Singaporean Kitchen: Chinese Egg Tarts (Dan ta-蛋挞)

If you’re interested in trying something a little bit different from your typical boxed funfetti cupcakes (kidding! I know you’re all talented chefs and bakers), then I strongly recommend you take a shot at making these little cuties.

Egg tarts are a Cantonese treat and you generally will see them at Chinese bakeries or dim sum restaurants.  The tart consists of a buttery, flaky crust and a smooth, creamy, egg-flavored filling that resembles creme brulee.

When I was a little girl, this was one of the only things I would eat when my family went out for dim sum. While my aunts and uncles were chowing down on fried chicken feet and shrimp dumplings, I would try to hoard as many dan ta on my plate as I could without being caught (and subsequently, scolded for not letting others have any, oopsies).

On my second day in Singapore, my aunt brought my family to her favorite dim sum restaurant (Peach Garden in Novena), and I remembered how much I love these bite-sized treats.  I spent a couple of days trying to find an easy recipe, and found that these can really be quite simple to make!  Some authentic recipes have a slightly more complicated technique of using two kinds of dough- an “oil dough” and a “water dough” and folding them inside each other and rolling out multiple times to make an even tastier, flakier pastry, but I didn’t have the time or the patience for that today.   Since you all know I’m lactose intolerant, I used margarine in the crust and soy milk in the filling.  It turned out so well (don’t worry Michael, I will make you some :))!

I’ve made three batches of this recipe so far, and here are the tips I can give you:

1) If using small tart cups, spoon filling into crust rather than pouring it- when I tried to pour the filling it splashed all over the counter and soaked the crust.

2) Watch the tarts carefully when they are in the oven. You want to take them out from the oven before they start to bubble.  If you take them out after they’ve already puffed up and glazed over, the tops will be wrinkled when they dry (for an example, see the difference between the first picture and the second picture– I used the same recipe, but I was more careful with the tarts in the top picture).

3) If your crust burns while the filling is cooking, cover the edges with aluminum foil or do not pre-bake.

4) When filling cups with dough, allow the dough to extend past the top of the cup, as the dough will retract while it bakes.

Egg Tarts
Makes 18-24 small tarts

Pastry:
1 stick+ 1 tablespoon butter – chilled
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 egg white
1 egg yolk
1 2/3 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Filling:
2 cups milk
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 medium or large eggs
1 teaspoon rum (optional, used to help mask egg flavor)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

To make the pastry, cream the icing sugar and the butter together until fluffy.  Add egg yolk and half egg white and mix well. Stir in vanilla extract.  Add flour and stir until crumbly.  Form into a ball, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While dough is refrigerating, heat milk and sugar in a saucepan on low heat until sugar dissolves.  When done, turn heat off and let cool.  Stir in eggs and whisk until mixed (not until frothy, just until combined).  Stir in rum and vanilla.  Run egg and milk mixture through a sieve three times, DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP, you don’t want your egg tarts to have a bubbly egg layer on top so this step is important.

To assemble egg tarts, make small balls of dough and flatten.  Press dough-disc into the bottom of tart cups (or you can use a muffin tin) and bake for 10 minutes at 350F.  Remove cups from oven and spoon in egg mixture until 90% full.  Put back into the oven and bake for 15-20 more minutes (watch carefully, tarts are done when a toothpick inserted in the center can stand on it’s own).  Serve immediately and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Aunty Yochana

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