I have always wondered about the Egg Tart. It has all the elements of a western pastry, from the short crust/ puff pastry and the egg custard to the little tart molds but yet, I have only seen them offered at Chinese Dim Sum restaurants or bakeries in Chinatowns. There is no doubt that these had originated from Southern China. Some postulated that Southern China/ Hong Kong, through their interaction with the Western world could have adapted the egg tart from the English tart. These custard filled tarts have also been associated with the Portugese egg tart pastry, Pastel de Nata. Whatever it is, we know that the Chinese love their egg tarts. I have so far identified three basic varieties of Dan Ta, as they are fondly referred to in cantonese.
The one featured in my last post, has a short crust pastry which is easy to handle and is generally the variety most would try to bake at home. The key is to make the crust just thin enough to hold the glorious silken tender custard.
The second variety is the Portugese egg tart which uses a puff pastry crust and is filled with an egg custard mixture that would caramelise upon baking. If one uses store-bought ready rolled puff pastry, this could be the easiest egg tart to whip up at home.
The third variety is what is normally served at dim sum restaurants and comes with a flaky crust that can only be achieved with an obscene amount of shortening and deft pastry folding skills. The recipe requires one to wrap a highly oily dough with an oil free 'water dough' . This is not unlike making puff pastry from scratch but the ratio of the oily dough to water dough is much higher, thus rendering this a very difficult dough to handle... especially in warm and humid Singapore. I have been told by a dim sum chef that at the restaurant, they would normally roll out the dough (开皮) in a cold room. Once the dough is rolled out, it is folded in 3 folds, rotated 90 degrees and rolled out again. This process is repeated twice while for the third time, instead of 3, the dough is folded in 4 folds before it is rolled out to the desired thickness and cut to size. This process gives the dough the nice layered flakiness.
It was with a little bit of gungho spirit and a little hubris that I embarked on the venture of baking this at home. I don't have a cold room to work in and I am not skilled enough to work as quickly and deftly. As a result, even though my crust still tastes lovely and flaky, the discernible pretty layers were missing. I also experimented with the oven temperature to find the right balance to bake the crust to a crisp but not turn the custard into rubber ducky.
I have to admit that this is not the easiest recipe to work with and I am glad that I have managed to roll and fold the dough as required. However, there is still room for improvement. Lining the tart cases more evenly would have to come with practice and deftness ... especially so for a dough that wilts under the heat of the thumb.
Pastry Dough :
Plain Flour 150g
Bread flour 29g
Plain flour 90g
Custard Powder 7.2g
Egg Custard Filling : Refer to here
1. Mix ingredients for Oil Dough together in a cake mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until smooth and wrap dough between plastic sheets and chill for 3-4 hours.
2. Mix ingredients for Water Dough in a mixer fitted with the dough hook and blend until dough is no longer tacky to touch.
3. Wrap dough between plastic sheets and chill for 20mins.
4. Roll out Water Dough and place oil dough in the middle, fold and roll as illustrated below:
5. After final fold, roll out dough to about 0.5cm thickness, cut out rounds with a cookie cutter and line tart molds with the dough.
6. Fill the lined tarts cases with egg custard.
7. Bake for 13 mins at 200C.
8. Remove from oven, cool down and serve while warm.