Sunday, April 22, 2012

Silky Smooth Asian-Style Brown Sugar Custard Tarts

I know some people who get inspiration to cook from the food they eat at restaurants.  My Auntie used to re-make restaurant dishes at home all the time.  We'd go out to eat and she'd taste something she really liked, and then soon, she'd be concocting her own version at home.  She found it a real challenge to try to make something taste authentic.  And I loved watching her and asking a million annoying questions.

When I bake and cook, it's usually something I've seen on blogs, or something I have a craving for.  I've rarely, until recently, tried to re-make restaurant food at home, but now I see how satisfying it can be.  It was awesome when I made Chinese steamed sweet red bean buns at home -- like having dim sum without the grease and the wait!  I've also made baked barbecue pork buns with the help of my Dad (who made the filling) and this lovely, easy bread recipe.  I even glazed it and everything!  Most recently, I tried my hand at making Chinese custard or egg tarts.  Ever had them?  They're a sweet, smooth, barely flavoured custard baked with a flaky crust that's a cross between savoury and sweet.  I used to have them all the time when I was little, and never imagined I'd be making them myself at home.

But I did!  I wanted something special and cute to bring to my Mom as a surprise treat one day, and these tarts were just the thing.  They're relatively easy to make, and the custard feels so silky and lovely in your mouth, especially good when you eat them warm.  The recipe I used seemed odd at first -- measurements of liquids in grams and the half an egg yolk really threw me off!  It was also a recipe that made 7 tarts -- an odd number, I thought.  But I pressed onward, changing grams to milliliters, and carefully adding in just half an egg yolk.  It turned out fantastic!  And because I used brown sugar, it got an added caramel taste you won't find in the tarts at the Asian bakeries.

A few notes about the recipe.  It calls for evaporated milk, but not too much of it.  If you don't feel like opening a whole can just a few tablespoons, I think it's safe to say that regular whole milk or non-dairy milk (as long as it's not the lite kind) will work find.  Light cream (like the cream you might have for your coffee) would probably also be good.  Also, you'll need to get those tin foil tart shells to press the crust in. They're about 3'1.5 inch shells. You could try doing it in a muffin pan, but be extra careful when pulling them out, as the pastry shells are quite delicate.

Asian-Style Brown Sugar Custard Tarts
adapted from The Missing Lokness
makes 7 tarts

1/4 cup of Earth Balance margarine (or salted butter)
3 tablespoons of powdered sugar
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 a large egg yolk
2 teaspoons of evaporated milk

9 tablespoons of water
1/4 cup of brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons of evaporated milk

1.  To make the crust, cream together the margarine and powdered sugar until well combined.  Add the egg yolk and mix well.

2.  Add the flour and mix, slowly, adding the milk as you mix.  Keep mixing until you get a nice soft dough.  You might need to add a few extra drops of milk.  Form the dough into a ball and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, make your custard.  First add the water to pot and bring to a boil.  Add the sugar and cook until the sugar has dissolved.  Set aside to cool.

4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and evaporated milk until well-combined.  Add in the cooled sugar syrup and mix well.

5. Take your dough out of the fridge and divide it into 7 little balls.  Press them into the tart shells and fill will the custard mixture, making sure to leave a bit of room at the top.

6.  Bake your tarts in a 375 degree oven until the custard jiggles slightly when tapped.  Serve warm.

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