Friday, February 11, 2005
Sugar High Friday - Portuguese Egg tart
This the second time this week I am making something Portuguese, reincarnated as a Chinese dessert. See the trend? Anyway, I have been wanting to try to make my own puff pastry ever since I fell in love with the chocolate croissants in Paris (can’t find the same in Tokyo anywhere) but was always intimidated by the formidable task: who has the time and patience? But what better way to try it for the first time than for Sugar High Friday hosted by A la Cuisine?
Recently I have been craving for egg tarts. They are my absolute favorite dim sum items, but again, very hard to find them in bakeries in Japan, unless I make a trip to Yokohama Chinatown. For my first SHF, however, I decided to make Portuguese egg tart. They differ from the dim sum egg tarts in that they are less regularly shaped, with a burned and wrinkled top. In other words, they are ugly looking thangs. So, it's perfect for me! I can definitely do ugly!
The first thing I did after I got up the morning of the pastry-making day was to turn off the heater in my apartment. I definitely needed all the help I could get for my first puff pastry attempt and I wasn’t about to let warm temperature turn my dough into goo. At about 2pm, the kitchen has only cooled down to 18C. Damn insulation material! Where’s a cold kitchen when you need one? Wanting to have the fresh out of the oven egg tart for tea however, I decided not to wait any longer.
I had been searching the internet for egg tart recipes and finally settled on one from a Hong Kong website. Portuguese egg tarts came to China via Macao, a former Portuguese colony. Since Hong Kong is separated from Macao only by a river, their egg tarts should still be authentically Portuguese/Macao, no?
Deciphering the recipe proved challenging. For one thing, I discovered that my cooking vocabulary in Chinese is extremely limited. Not knowing what some of the ingredients were, I had to make educated guesses (and measuring everything in grams is such a pain). So, the following is my interpretation of the recipe:
2 ½ cup flour (low gluten)
1 tbsp milk powder
2 tbsp shortening
¼ tsp salt
approximately 1/3 cup ice water
¾ cup butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup milk
¼ cup whipping cream
3 egg yolks
1. Sift A into a mixing bowl, add ingredients B and mix until it forms into a smooth ball. Chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Bring butter to room temp, and cut into slices approximately 3mm thick.
3. Roll dough out into a big rectangle and arrange butter pieces on half of the dough, fold dough over to cover the butter pieces, press with hands and then roll out with rolling pin. Sprinkle top with flour, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
I have seen on TV where pastry chefs take their rolling pin and beat the block of butter into submission and seriously considered trying this out but my more practical judgment took over and I went the less dramatic way.
4. Turn dough a quarter turn, fold into threes (like a letter) and roll out. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. Repeat this 3 or 4 times.
Let’s see, I think I started mine at 2:30pm and finished at around 5:00pm, so I guess I repeated this thing five times. Probably too many times, but I was having fun rolling the buttery dough out
5. Finally, roll the dough out into a large rectangle and fold onto itself like a jelly-roll. Let it rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, prepare tart filling by boiling the cream and milk gently and add the sugar to dissolve. Let cool slightly and add little by little into beaten egg yolks.
7. Strain through a tea strainer.
8. Preheat oven to 200F. Butter and flour a six-cup muffin pan.
9. Cut six 1cm thick slices from the rolled up dough (about 1 ounce each). Store the rest of the dough in fridge or freezer for later use.
10. Wet your fingers with cold water and shape each slice into a disc big enough to line a muffin cup.
11. Line the muffin cups and fill with egg mixture about ¾ full (about 2 tbsp per muffin cup)
12. Bake at 200C (400F) for 15-20 minutes, until brown spots appear on the surface of the filling.
13. Cool slightly on rack before removing.
14. Eat one right away to enjoy the flaky crust and the piping hot custard filling.
I am happy with the way the pastry turned out, although they didn’t puff up so magically as I had expected (I was of course watching the oven like a hawk the entire 20 minutes), but then again, for this recipe it's not supposed to puff up too much, otherwise the fillings would be expelled out of the shell. The tart filling however, can really be improved. For one thing, I probably overbaked it by a couple of minutes so the custard was a bit too cooked. A real Portuguese egg tart (ok, the Macao version) should just be on the verge of solid/liquid. Also, it wasn’t as flavorful as I had remembered. Maybe next time I will add a vanilla bean to the filling mixture.
The second time I made it, both pastry and custard filling had been sitting in the fridge for a couple of days, so the starting temp was low and I ended up under-baking it. You can see that the custard was not entirely solidified. And no signature brown spots! Will keep trying.
I really want to thank Clement at A la cuisine for hosting such a great theme. Although a bit involved, I find the whole pastry-making process very satisfying. Now with a whole log of unused pastry dough, I can make egg tarts on demand! I could use as little as one egg yolk and churn out egg tarts two at a time, and experiment with different fillings! And when I get tired of egg tarts (for now) I might even be able to use the leftover pastry dough and try my hands at making a chocolate croissant or two. The possibilities are endless! Now let me go do some power yoga to burn off all that butter!