We don’t usually associate creamy desserts with Chinese food. But in Bill Granger’s wonderful book “Bill Granger’s Everyday Asian” there’s a rich desserts section that I plan to work my way through. The first recipe I tried was for Chinese custard tarts. According to the book, they are inspired by Portuguese tarts (Portuguese traders arrived in China in 1514 and set up a colony in Macau that remained under their control until 1999), hence the uncharacteristic dairy dessert in an Asian recipe book.
But for me, the attraction was the similarity between these tarts and the South African classic “melktert” , meaning milk tart, which is extremely popular down there. The fact that this recipe uses store bought puff pastry makes the process quite easy. The most time consuming part is lining the holes of the muffin tin with the pastry, but once you get going, it’s really not a problem.
I loved making these as they came out perfectly and were creamy and delicious. And even though they use puff pastry, they taste good leftover the next day (if you manage to save any).
CHINESE CUSTARD TARTS (AKA MINI MELKTERTS)
5 egg yolks
80g (3 oz) cater sugar (you can finally get caster sugar in Israel now – look for “Sucar Dakdak”, White Extra Fine Sugar by Sugat)
125 ml (4 fl. oz) sweet cream
125 ml (4 fl. oz) milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
500 g (1 lb) puff pastry (half a package defrosted)
How to do it
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and grease a 12 large hole muffin tin (holes the size of a #5 cupcake liner)
2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, cream, milk and vanilla will well combined.
3. Cut the sheet of pastry in half and put one half of top of the other and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
4. Roll up the pastry from the short side and slice the pastry roll into 12 rounds of under 1 cm each. On a floured surface, with a rolling pin, roll out each pastry disk to a 10cm (4 inch) diameter and get it as thin as you can but leaving the pastry easy to handle without breaking (they don’t have to be perfectly round).
5. Carefully place each piece of pastry into the muffin holes ensuring they fit snugly in and leave no spaces. Trim the overhanging pastry with a sharp knife in line with the top of each hole.
6. Spoon the custard mixture into each pastry case until the liquid is just under 1 cm from the top (use all the mixture).
7. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the custard is golden on top.
8. Remove from oven and allow the tarts to cool before removing them from the tin. For some added (melktert) flavor, sprinkle a little freshly ground nutmeg on top of each tart.