"Egg tarts!" I would answer cheerfully, expecting others to understand my excitement about these little bites of joy. Instead, I got blank stares. I just stared back incredulously, unable to believe that anyone didn't know what they were.
I have never known a time in my life when I did not know what egg tarts were. They were one of my favorite treats growing up. My parents would get these delicate little pastries from the Chinese bakery down the street when I was a child and my mother would even make them sometimes.
To this day, there's still something wonderfully nostalgic about biting into an egg tart. The combination of the flaky, buttery crust and the rich custard filling evokes memories of cousins and Taiwan and standing at the counter, watching my mother roll out dough.
I ended up with far too many eggs on the brink of expiration one day and I was determined to try my hand at making these wonderful pastries.
The ones of my childhood with the flaky crusts wasn't terribly feasible in a college kitchen, so I took on the kind with a shortbread-like crust.
First you cream the butter and sugar together until they're it's soft and fluffy. I usually cream the butter by itself first, just to make it easier.
Then you add in eggs and vanilla. The mixture will not totally hold, but just continue on to the next step, which is sifting the flour into the liquid mixture and mix well.
I'm obsessed with these pictures.
Roll out the dough and cut out rounds that will fit in whatever you're baking the tarts in. Christine originally made the egg tarts in tart tins, but seeing as how my resources are limited, I just used a muffin tin to bake them in. Y'all like my makeshift rolling station?
Press the rounds into the muffin tin, making sure that there are no cracks in the dough.
Then you make the custard filling, which is just evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla, water, and a lot of eggs.
It should look like this when all mixed together. I added a little cinnamon and vanilla because my taste testers weren't used to the taste. Pour this mixture through a sieve so the custard comes out smooth.
Then, you pour the custard mixture into the tart shells.
Pop them in the oven, making sure to change the temperature partway through and crack the oven door open, so the tarts don't puff up and collapse on you.
And there you have it, homemade egg tarts! (The brown spots in the picture are from when I added in cinnamon to the custard mixture.) It's a bit of work, but well worth it. This little taste of home was exactly what I needed in the middle of the semester.
Chinese Egg Tarts
Adapted from Christine
4 cups all-purpose flour
1.2 cup butter (2 sticks +3 tablespoons)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 scant cups hot water
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preparation: Preheat oven to 400F and position rack in lower third of oven.
Crust: Place butter at room temperature until softened. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer over medium speed until the mixture is smooth, fluffy and light in color. Add in whisked egg, half at a time, beat over low speed. Add vanilla extract, mix well.
Sift in flour in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions with a spatula, and make sure all ingredients combine well. Knead into dough.
Roll out the dough to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut dough with a cookie cutter. Lightly press the dough into the muffin tin. While pressing the dough, turn the tart tin clockwise/anti-clockwise in order to make an even tart shell. Trim away any excess dough.
Custard: Add sugar into hot water, mix until completely dissolved. Whisk egg with evaporated milk. Pour in sugar water. Mix well. Pour egg mixture through a sieve. Carefully pour egg mixture into each tart shell.
Baking the tarts: Bake tarts for 10 to 15 minutes until the edges are lightly brown.
Lower the heat to 350C. Keep an eye on them. Once you see the custard being puffed up a bit, pull the oven door open about 2 to 3 inches. This method is to avoid custard from being puffed up too high. The custard would collapse once they are cooled down otherwise.
Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the custard is cooked through. Just insert a toothpick into the custard. If it stands on its own, it’s done.