PJ Vadas’s Hog House Bakery and Café in Stellenbosch is inspired by his mentor, master baker Markus Färbinger of the legendary Île de Païn in Knysna – and it shows. Head pastry chef Brady Cromhout and bread maker David Hobbs work alongside PJ to produce wholesome artisanal bakes, and seasonal farm breakfasts and lunches in the restored Jonkershuis building at Spier Wine Farm. The patisserie also turns out the ultimate coffee accompaniment and subject of this edition of ‘eat this now’, pastéis de nata.
Pastéis de nata are egg tarts that were originally created in the 18th century by Portuguese monks. The holy men would use egg whites for starching clothes, and found a perfect use for the unwanted yolks – these little teatime treats. At Hog House Bakery, vanilla custard made from velvety soft egg yolk and buffalo-milk custard is baked in a very crispy pâte brisée (shortcrust pastry) shell. The flaky pastry, combined with the creamy filling with a slightly charred top, makes for a satisfyingly rich bite that’s perfect at any time of day.
Each pastel de nata is made with speciality produce to keep things local and of the best quality. The creamy custard is made using Farmer Angus’s free-roaming chicken eggs, which have very yellow yolks that give the tarts a gorgeous colour. The yolks are combined with nutritious buffalo milk from Wayne Rademeyer’s herd at Buffalo Ridge, which require none of the preventative medications that standard dairy cow herds do. The pastry is then made using stoneground flour from Gideon Milling, where non-GMO grains are produced by biological farming methods and crop-rotation practices. The custard-filled tarts are finally fired up in the wood-burning oven at a very high temperature, and finished with the characteristic slightly browned top for that extra flavour dimension.