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Egg Custard Tarts

Egg Custard Tart

Egg custard tarts are desserts that are popular in a number of different cultures and, while all are similar, none are quite alike. Pastal de nata, the Portuguese custard tarts, are usually cooked so that the top of the tart browns and begins to caramelize. Dan tats, Chinese egg custard tarts, have a unique flakey pastry crust and a richly eggy center. The first tarts are relatively common, while the dan tats are found at some Chinese bakeries and dim sum places.

I like all incarnations of egg custard tarts (especially some a friend once delivered to me from an unnamed bakery in San Francisco’s Chinatown). The basic tart is very simply and just needs a pastry crust and a good custard filling. The tarts should be small – no bigger than two or three inches across – and stable enough that you can pick them up and eat them out of hand. This gives them great snackability, and makes them a low maintenance treat that is easy to share over coffee.

I chose not to use a traditional pie crust dough for these my, largely because I planned to make my tarts in muffin pans and felt it would be easier to hand-shape the crusts. So, I made a slightly crumbly tart dough that could simply be pressed into my baking pans. Pressing the dough by hand gave me a lot of control over the shape and thickness of the tarts. I filled up 10 muffin cups (you could do 12 slightly smaller, if you prefer) about 2/3 – 3/4 full. You can use small tart pans, if you have them, but a muffin tin really works great for these tarts. The dough is very easy to handle and very pliable when it warms slightly under your fingers.

My custard was made with milk and egg yolks, as well as a bit of sugar. The yolks gave the tarts a wonderful yellow color and ensured that the custard was very, very tender and incredibly silky. The filling contrasted beautifully with the slightly crisp crust. The flavor of the custard was classic, just hints of milk and egg, but this is a filling that could easily be flavored with vanilla, citrus or a little spice for a little variety.

Egg Custard Tarts in pan

Egg Custard Tarts
Crust
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled
1 large egg

 

Filling
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup milk (low fat is ok)

Preheat oven to 350F.
Make the crust. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Pulse in butter until mixture is crumbly, then blend in the egg until the dough comes together like very wet sand. Dough may be slightly crumbly still, which is ok. Pour into a ziplock bag, press dough into a ball, seal the bag and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
To make the filling, whisk together sugar and egg yolks by hand until sugar is mostly dissolved, trying not to make the mixture light or foamy. Whisk in milk. Strain mixture into a measuring cup (or other bowl that is easy to pour from).
Divide the slightly chilled dough into 10 equal measures and press each one evenly into a muffin cup to form small tart shells. Press pastry until it comes about 2/3 of the way up the side of the muffin cup. Flatten the top edge of the crusts a bit with your finger to help prevent the filling from running out. Pour the filling into the tart shells, filling them to the top but not overfilling (if there is a bit of leftover filling, just discard it).
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tarts are set but still slightly jiggly in the center when the pan is shifted.
Cool for about 30 minutes in the pan, then gently lift tarts out using a butter knife and place on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Makes 10 tarts.

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17 Comments
  • Jeny
    September 17, 2008

    I adore custard tarts. The tradition in England is to put nutmeg on top before baking, I find it adds a nice touch of spice!

  • clumbsycookie
    September 17, 2008

    There’s nothing a portuguese loves more than a “pastel de nata”! I want to try those chinese ones, but we can’t find them here in Portugal.
    What you made here, custard baked in a pie crust is called a “bom-bocado”, translated is something like “good bite”!

  • Lisa
    September 17, 2008

    What dainty, perfect bite-size morsels of goodness!

  • mesa para 4
    September 18, 2008

    Yes, that´s right…Portuguese people really love a good Pastel de Nata…
    And those Bom Bocado of yours are really great.

  • mesa para 4
    September 18, 2008

    Yes, that´s right…Portuguese people really love a good Pastel de Nata…
    And those Bom Bocado of yours are really great.

  • Kim
    September 18, 2008

    How could I say no to a tart that has caramelized? Beautiful little tarts-good things come in small packages.

  • rebecca
    September 18, 2008

    yum! i love anything custard. these look very simple and sound so delicious!

  • eula
    September 22, 2008

    oh i love dan tats! thanks for the simple recipe.

  • Luce
    September 23, 2008

    These look lovely. I’m portuguese and didn’t start liking Pastéis de Nata until I as and adult. I eat them topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar with a small spoon (filling first, crust last). I’m sure to try these. The smell right out of the oven must be heaven *sighs*

    PS – Sorry, it’s the nit pick in me, but the link to the wikipedia article should read “Pastel” instead of “Pastal”.

  • BRIAN
    November 6, 2008

    grate a little orange zest into the egg mix for a wonderful citrus bite.

  • Coco
    February 8, 2009

    Omg, these tarts are delicious!!!!!especially the crust!!!!Thank you very much for sharing this recipe!!!and i found out that if you add a little bit more butter in the dough of crust it is better….

  • asian recipes
    March 20, 2009

    The egg tarts is one of my favorite for my tea time. Probably i will make some for next few days.

  • curry recipe
    March 20, 2009

    the recipe is working perfectly for me, thanks for sharing this recipe.

  • SJ
    November 6, 2011

    Can I use two eggs and four whites?

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