Friday, January 24, 2014

Catonese Egg Tarts on a Snowy Day+Recipe

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I love potlucks, so when I got invited to one last minute, I knew I couldn't say no. Potluck means I'll get a chance to try a new recipe (a fancier one, too, because you want to impress people), eat great food made by friends, and ask the creator of the great dish how it is made and hopefully add some cooking knowledge and recipes to your pocket. It's also a great chance to find out who is a great cook, or a chance to prove to your friends you are a good cook. As you can see, a potluck involves a lot, so I always start thinking early on as to what I should try and make. But this potluck I only got notified the night before, and I didn't have the chance to go to supermarket, meaning I'll have to create some presentable food using only what I had on hand (*gasp). Since it was a Taiwanese people potluck, I wanted to make something that would remind us all of home, and egg tarts came to my mind. Searching the internet for recipes, and running to the kitchen to see if I had butter (oh my, just enough!), I wanted to bring the egg tarts we have in Taiwanese bakeries to the American living room.

I don't know if you are familiar with egg tarts, but basically there are two kinds. The original, normal kind, also called Hing Kong type with a normal crust that slightly resembles a cookie crust and the pale custard, and the Portuguese type with the flaky, layered crust, and caramelized, golden brown custard. It would have been impressive to make the Portuguese type but it involved too much rolling and folding and butter that I shall not challenge it today. So I went for the simple, childhood memory type (Portuguese egg tarts didn't become a big thing in Taiwan until a bit later on), ordinary egg tart.

Here I share with you the recipe that I found from, the original is in Chinese and in the metric system, so I've done some translation and lots of math, I did some rounding up and down to make things easier, and the recipe is still working nicely.
Original Recipe Here

Cantonese Egg Tarts

flour: 1 1/2 cup
butter: 9 tablespoons, or about 1/2 cup
icing/confectioner's sugar: about 1/3 cup and 1 table spoon
1 egg
some vanilla extract (I used one teaspoon)

Custard filling:
3 eggs
granulated sugar: about 1/2 cup and a bit more
evaporated milk: about 1/3 cup
warm water: 1 cup

Preheat oven to 390 F
Makes about 13 egg tarts if you use a cupcake pan just like me

Starting with the crust, it's pretty much like making cookie dough. Combine your soft butter with the confectioner's sugar, mix till creamy. Add in egg and vanilla, mix evenly, and then add in flour. Combine to make a nice cookie dough.

(I usually don't have room temperature butter waiting for me, so I chop up butter into little squares, and melt them in my preheating oven. For me this is the fastest and easiest way and I've been doing this since I started baking and I don't there are any serious effects...if you know this is a bad thing to do, do let me know)

There are these little bowl shape, wavy edged molds just for tarts, but I don't have something like that, but guess what, a cupcake/muffin tin and cupcake liners work great! They gave your tarts little wavy edges as well. That's me, an amateur baker getting creative and making the best with the available resources.

Start with a ball of dough you think would be enough to make the crust, and with your thumb, starting from the center, push the dough outwards into a flat, fat cookie, and rotate the liner as you push and build up the "crust walls." It's like sculpting clay really.

It was snowing pretty big as I baked.

Combine warm water and sugar, mix well until sugar completely melts. Add in evaporated milk. Then the eggs. Beat everything so it's nice and combined. Then you run your eggy mixture through a strainer to get rid of the eggy bits that just don't mix in. You can skip this part like I did, since I don't have a strainer, you just get custard that is not so even (like little bits of cooked egg white) but I don't think it's so bad that it's a problem.

Fill your custard soup into your cookie dough bowls to almost the very top, when the egg cooks it kinda shrinks down a bit.

With the oven at 390 F, bake your tarts for about 10-15 minutes or until the tart edges are nice and golden. Turn down the temperature to 350 F. When you see that your custard kind of puffs up, open your oven a door a few inches, and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes until the custard is fully cooked. You can check by inserting a tooth pick and it should stand there on its own in the custard.

According the Christine, the original writer of the recipe,opening the oven door a bit will allow the custard to cook better, and when you take them out of the oven they won't shrink down and your tarts will be prettier.

And now to my tart making adventure.

I thought I knew what I was doing and decided to turn on the broiler function of my oven when my tarts were almost cooked, because in Christine's original recipe she mentioned how you cook bake them a bit differently if your oven was fancy enough to be able to heat up the top or bottom part. And I though the broiler function should help with that. So when my pretty babies were almost done, I went to broiler function and then went to chill and have a cup of tea. The next thing I know, I smell something burning. I immediately run to oven only to find my pretty little babies BURNT on the top.

"Noooooo" I cried, cursed, and took them out. "Why, why, why did I choose today to experiment with the oven? The day when I actually need to make presentable food??" But before I could do anything else, the smoke alarm goes off. Super loud sirens, my roommate's dog goes crazy, and I run around the house trying to find where the smoke detector is. When I find it I do not know how to stop it. I wondered if I would have to call my roommate in all this chaos and ask her how it works. But I managed to stop it by basically smacking my whole hand on to the little thing.

Back to my poor little burnt babies, they now look kind of like Portuguese egg tarts with the caramelized center. I throw away three that were too burnt to be saved, try to crumble off some of the burnt parts of the crust that were only mildly burnt, and managed to create 12 presentable, faux Portuguese egg tarts. By the way, the paper liners gave the tarts a nice little wavy edge, almost like the tart molds.

The potluck went great, people went, oh, Portuguese egg tarts! And I told them they were ordinary egg tarts that looked like Portuguese egg tarts, they don't have that flaky, layer crust, but people enjoyed it anyways, and I am happy that the egg tarts taste just like the ones I would get in a bakery back home.

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