I’ve only had a mere 7 years in Hong Kong before I moved over here, to the UK, so it is not surprising that my memories of the city are not particularly coherent. However, one thing that remains vivid in my mind is my experience and enjoyment of the food there. The bakeries, in particular, have a special place in my heart. Many of the buns, cakes and tarts typically sold in Hong Kong are often Chinese adaptations of western staples. I remember the morning visits with my mother for Pineapple and Cocktail buns and the Egg Tarts we would pick up on the way back from school in the afternoon. Those were the good times and it would be wrong for me not to try to recreate these flavours at home and egg tarts is not a bad place to start.
Unlike the British custard tarts, the Hong Kong version does not make use of cream, nutmeg and cinnamon. It instead uses only milk and sugar to give it a lighter, more jiggly texture. The two most popular variations are the puff and shortcrust pastry versions. The latter is also referred to as “cookie” egg tarts due to it’s texture and it is the one we are making today because life is too short to make puff pastry… at least on a Sunday afternoon!
For that authentic look, you will need small fluted tart tins for this recipe. Of course normal tart tins will work too and they will taste just as delicious! The ones I’ve used are about 7.5cm in diameter. This recipe is enough to make 6 – 8 egg tarts.
For the shortcrust pastry
- 120g Plain Flour
- 20g Sugar
- 60g Butter (softened at room temperature)
- 2 Medium Egg Yolks (approximately 40g)
- A pinch of salt
For the custard filling
- 100ml Water
- 45g Sugar
- 50ml Evaporated Milk
- 1 Whole Egg
- 1 Egg Yolk
Step 1: Cream it!
In a large mixing bowl, start by creaming the butter and sugar together using a whisk until the mixture begins to turn pale in colour (see video).
Step 2: Mix it!
Sieve the flour and salt into the butter. Start to mix it together gently with a fork or your hands until it starts to resemble a dough.
Step 3: Knead it!
Roll your sleeves up and start kneading the dough with your hands. At first this will be very crumbly but give it a few minutes and it will start to come together into a dough.
Step 4: Chill it!
Wrap the dough up in cling film and rest in the fridge for 15 minutes. This helps the gluten to relax which will make lining the tart tins later much easier.
Step 5: Dissolve it!
Moving onto the the filling. Start by dissolving the sugar into the water by heating it up in the microwave. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Step 6: Whisk it!
In a separate bowl gently whisk the eggs and evaporated milk together. Do not over beat as too much air will cause the filling to balloon up in the oven. Pour the mixture into the sugar water from the previous step and give it a good stir to combine. Finally pass the mixture through a sieve to remove any residual sugar and air. Set aside until the tarts are ready to be filled.
Step 7: Roll it!
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into a sheet about 0.5cm to 1.0cm thick. If you find it is crumbling too much, you can knead it a bit more and give a few minutes for the dough to warm up before rolling.
Hint: An alternative way to line the tins is just roll the dough up into small balls and push them into the tin. See the video for a demonstration. You’ll get a more rustic, less tidy look if you use this method. See video for reference.
Step 8: Line it!
Lightly butter the tart tins and cut the dough into circles slightly bigger than the size of the tins and being lining them. To make life a bit easier, try using a ring cutter or anything circular like an upside down bowl or cup. Watch my video for a demonstration of how this is done.
Step 9: Fill it!
Once the tins are lined, fill it with the custard mixture until it is about 80-90% full. The filling and pastry will expand during cooking so do not fill it up all the way otherwise it will spill over in the oven!
Step 10: Bake it!
Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes then drop the temperature down to 160 degrees and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. To check if the tarts are done, you can stab a tooth pick into the centre of the tart. If it stands up straight then its done!
Step 11: Eat it!
Remove the tarts from the tins and enjoy while it is still hot!