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.
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!
Adapted from Betty's Matcha Portuguese-style Egg Tart
Yields: abut 20 mini tarts or 12 regular tarts // Active Time: 45 minutes - 1 hour // Inactive Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes - overnight