the meringue. Start by adding a third of it first, mixing well, then divide the cream in two, gently folding each part in with a spatula until combined.
  9. Crush your Marie biscuits in a food processor or by placing them into a seal-able plastic bag and beating with a rolling pin, until achieving a wet sand like texture.
  10. To assemble the dessert, place a layer of crushed biscuits into each of the individual dessert pots, then a layer of the meringue, repeat the process, then finish it with a thin layer of the egg cream (doce de ovos).
  11. Chill before serving.
Portuguese cream from heaven

Looking for more Portuguese dessert recipes? How about a Portuguese Caramel Mousse?

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