Thursday, May 07, 2009

YWPWT: Egg Custard Tarts


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

Custard filling:
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.



Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A delicious treat! Yummy!



Mar Varela said...

Your blog is amazing, Link your blog in my blog... Can you put a translater? my english is no good, thanks.
A kiss

Libby said...

Those are just lovely! That's a wonderful adaption. Libby

Jacque said...

Those look like a lovely bite size of deliciousness.

I enjoyed reading your post and learning about this yummy sounding treat and the SF bakery where you get them. I lived in the Bay area for three years and I loved visiting Chinatown.

Madam Chow said...

What a GREAT idea. I toyed with making a custard tart, and due to time constraints, made an ugly but tasty blueberry pie. I should try these, and use the passion fruit you mentioned. I'm a sucker for passion fruit.

Sara said...

Looks amazing! Yum. :)

Anne said...

I've never had those but your version looks wonderful!

Kate said...

I have never tasted these, but they sound great. I'll have to try them when I visit SF again.

suz said...

Those look quite special; I've never had the pleasure of trying one sadly. Maybe I'll just have to try those sometime!

Jen H said...

What adorable little tarts and tasty looking too!

Diet Plan said...

A great and sweet recipe and there are so many people like this.

nath said...

looks delicious cookies... :)

Anonymous said...

Oh... I loved those when I was in Portugal! Nice recipe, I will try it.

Maria said...

Love your tarts!

Mrs. L said...

Alas when we were in SF a few weeks ago, we went to Chinatown specifically for these tarts...and it was vacation time for Golden Gate. Sigh. If I could make them myself, I may never eat anything but them!

Maia said...

Hate to break it to you, but this is NOT a Portuguese Custard Tart...
I am Portuguese and addicted to those things, trust me, this recipe is not accurate.

Here is a picture of what they should look like:

If your interested, I could share my family recipe for it, handed down for generations.

Alpineberry Mary said...

Maia - Yes, I know that mine are not Portuguese. I adapted that Saveur recipe to make Chinese dohn-tot.

ilramaiolo said...

I love your blog... I see you!
Ciao ciao!!

onno david said...

Wow, This is a great and different recipes. Your expression was very easy to read and understand. I love Egg Custard. Egg custard looks so beautiful! sound delicious, so yummy! I saw this recipe of course, I had to make it. Yes your blog really surprise anybody? I can't wait to try it. I think One of my favorite comfort food is egg custard. I'm sure it'll be a big hit with the friend. thank you for posting and sharing it.

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