Happy 2018 everyone! Our New Year’s was pretty restful (or boring, depending on how you look at it). Between all the traveling we did around Christmas and all the holiday shopping, we definitely needed a day to recharge. And now I am back into the rhythm of blogging again!
You’re probably thinking you can’t possibly eat one more cookie or dessert, but I assure you this traditional Hong Kong custard egg tart is one of those recipes that you have to try. These tarts have a buttery and flaky outer layer and a velvety golden and sweet center. When I think of Cantonese Dim Sum, I think of this puff pastry. It’s the perfect way to end a meal, especially after you’ve consumed some 20 dumplings. If you’ve never had dim sum, they are fried and steamed delicacies usually served for brunch and accompanied with tea. I like to compare them to Spanish tapas. Some well-known dim sum dishes include: soup dumplings (小籠包), shrimp dumplings (焼売), and another personal favorite, barbecue pork buns (叉燒包).
To be honest, this is not an easy or fast pastry to make. If you look closely at the crust, you’ll notice it consists of a few layers. To attain those layers, you have to fold the dough, roll it out, refrigerate and repeat this process a few times. It can take an hour or more. But the flakiness is so worth it. Traditionally lard is used to make the crust but I’ve chosen to use butter here because it’s more accessible.
Now I want to mention a few important notes that are pivotal in making your custard tart successful:
1. It’s important to strain the egg mixture through a fine sieve. This prevents the custard from developing bubbles. There’s nothing worst than spending an hour making your crust and then finding out you forgot this one step. Your tarts will come out with tiny craters. They’ll still be delicious, just not as appealing.
2. Don’t skip any of the dough folding steps. That’s what produces all those buttery layers. It’s OK if the dough is a bit crumbly when you’re working with it. I have also found that laying down some plastic wrap can save some clean-up time later.
3. After you place the tarts in the oven, start observing your tarts closely for the last 10 minutes, so the tops do not burn.
4. You have to eat these HOT from the oven—they taste so much better. To reheat, just pop them in the oven for 5 minutes at 300°F.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 13 tbsp cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour (and more for rolling)
- 2 egg yolks (reserve whites for filling)
- 1/4 cup ice water
ORIGINAL CUSTARD FILLING
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 large eggs (room temperature)
- 2 egg whites (room temperature (hopefully saved from earlier))
- 3/4 cup evaporated milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Food Processor
- ~3-in Round Cookie Cutter
- 16 Individual tart molds (disposable or stainless)
- Rolling pin
- Large Silicone Pastry Mat (optional)
TO MAKE THE CRUST:
- Pulse butter dough ingredients in a food processor until well incorporated. Remove and wrap the mixture in plastic wrap. It will be crumbly. While the mixture is in the plastic wrap, mash the dough to form a rectangular shape as best you can. Refrigerate your dough for 20 minutes.
- Next, add all your water dough ingredients to the food processor and pulse until all ingredients are incorporated. Remove dough from food processor and roll out the dough into a circular shape. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Take the butter dough out of the fridge and place it in the center on top of your water dough. Fold the water dough over the butter dough on all four sides until the butter dough is completed wrapped up in the water dough.
- With your rolling pin, roll the now combined doughs flat to about 1/2-in thickness. Fold the dough into thirds. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for another 20 minutes.The dough can still be crumbly, and that’s OK.
- Roll out dough again into a rectangle, 1/4-in thick. This time fold the dough using a gate-fold and then fold it again in half so you can see four layers on one side. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Repeat step 4 again, rolling out the dough, 1/4-in thick.
TO MAKE A TRADITIONAL CUSTARD FILLING:
- In a small bowl, mix the sugar and water together and microwave for about a minute. Set the bowl aside to cool down to room temperature.
- Whisk the custard filling ingredients together and then mix in the water/sugar mixture.
- Drain the mixture using a sieve. This will ensure a smooth custard filling and prevent any bubbles from forming.
TO ASSEMBLE TARTS:
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out to 1/4-in thickness. Using a 3-in cookie cutter (or one slightly larger than your mold), cut out circles.
- Lay cut-out dough circles into each mold, pressing the dough gently against the mold.
- Take a fork and prick the bottom of each mold. This is to keep the tart from puffing or rising too much.
- Fill about 80% of each tart with your egg mixture.
- Place the molds on a baking pan and bake the tarts for 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn down the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. At this point you will want to watch the pastry carefully to prevent the custard from burning or puffing up too much. You can also crack open the oven door for the last five minutes to help prevent the custard from burning.
- Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
TO MAKE AN ORANGE-GINGER VERSION OF THE FILLING:
- Skip the steps for the traditional filling and instead do the following: Whisk together 4 eggs, 2 egg whites, 2/3 cup of evaporated milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 T orange zest, 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup freshly squeezed juice from half an orange. Drain the mixture using a sieve and set aside until you are ready to assemble tarts.
Additional Notes: I bought individual tart molds here. Feel free to use disposable ones instead.