Happy Lunar New Year! It’s the year of the Rooster. As a kid, the Lunar New Year (“Chinese New Year” in our house) was marked with huge family gathering, enormous feasts, and of course, the coveted red envelope. Living in Tunis, it’s almost a non-event aside from the Facebook wishes I see from my friends and family.
Even if there aren’t firecrackers in the street, I set off to find something to mark the new year that I could make with the limited (basically non-existent) access to quality Asian ingredients in Tunis. Flour, sugar, and eggs are easy to find so I considered my options for cakes and cookies. When we were in Rabat a few years ago, I made these Almond Cookies for the same reason. This year, I settled on dàn tǎ, a.k.a. Chinese egg custard tarts.
Egg Custard Tarts in Silicon Baking Cups – It works!
I was a little nervous about making these egg custard tarts because I don’t have mini-tart pans and custard can be finicky. I used silicon baking cups (mine are 1.25 inches across at the bottom and 2.5 inches across the top at the widest point) to mold my tartletts. I hemmed and hawed about whether I should blind bake the crust before filling, but in the end I decided to save myself the hassle and the tarts still turned out great. Score!
For the crust, I used my go to recipe for pâte brisée (thank you Jacques Pepin!) and combined a few different techniques for egg custard tarts to fill my little tartlets. The pâte brisée was flaky and buttery and a nice match for the creamy, smooth, custard. I often find the egg custard tarts at traditional bakeries or dim sum to be cloyingly sweet for my tastes, so my first step was to cut the sugar from the crust and avoid sweetened condensed milk in the filling.
Sunny and Delicious
I surprised myself with the end result on these because I worried that either the crust would burn before the custard set, or that the eggs would be tough and firm while the crust was not cooked through. In the end, all the worrying was for naught! These sunny tarts came out perfectly on my first try. I was even confident enough to take half a dozen tarts to our Chinese neighbor to wish him a Happy New Year!
Whether you celebrate the Lunar New Year or not, these cheerful egg custard tarts are delightful for brunch or afternoon tea. They look and taste decadent and the recipe is very straightforward. I’m adding these to my brunch menu arsenal for sure!
- For the crust
- 1 ½ cups (190 g) White/All-Purpose Flour
- 1 ½ sticks (170 g) cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼-1/3 cup (60-80 ml) ice water
For the filling
- ⅓ cup (75 g) sugar
- ½ cup (120 ml) water
- 3 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
- Make the crust by adding the flour, butter, and salt in the bowl of a large food processor and pulse 5-7 times to combine. The texture should be similar to a very coarse cornmeal. If you don’t have a food processor you can cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter.
- Slowly add the ice water and pulse the dough another 3-6 times, adding just enough water until the dough comes together.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, and shape into a small disc.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge.
- Pre-heat oven to 400F/200C
- In a small pot combine the water and the sugar for the filling and bring the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil and all of the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- After the dough has been in the fridge for 10-15 minutes, remove it and roll the dough on a floured surface until it is ¼ inch thick.
- Using a round cutter (approx. 3¼-3½ inches), cut the dough into circles and place one round into each cup, pressing the dough gently into the cup and up the sides. It’s ok if you need to make a couple of pleats to get the dough to fit into the cup. There’s plenty of butter in the crust so you don’t need to spray the cups if you are using silicone. Set the crusts aside.
- Finish making the custard by pressing 3 large eggs and one yolk through a sieve and combine with the cooled simple syrup. The syrup must be completely cooled to room temperature before you add the eggs. Whisk gently.
- Warm the milk for 10-12 seconds in the microwave, just so that it’s luke-warm to touch (make sure it’s not hot, or you will cook the eggs.)
- Gently stir the vanilla and milk into the egg mixture.
- Press the entire filling through a sieve again and into a pouring cup so it’s easier to fill the tarts.
- Fill each tart leaving some space and the top and being careful not to overfill.
- Bake for 6 minutes at 400F/200C then turn the oven down to 350F/180C and bake for another 10-13 minutes. When the egg custard is puffing up and the edges of the crust are starting to turn golden, the tarts are done.
- Cool on a wire rack and gobble them up!
Special Equipment I used (I’m a proud Amazon affiliate, so help me keep eating in instead by purchasing here!):
3.25 inch fluted cutter (it’s the largest cutter in this set):
Vanilla Bean Paste (get those delicious vanilla bean flecks in your custard!):