Baking Chinese Egg Tarts

Have you ever had a craving so strong that it was impossible to ignore? On one particular day, I found myself stuck at home with the biggest craving for Chinese egg tarts. The closest bakery was about a half-hour drive away and with no car in the driveway, I was determined to make myself a nice, fresh batch. I found the following recipe for 12 tarts and modified it to make 24 tarts by doubling everything:

Butter Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1¾ stick (which also equals ¾ cup + 2 tbsp) cold, unsalted butter
Water Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 egg yolks (save the egg whites for the filling)
¼ cup cold water
Simple Syrup:
⅓ cup sugar
½ cup water
Egg Custard:
3 large eggs + reserved egg whites from earlier
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

If you would like to make these egg tarts yourself, I would recommend you give yourself sufficient time since there is a lot of waiting in between steps. This was quite a lengthy and strenuous endeavor. Here’s a brief walkthrough of the process with measurements from the original recipe. You can adjust accordingly depending on how many you want to make.

The first step is to make the “butter” dough portion of the puff pastry that your custard filling is going to sit in. Start by combining the flour and butter (cut into small cubes) together until you have smooth uniform dough. Make sure that the butter is cold. It should be coarse and flaky to begin with, but as you work more with the dough, the two will incorporate nicely. When you’re satisfied with the consistency, flatten the dough into a square about a ½” thick, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator.

The next step is to make the “water” dough. Separate your two eggs but set aside the egg whites for the filling and add the yolks to the flour. The cold water should be added gradually to the mix since too much would make your dough too sticky. When you feel that everything is evenly combined, it’s time to roll out the dough. Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface to avoid sticking and roll out the dough to about a ¼” thickness. It should be laid out in a diamond formation and be big enough to encase the butter dough from before. After this, take the butter dough out of the fridge and wrap it up in the rolled out dough.

At this point you’ll begin the rolling and folding process three times. Firstly, roll out the dough to a ¼” long rectangle and fold it into thirds. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for fifteen minutes. Then roll it out again, fold it into quarters and refrigerate for another fifteen minutes. Repeat the previous step one last time and your dough should be ready for cutting. In summary, roll and fold in a 3-4-4 sequence.

In between rolling and waiting for the dough to chill, you can prepare the custard filling. Create a simple syrup by melting the sugar in the water using a microwave and stir well to combine. Set this aside to cool since it will cook your eggs if you add this in right away. Next, mix together three eggs, the egg whites that were reserved from the dough, milk, and some vanilla extract. Feel free to adjust the amount of vanilla extract that you add. Since I baked my egg tarts in batches, I noticed that they were not as sweet as I would have liked and added a little more to my unused custard to supplement. Add your syrup to the rest of the custard after it has cooled and run everything through a strainer to remove any unincorporated egg whites and undissolved sugar.

At this point, your dough should be nicely chilled so roll it out one last time to a ¼” thickness and use a circular cutter that has a similar diameter as your baking molds (I used a cupcake tray) and cut out circles of your dough. Grease your molds with a bit of melted butter. Lay the dough over the mold, press into the middle and using your thumbs, slowly work your way around the mold pressing the dough up along the sides of the mold. Using a fork, gently prick the bottom of the tart to prevent the dough from puffing up during cooking. When the tarts are ready, pour the custard filling into the cups and they’re ready to bake! The oven needs to be preheated to 400°F and the tarts will bake for about 25 to 35 minutes. Keep an eye out for the custard browning at the top; they should be a light golden colour, not dark. My adjusted recipe made around 60 tarts even though I intended to make only 24. The recipe is suited to making larger egg tarts so keep that in mind when playing around the ratios and adjusting the recipe.

These tarts were most definitely worth all the work and the process of rolling out the chilled dough was quite the workout. The hard work assuaged the guilt from eating way too many of these after they were done. Good luck, and happy baking!