Buttery layers of flaky puff pastry, filled with a silky, delicate, and subtly sweet egg custard. Chinese bakeries were a big part of my childhood – they were like my candy store! The variety of buns, cakes, and puff pastries always captivated me, and I loved going in there to pick out goodies for breakfast and lunch. I’d swing by Chinese bakeries several times a week, especially during summer school. The egg tart has always been one of my go-to choices, and my mom, knowing how much I adore them, would often surprise me with a package of three. Food is her way of expressing love, and these egg tarts have been a part of my upbringing. I’d love to share a taste of that comforting nostalgia with you.
What is an egg tart?
Egg tarts (蛋挞, dan ta, daan taat) are a pastry that resembles miniature pies. The crust is made from Chinese Puff Pastry, consisting of flour, eggs, butter, lard, and water. The crust has dozens of layers of rich, buttery flakiness. Inside this delicate pastry, you’ll find a delightful vanilla custard that’s delicately sweet and utterly delicious. Egg tarts most commonly make an appearance at dim sum restaurants for brunch or at a Chinese bakery.
What is the difference between a Hong Kong egg tart and a Portuguese egg tart?
There are two variations of egg tarts: Hong Kong-style egg tart and a Portuguese egg tart (pasteis de nata). They both have a puff pastry shell, but what makes them unique is their fillings. Portuguese egg tarts are extra creamy thanks to heavy cream and they tend to be sweeter. They are broiled, carmelizing the sugars in the custard and creating a dark golden brown top, similar to creme brulee.
Why This Works
With this recipe, you’ll get a subtly sweet taste and a balance between the delicate filling and the crisp crust. I developed my recipe with a clear goal in mind: to replicate the authentic taste of the egg tarts I cherish from my favorite Chinese bakery in Chinatown, New York. I’m proud to say that it comes remarkably close, almost identical in taste to my palate! If you do not want to make your own crust, you have the option of buying frozen egg tart shells from a Chinese grocery store. If you like this recipe, check out my dim sum series: Salted Egg Yolk Custard Buns, Sesame Balls, Air Fried Sesame Balls, Steamed Buns, Red Bean Buns, and Shumai.
How do I store egg tarts?
Egg tarts, with contain a vanilla custard filling made of eggs and dairy, require refrigeration if you don’t intend to consume them within six hours after baking. To maintain their freshness and flavor, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Interestingly, egg tarts can become even more flavorful when refrigerated overnight, allowing them to cool down and develop their flavors. Additionally, the pastry remains crisp and dry the following day so you can eat it chilled or warmed.
As for refrigeration, you can keep refrigerated egg tarts for up to 3-4 days. If you wish to extend their shelf life further, you can consider freezing them. However, it’s better to freeze the crusts separately from the custard filling, making the custard fresh right before baking.
Which flours are needed?
My egg tart recipe features two flours, cake flour in the butter dough of the puff pastry and all purpose flour in the water dough of the puff pastry. Puff pastry is all about creating distinct, flaky layers through the combination of butter and dough.
Cake flour is crucial because it has lower protein, reducing gluten formation for a tender texture. It preserves the layers, which separate when baked, resulting in the perfect flakiness. All-purpose flour is key in the water dough because it provides the necessary strength to encase the butter block. Unlike cake flour, which has the least gluten, all-purpose flour has a bit more gluten, making the water dough robust enough for multiple folds and layers.
What is lard?
Lard is a type of fat obtained from pigs made by rendering the fat from pork. I use Leidy’s pork lard (not sponsored), a traditional ingredient that is used in cooking and baking. Lard is most commonly used in flaky pie crusts, cornbread, and biscuits. When I am not using lard, I keep it stowed in my freezer where it lasts for a long time. I keep the lard at room temperature an hour or two before use to allow it to soften, making it easier for mixing.
Lard plays a core role in this recipe as it infuses the crust with authentic flavor, tenderness, and a flakiness. It creates a melt-in-your-mouth sensation, enhancing the overall pastry experience.
What is evaporated milk?
Evaporated milk is the concentrated form of fresh milk. It is made by removing 60% of its water content through a heating and evaporation process. It has an off-white color and a thicker, syrupy texture. This ingredient is commonly featured in baking recipes, and in egg tart recipes specifically, it plays a pivotal role. It adds a creamy, silky texture to the custard while also infusing it with a detectable milk flavor. Ultimately, it preserves the authenticity of the recipe.
Where can I buy egg tart molds?
When making egg tarts, you have various options to achieve different appearances. Here are a couple of choices:
Smooth Crust: You can opt for a tart pan with smooth edges. Alternatively, use a pastry cutter with round edges.
Fluted Crust: Another authentic look for egg tarts are a crust with fluted edges. For this design, you may either use a round pastry cutter like a 3 inch stainless steel fluted biscuit cutter or use a fluted tart pan like how I did here.
You may also choose a combination of both. When you’re getting egg tart pans, go for the 2.75-inch diameter ones. These pans can be a bit prone to rust, so it’s a good idea to give them a quick soapy soak and hand wash with a brush to get rid of any stubborn bits, and then make sure to dry them off with a towel.
