Monday, 26 February 2007

How to quell a craving

Posted by Bonita

I’ve been having a craving for egg tarts these past few days. However, living in Ottawa, it’s hard to find really good egg tarts, and I wasn’t about to drive four hours to Toronto just to satisfy a mere craving. So flipping through one of my mom’s many Chinese cook books, I came upon a recipe for egg tarts and decided it would be a fun little experiment to try.

The recipe in my mom’s book is actually for “flaky” egg tarts. In the world of Chinese egg tarts, you can get two crusts: the flaky crust, which you will often find in restaurants during dim sum and is usually the preferred crust of many, or the shortcrust pastry crust (literally translated in Chinese as “butter crust”). I decided to go for the shortcrust route for several reasons. 1) It’s so much easier than the flaky crust. The flaky crust is similar to puff pastry, flaky with lots of layers. It usually uses lard and requires a two dough process, something I didn’t really want to get my hands into as a first-timer. 2) I’ve always had a slight fear of working with pastry dough, although now it’s considerably less after I’ve learned to use the blessed food processor. 3) I actually prefer the shortcrust over the flaky crust.

The dough was very easy to put together: flour, cold butter and ice water. A few whizzes in the food processor and I had the dough made. Put it in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill it, and then rolled it out and cut them with a circular mold about 3 inches in diameter. Placed each round in a muffin tin. Poked the bottom with a fork, placed beans over them and baked blind in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes. While those were baking, I worked on the custard. Melted sugar and water on the stove, and then slowly incorporated them into the beaten eggs and evaporated milk. Pour them into the baked tart shells and popped them back into the oven for 20 minutes.


As you can see, they didn’t turn out too bad for a first try, and considering I made them in muffin tins rather than tart tins. However, my first batch was a bit of a miss. I cut the circles too small, and so it couldn’t hold a lot of filling. My mom laughed when she ate one and saw how thin the layer of egg custard was on them! Determined to make a slightly better egg tart, I took the leftover dough from the fridge and made four more slightly bigger ones, using two larger sizes to see which size would be perfect. Ultimately, I think the larger circle makes for a nice size for the tart, since it holds a nice amount of custard. However, it doesn’t fit as nicely into the muffin mold so the crust isn’t completely even, but oh well. You can’t win all the battles.

This is certainly still an ongoing experiment. I’d definitely like to play around with the crust. It turned out really nice and buttery and crisp, but with no sugar added, it was super bland. And I’d like to add one or two more eggs into the custard mixture for a more egg-y flavour. Nonetheless, it was certainly a fun evening making these cute tarts. Definitely less daunting then I thought they would be, especially if you go with the shortcrust.

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