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:

Pastry A:
2 ½ cup flour (low gluten)
1 tbsp milk powder

Pastry B:
2 tbsp shortening
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
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!


Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said...

Wow, congratulations on your first puff pastry! I wouldn't attempt it myself. I always thought Portuguese egg tarts and don tats were similar...well now I know why.

Clement said...

Hi Lynn - those look beautiful I really enjoy eating Chinese egg tarts, so I'll give these a try with my leftover puff pastry. Thanks so much for taking part in SHF 5!

Unknown said...

Thanks Jessica. Yes, they are similar but I prefer the Portugese type because the filling is richer (aka more fattening).

Clement, as you can see this is still an experiement in progress, so I recommend tweeking the recipe if you make it.

brownbreadicecream said...

Lynn, your puff pastry looks wonderful! I can't wait to try it--wow, I feel so smug being able to say that. Just how much leftover pastry do you have...?

I don't know why but I hate this new commenting system.

brownbreadicecream said...

I meant, I hate the new Blogger commenting system, by the way. Nothing personal, Lynn.

Unknown said...

I know, I don't like this commenting system either.

Don't worry Rachel, I have enough pastry for two more batches, but I think I need to freeze them if you won't be coming over until after your Vancouver trip. BTW, I froze some of that liver cake for Edward too if you are interested.

Hsin said...

Exactly how big is your freezer?? You seem to have frozen a lot of things. Anyway, if you're making anymore of those egg tarts, send them my way! Me! Me! Me!!

brownbreadicecream said...

Oh, thanks so much. Edward would probably kill for some liver cake. I'm kind of a meanie when it comes to his diet. The poor guy's idea of a feast is raw carrots and frozen yogurt.

Jennifer said...

Lynn these tarts look and sound delicious! And congrats on making your first batch of puff pastry - looks as though it turned out quite well.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Jennifer. I am going to make another batch for a get-together with girlfriends today using a different filling. Hope the taste improves a bit.

Anonymous said...

I so wanted to try these tarts when we were in Portugal last year but became ill and never had the opportunity. I will try your recipe but I may have to cheat and use bought puff pastry.

Unknown said...

So they really do sell these in Portugal? I hope you like them Babara, but the real thing tastes so much better than mine. I still have a long way to go, sigh.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I happened to stumble upon your bloggie while searching for an egg tart recipe, juz the kind of puff pastry I want! Will try it out soon, btw, my name is Lin too :)

Cathy x. said...

you said that your tarts turned out a little less solid than you wanted.. after bringing the milk and cream to the boil and creaming the eggs and sugar and combining everything, pour it all back into the saucepan and over a low heat bring it up to 84ºC. eggs curdle at around 86ºC so bringing it so close will cause it to thicken up more quickly in the oven much like a brulee. if you don't have a candy thermometer just stir it in a figure 8 over a low heat until it begins to thicken up slightly or when you remove the wooden spoon and drag your finger over it and it doesn't drip.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Lynn,

I really love your blog very much, because there are many interesting recipes. Moreover, your photos, including, the presentation are very attractive.

I already baked the "egg tart" by following your recipe, then I would like to invite you to check my homework from the following website:-

Your comment will be very important for me to improve my baking.
However, I hope to see you there.

Sincerely yours,

Anonymous said...

Sorry: this website

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms.Lynn,

Thank you very much for your useful comment, and I will learn and keep trying to improve it indeed.

Yet, I'm very pleased and very appreciate for your time to share and visite us at the website. It's such an unforgetable of the precious moment for my friends and myself.

That website is a Thai's website which we all come from all over the world, and we love to cooking and sharing all dilicious recipes.

I'm Thai who is living in Montreal, Canada presently, but I will accompany with my husband whom he got the assignment to work in Bangalore, India, pretty soon.

By the way, if you need anything, such as, any special Thais' dishes, please don't be hesitate to let me know at that website.

Again, I'm always very happy to check your lovely photos from time to time, because they are all fantastic the same as classy cook books!!!

Have a nice life in Hong Kong.

Sincerely yours,

seven said...

I recently returned from China to the US. I discovered the "Nuta" Portuguese Egg Tarts in Portugal and was delighted to find them in Macau.
I also found a small shop selling hot chocolate, coffees, and only "Dang Ta" or Portuguese Egg Tarts in Guilin, China. I agree that the Portuguese version is creamier than the Chinese recipe. But the Chinese recipe has more discernible "egg" and makes a great Breakfast! I appreciate your work to create a recipe as I want to make them at home. Thanks.

Unknown said...

wow, egg tart shop in Guilin! what a nice surprise. I agree with you on the difference btwn Chinese and Portugese egg tarts. I can only eat the Portugese version once in a while, whereas the Chinese version I can eat everyday, I think ;o)

Anonymous said...

Whaaa... something I used to take for granted (growing up in SoCal, vacationing in Honolulu and then living in NYC)... was having a Chinatown and these wonderful tarts! I'm craving one now, but I live in Denver,CO and don't have any idea where to find (if someone reading knows, please do tell)! Maybe, I'll have to try baking it myself.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Nice Try

But if you really want to taste the original Pastel de Nata (Egg Tart), you can find it in Macau, our deep frozen Pastel de Nata, all the tradition of Portuguese Pastry.

The recipe? The original ingredients, and a know how of centuries.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn, you have a gorgeous blog!!! Wow!

I love portuguese egg tarts. I compared your recipe to the one i made yesterday, slight difference...just sharing. ( :) In case it inspires a bit of modification :)

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. Please keep blogging. I love to look at your desserts that you have made. I someday want to do something in the baking industry. I also am obsessed with Asian culture, so this is a over all two for one deal for me.

Anonymous said...

i love your blog .!
please continue blogging .!!
I'd love to read more of these !

William Burns 江威廉 said...

Looks as good as the ones in Macau, but please tell me, what is "shortening"?

Unknown said...

William, it's vegetable shortening, solid at room temperature. Kind of like lard, but vegetable origin.

zodiak aka Rui said...

If anybody reading this page is ever coming to macau, we have started a new company here making and selling portuguese pastry and of course the real egg tarts, which are actually called "cream" cakes in portuguese or "natas".

We are portuguese so we know what we are doing ;-)

we supply hotels mainly but we would never send a customer away. Vist the website in and order them from us.

Have fun,

Frank said...

Looks wonderful. I wish I was back in Hong Kong