Friday, March 16, 2012

Chinese Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Ta)

This is my favorite dim sum dessert. I've seen so many recipes for this tart that it makes my head swim. Some use milk, half and half, evaporated milk, confectioners or caster sugar (what's that?), yellow food coloring, or have elaborate methods for making the crust. I'm all for simplicity, so I opted to adapt the recipe from Judy Lew's Dim Sum Appetizers and Light Meals, which forgoes all of the aforementioned.

The crust in this recipe comes out like a softish shortbread, buttery and crumbly. After a couple trial runs, I've come to the conclusion that it's best to make the crust as thin as possible and to fill the tarts to the very, very top with filling until they're almost overflowing. Basically, more filling with just a touch of crust. 

1 1/4 cups hot water
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. white distilled vinegar

Pastry Shell:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (chilled)
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Dissolve sugar in the hot water. Let cool completely, then add the 4 beaten eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1 tsp. of vinegar. Strain mixture through a mesh strainer and set aside. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Cut shortening and chilled butter into the flour to the texture of coarse meal (butter/shortening should be pea-sized).

3. Pour in beaten egg and vanilla. Stir well to combine. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead very lightly until it just holds together. Do not overknead!!

4. Roll dough out into a log and cut into 12 sections. Press each dough ball into a 3" tart mold, making sure to press the dough as thinly as possible for a thin crust. Place tarts onto a sheet pan and pour as much filling as will fit into each mold. 

5. Place tarts on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove immediately from oven and let cool. 

Dissolve sugar in hot water and let cool to room temperature.

White vinegar, vanilla, butter and shortening.

Stir flour and sugar together.

For the custard: 4 beaten eggs, sugar-water mixture, vinegar & vanilla.

Stir custard ingredients together.

Strain custard ingredients.

Cut the butter and shortening into the flour-sugar mixture.

Mix beaten egg and vanilla into the flour-sugar mixture. Stir well.

Turn dough onto a very lightly floured surface and knead lightly and quickly (less than 30 seconds) until ingredients are just incorporated. This dough refrigerates well, if you don't want to make the tarts right away. Just place in a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours before using.

Roll dough into 1 or 2 logs and cut into a total of 12 pieces. Press each piece into a tart mold, making sure the dough is pressed out as thinly as possible. 

Pour filling to the very top of each mold (the more the better - don't worry about overflow, as the tart molds are on a sheet pan).

After 20 minutes of baking, remove tarts to cool. 

Can be served warm or at room temperature. I like them at room temp.

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