Egg Tarts

Pretty much the best egg tarts I've ever had.

But maybe because they aren't as traditional as the ones you find in a dim sum restaurant or Asian bakeries. Instead of the thick, soft, buttery almost shortbread like crust with a dense eggy filling that sometimes are way to rich for me, these ones have a crisp laminated pastry almost similar to phyllo dough and a light, soft egg custard. 

I was intrigued by Betty's video and post about laminated dough which I then learned was inspired by Mandy's fool-proof technique. I have to say, it's pretty genius. The key to a laminated dough is to have many, many layers of dough-butter-dough-butter and so on. One way to achieve that is to do that layer by layer like making baklava or a crepe cake but if you take advantage of rolling the dough into a tight log, achieving all of those layers is that much easier. 

It's like making a cinnamon roll with the world's most layers, except instead of cinnamon sugar, you're using butter. 

Betty and Mandy suggested using a pasta machine which definitely would have made this easier but it is perfectly achievable by using a rolling pin as long as you don't mind the extra time, effort and arm strength required. You want to roll the dough as thin as possible to allow for as many layers as you can. Since the dough is so thin, the butter must be soft enough to spread easily or else the dough will tear. But, it's okay if it tears a little since you are rolling it up anyways.

To ensure that you get a flaky pastry, the butter must be cold before spreading it into the tins and before baking it. So it goes in the fridge before cutting and after shaping. Place a section in the middle of the tart pan and use your thumbs to spread it out. The bottom can be thinner than the sides because the custard will prevent it from baking faster. But, make sure there are no holes! You don't want your custard leaking out. 

I used these funky fluted shaped tins which yielded smaller tarts but next time I think I will try a muffin tin to allow for more custard. 

For the custard, combine all ingredients until emulsified and cook on medium until thickened. At first it won't seem like it will thicken but then all of a sudden it will. Be sure to watch it! It snuck up on me. If your custard looks a little lumpy, you can strain it before pouring it into the pastry.

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Mmm and the result is this...

Don't be alarmed if dark spots appear on the surface. That gives them character. I can assure you the flaky, crispiness of the pastry and the egg custard will make up for any blemishes that appear on the surface. 

Kristen and I both had the same reaction when eating these—one of joy and delight at the layers in the laminated dough and the silkiness of the custard which is not far off from crème brûlée. And now I am definitely more keen to try this dough in other applications because of how easy it actually is and totally something that can be done way in advance like pie dough.

And maybe a lemon variation for a spin on this pie?

Happy Chinese New Year! I'm afraid this is about as Chinese as I'll get this year but huzzah to pastries!


Egg Tarts

Adapted from Betty's Matcha Portuguese-style Egg Tart

Yields: abut 20 mini tarts or 12 regular tarts 

Notes

The original recipe(s) call for the use of a pasta machine but if you don't have one, a rolling pin works too.

Many steps can be done ahead of time. You can form the dough and chill it overnight or laminate the dough and chill it overnight or even in the freezer. Thaw completely in the fridge before using. 

The custard can even be made a few hours before.

Ingredients

Puff Pastry Dough

  • 8 tablespoons +½ tablespoon butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1½ tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cold water

Egg Custard Filling

  • ½  cup sugar
  • 1⅔ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Steps

Before you begin, your butter should be completely softened at room temperature to a spreadable consistency. If using a pasta machine, prepare your floured surface and pasta machine beforehand too. 

Combine the ½ tablespoon butter, all purpose flour, salt, sugar, and water, in a medium bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until dough forms. Add more water a little at a time if the dough is too dry. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and supple. It should not be too sticky but should be soft and malleable. Wrap with plastic wrap and rest in fridge for 1 hour.

In the meantime, make the egg custard. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl or blender and mix until thoroughly combined. Place in a saucepan and heat on medium. Stir constantly until the edges start to bubble and the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Immediately place the saucepan in the ice bath to cool. Strain if necessary and cover and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Flour your work surface. Remove dough from fridge and cut dough in half. If using a pasta machine, flatten one half to about the width of the pasta machine, and run it through on the thickest setting, then re-feed and keep rolling until you reach the 2nd to last setting. If using a rolling pin, roll to an approximately 6"x18-24" oblong. A bit wider and longer is also okay if you are able to roll it that thin without tearing. Lay dough on a well-floured surface. Spread with a light layer of butter, using your fingers to spread the butter. 

To roll, start with the short side and begin to roll snugly. When you are finished rolling, place the log over the other sheet of butter-smeared dough and keep rolling. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in fridge for another hour.

Cut into 12-20 disks, then let it sit for 10 minutes. Using your thumbs, press dough into the tart pan, smoothing it out from the center to edges. Push the dough from the center and up the sides, until it reaches the rim or a little over. Press dough so the bottom is thinner than the sides to ensure that it will bake thoroughly when the custard is poured in. Place on baking sheet. Stick in fridge for another 30 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450º F. Carefully pour custard in shells. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until pastry edges are golden brown and the custard is set, turning if necessary to ensure even cooking. Cool for 5 min, then transfer to a rack.

Best eaten the day of but can be stored in the fridge and reheated in the oven.