What can I do to ensure the egg tart doesn’t stick to the pastry mold?
While the lard and butter in the puff pastry typically prevent sticking to the mold, if any custard overflows during the transfer to the oven, it might cause sticking. To minimize this, I recommend doing the following:
- Dust the bottom of the crust with flour and chill it before assembly.
- Ensure you fill the egg tart shells only to 80% capacity. The custard will bubble up during the baking process.
- Handle the baking tray with care when placing it in the oven to avoid any spills or sticking issues.
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment, dough hook attachment, and a mixing bowl
- 1 Sheet of parchment paper
- Mixing bowls
- Offset icing spatula
- Rolling Pin
- Plastic wrap
- 24 2.75 inch aluminum mini tart pans
- Baking pan
- 3 inch round cookie cutter
Puff Pastry – Butter Block
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1/2 cup lard room temperature
- 1 cup cake flour
Puff Pastry – Dough
- 2 whole large eggs
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp butter dough mixture
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 whole large eggs
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
- 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Puff Pastry – Butter Block
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine softened butter, lard, and cake flour. Attach the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until well combined.
- Increase the mixer's speed to medium and beat the mixture for 3 minutes.
- Transfer the whipped mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper, leaving two tablespoons in the mixing bowl for later use.
- Use a spatula to shape the mixture into a 6×6 inch 1-inch-thick square. Wrap it tightly in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.
- Place a pan over low heat and add water and sugar. Stir continuously until the sugar completely dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and let it cool.
- In a separate bowl, combine eggs, whole milk, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, and the cooled sugar mixture. Whisk until well mixed.
- Strain the custard mixture and refrigerate. Straining is essential for achieving a silky texture. The custard should have a syrupy consistency when cooled.
Puff Pastry – Dough
- In the same bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment and the two tablespoons of the reserved butter mixture, add all-purpose flour, eggs, and water. Mix until a dough ball forms.
- Switch to the dough hook attachment and beat on high speed for 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth, feel hydrated but not sticky to the touch.
- Transfer the dough ball onto a lightly dusted counter. Take a small piece (approximately one tablespoon worth) of dough and keep it sealed to prevent it from drying out. This reserved dough will come in handy for patching up any holes that may occur during the folding process later on.
- On a surface lightly dusted with flour, roll out the dough into a generous rectangle measuring 16.5 x 12 inches. Aim for a thickness of about 1/4 inch.To tidy up the edges of the rectangle and achieve clean corners, you can either use your hands or a bench scraper to modify the dough.Whenever the dough or rolling pin starts to feel sticky, add a light dusting of flour and return the dough into the freezer for a rapid chill.If you come across any air bubbles, pop them with a sharp object and patch them up with a tiny piece of excess dough.
- Retrieve the chilled butter block from the refrigerator; it should be firm. To tidy up the edges, carefully trim a small portion from the sides to achieve clean edges. Discard the excess butter dough mixture. Place the block on the lower half of the rectangle, leaving about 2 inches from the bottom.
- Fold the sides of the dough over the butter block, completely enveloping it, similar to wrapping a gift. Press gently along the folded edges to seal and remove any air bubbles.
- Flip the dough over, smooth side down and roll the dough out into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Fold the top and bottom halves into the center like a letter.
- Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes.
- Flip the dough over, smooth side down and roll the dough out into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Fold the top and bottom halves into the center like a letter. Repeat the folding process once more for a total of three repetitions.
- Roll out the puff pastry into a 1/4 inch thick, 16.5 x 12 inch rectangle. Use a cookie cutter to cut out as many rounds as possible.
- Transfer the cutouts onto a floured cutting board and lightly cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.
- Gather the remaining dough into a ball and roll out the remaining puff pastry into a 1/4 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the remaining rounds.
- Chill the pastry rounds in the fridge for 20 minutes before assembly.
Assemble and Bake
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).
- Add a piece of dough to the center of the egg tart mold.
- Dust your thumb with a little flour. Gently press each puff pastry round into a mold, starting from the center and working outward. Focus on thinning the pastry at the bottom of the mold, leaving the edges untouched.
- Arrange the pastry crusts on a half-sheet baking pan.
- Slowly pour the chilled custard mixture into each crust until they are about 75% full.
- Place the pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. The custard slightly puffs up, indicating it's set.
- Remove the tray from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.If you've tried this recipe, please let me know what you think in the comments below! Your feedback is greatly appreciated and it helps me improve my recipes for future cooking adventures. And if you enjoyed it, don't forget to give it a thumbs up or share it with your friends! You can help my channel by tagging @vocabularyoffood in your cooks. ۶(◠ 。◠)۶
– Straining the custard mixture helps remove any lumps or air bubbles, resulting in a smoother, silkier texture.
– When working with the dough, keep it well-chilled in between each fold. This helps maintain its flakiness and prevents it from becoming too soft and sticky.
– I’m using Leidy’s pork lard, a traditional ingredient that is used in flaky pie crusts, cornbread, and biscuits.