the egg tart (蛋撻)

when it comes to chinese sweets, egg tarts are about as common as they come and have since proliferated into infinite styles, schools and flavors.  there are the macau style egg tarts, green tea egg tarts, melon, strawberry, puff pastry, shortbread, shiny and perfect, rustic and browned (like mine), super sized egg tarts, deep dish ones, mini egg tarts, egg white egg tarts, so on and so forth.  when they are made well, they are scrumptious!  a flakey or crispy crust (depending on the school) filled with a rich egg custard.  cheap too! the typical egg tart in NYC chinatown will run you about $0.60 – $0.70 cents.

as a self-proclaimed egg tart aficionado, i’ve been trying to re-create the egg tart at home.  the baked egg custard filling is a breeze to throw together — i found a great recipe from chef chan at the celestial court restaurant in hong kong.  i’ve used it to fill classic egg tart shells  (pictured above) and i’ve even poured it into a nine-inch pate sucree tart shell to make a mega sized egg tart. chef chan’s egg custard is in the classic style.  the macau style egg tarts use heavy cream in addition to milk to produce a yet richer egg custard.

now re-constructing the classic puff pastry egg tart shell has proven to be much more of a challenge.  i’ve attempted about 3 times already in the past year without much success.  i realised on my latest attempt that my problem stems from the substitution of shortening for lard.    shortening is too soft and oozes all over the place no matter how careful i am when folding the dough.  i haven’t as yet located lard in the grocery stores near me.  i may have to trek up to chelsea market to procure it.  but for now, i’ve resorted to using pate sucree, pate brisee (in the picture above) or puff pastry dough to form the tart shell.

Egg Tart Custard Filling
(enough for about 12 regular sized egg tarts.  double the recipe to fill a nine-inch tart)

Eggs 1 large one
Milk 100g
Sugar 44g  (it’s best to use granulated white sugar.  i’ve used the chunkier raw sugar before and tends to all settle to the bottom rather than dissolve into the milk)
  1. Stir together milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Stir in the eggs using a whisk until the mixture is consistent.
  3. Pour the mixture into prepared tart shells* until 80% full.
  4. Bake for 10-20 minutes at 350ºF until set. [nb: baking time should be adjusted to ~30 minutes for a nine-inch egg tart]  The egg custard in the classic egg tart is an unblemished yellow after it has set.  I tend to like my egg custard a little bit browned, following the macau style.

* when using traditional chinese puff pastry, the egg custard batter is poured directly into the chilled raw tart shells.   when using french tart dough substitutes, i prefer to blind bake my tarts  for 10 minutes first, allow them to cool and then pour in the egg custard.  i find that blind baking makes the tart crust crispier. for pate sucree, i will also brush on some egg whites in the last 5 minutes of the blind baking step so as to waterproof the tart shell for the egg custard batter.

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