This month's You Want Pies With That theme "Family Favorite Pie" was chosen by Natalie of Oven Love. She asked us to use a family favorite dessert as the inspiration for our pie or tart.
A childhood sweet that I still love to this day is Chinese egg custard tarts aka "dohn-tot". They can be found on dim sum menus and in Chinese bakery cases everywhere. In fact, there is a cafe in New York City called Egg Custard King. But I have it on good authority (my brothers) that their namesake egg tarts are no match for Golden Gate Bakery's egg tarts. There is always a slow moving line for the egg tarts at this San Francisco Chinatown bakery. The wait can be as long as 15-20 minutes on weekends. The tarts at GG Bakery are pricey at $1.15 each, but the lightly sweetened silky egg custard encased in a flaky pastry shell is worth it. In general, dohn-tots are best eaten warm, but if it's still delicious when cold, you know you have winner.
The owners of GG Bakery close the bakery at least once or twice a year for a 4 or 5 week long vacation. And when they reopen, they always seem to raise the price of the dohn-tot by 5 or 10 cents. I heard from my parents who heard it through the Chinatown rumor mill that they always raise the price to pay for their long vacations. But I think they raise the prices because demand is high and simply because people will still line up for them.
The origin of the dohn-tot is unclear. Some people believe that they are similar to a Portuguese egg tart called pastel de nata and made its way to Hong Kong via Macau, a long time Portuguese colony.
I've never felt the need to make my own dohn-tot because I can easily get one from GG Bakery. Also, a lot of the dohn-tot recipes I've come across have a shortbread crust as opposed to the delicate but much more labor intensive puff pastry shell. In my opinion, it’s not a dohn-tot if it has a shortbread crust. For this month's YWPWT, I decided to try my hand at making dohn-tot.
I found this recipe for Portuguese custard tarts in an old issue of Saveur magazine. It sounded great because the crust is made using a rough puff pastry dough. Rough puff pastry is not as difficult to make as traditional puff pastry but it's still extremely flaky. It's perfect for this application. The custard filling recipe called for blueberries and passion fruit, but I left out the fruit to make the tarts more dohn-tot-like.
I liked the way my tarts came out. I was afraid that the custard filling would be a bit too sweet, and it was, but not when paired with the buttery, flaky tart shell. The filling had a nice flavor, but it wasn't as silky as I hoped it would be. But, overall, I think this was a good first attempt. The custard tart was very reminiscent of dohn-tot.
Egg Custard Tarts
(makes 2 dozen)
(adapted from Saveur Magazine #95: Portuguese Custard Tarts)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 tbsp all purpose flour
6 large egg yolks
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Toss together 1 1⁄2 cups flour, butter, and salt in medium bowl. Add 6 tbsp. ice water; form into a rough ball (don't mash butter). On a floured surface, shape dough into a 6" × 12" rectangle. Fold like a letter. Roll out into a 6" × 12" rectangle; fold again. Roll out and fold 3 more times. Cover; refrigerate for 1 hour; repeat rolling and folding process 2 more times. Cover; refrigerate for 1 hour.
Roll out dough into a 12" × 18" rectangle. Tightly roll up long side to form a cylinder. Cover; refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut crosswise into 24 slices. Working with 1 slice at a time, lightly flour, roll into a 3" circle, and press into 2 1⁄2"-wide, 3⁄4"-deep pie tins with sloping sides. Transfer to baking sheet and cover; refrigerate.
Put sugar and 2⁄3 cup water into a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat without stirring; reduce heat to medium and boil for 5 minutes. Be careful - this sugar syrup is hot.
Whisk together 1⁄4 cup of the milk with the 3 tablespoons of flour in a large bowl. Bring remaining milk to a simmer and, while whisking, pour hot milk into the milk-flour mixture. Whisk in sugar syrup and let mixture cool until warm. Whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla to make a custard.
Preheat oven to 400°. Fill each tart by two-thirds with custard. Bake until pastry is light brown and custard has just set, 16–18 minutes. Let cool on a rack.