If you’ve ever walked on Grant Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown you’re sure to encounter a long line of people waiting in front of Golden Gate Bakery. This bakery’s storefront is quite unassuming, so if you don’t know what’s going on and try to look past the mobs of people waiting, you’ll see two main colors emanating from inside the store: pink and yellow.
Once you actually get past the front door you begin to realize that your time spent waiting might just be worth it: there are an astounding number of sunny yellow egg custard tarts being shoved into hot pink pastry boxes!
The egg custard tarts at Golden Gate Bakery have a pale yellow custard with a light yet dense flan-like texture. They are also quite large and deep, which means that they can be filled with considerable amount of egg custard.
What I consider the most special characteristic of this tart is its rich and super crispy crust, a feature that makes this Dan Tat stand out from all the rest. The ultra crispness of the tart shell is a fleeting thing though, so it’s wise to eat these tarts within a few hours of buying them.
As simple way to keep their tarts distinctively crispy, the bakery workers at Golden Gate take great care to cut a large opening in the corner of each box of tarts that go out. I thought it was odd at first, but later understood why.
A few months back, I did a post on Apple Strudel where I used oil spray and phyllo dough as my secret ingredients to create a super crispy and flaky pastry crust. What’s great about that recipe is that I was able to avoid using extra butter when making the strudel crust.
For my Chinese Egg Custard Tart recipe, I’ve used the same technique and ingredients to get similar results. The traditional way of making Dan Tat crusts is with a lard dough and a water dough, which are rolled methodically to create layers. The technique used is very similar to the technique used to make puff pastry. It’s a lengthy process, one which requires a good amount of patience, time, and skill.
This recipe is much simpler. It requires a minimal amount of patience, time, and skill–nothing like that required for the traditional method of making Dan Tats.
My secret ingredient here is canola oil, sprayed in between each layer of phyllo. Using the oil spray is effortless and simple, and helps to eliminate the need to use lard or butter. I also use French brioche molds here, which give just the right size and depth so that the tarts can be filled with a decent amount of custard. The molds are also used as pie weights, to prevent excessive rising while the phyllo is baking.
With these tips and tools, the result is a super light and flakey crust that literally shatters after you’ve sunk your teeth into the custardy flan-like filling. Just like the Golden Gate Bakery Dan Tat’s, these tarts are best when eaten fresh, on the day of baking.
If you are thinking of trying to make any sweets for Chinese New Year, this Chinese Egg Custard Tart recipe is the one you want to make. This is a traditional recipe made simpler and lighter, with the use of more modern ingredients and technique. Made easy, fast, and healthier, these sunny little egg tarts will be a cheerful and scrumptious addition to your Chinese New Year table!
Egg Custard Tarts (Dan Tat)
Makes 6 tarts.
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp hot water
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
3/4 tsp vanilla
canola or vegetable oil spray
8 sheets of phyllo dough
fine mesh strainer
large liquid measuring cup
round cookie cutter, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch larger than diameter of brioche/tart mold cavity (I used 4″)
12 large brioche or tart molds (I used Matfer) or 6 large brioche molds and 6 pieces of foil bunched up to make pie weights
6 cupcake liners (optional)
1.) In small bowl, stir together hot water with sugar, and mix until sugar dissolves. In a separate mixing bowl stir together eggs, milk, salt, and vanilla together until evenly incorporated. Add in sugar water and mix thoroughly. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
2.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a large work surface, lay down one sheet of phyllo, then evenly and thoroughly spray it with canola oil spray. Repeat this process with the remaining 7 pieces of phyllo, stacking each phyllo piece directly on top of the previously sprayed piece. When all 8 phyllo pieces have been stacked, give the layered phyllo rectangle a final even spray of canola oil.
3.) Spray the inside of 6 brioche molds with canola oil spray. Use a round cookie cutter to cut out 6 circles of layered phyllo, using paring knife to cut around cookie cutter to assure clean edges. Place each layered dough circle into a mold and lightly press the phyllo into the mold, pressing it in so that there are no air pockets.
4.) Spray bottoms of remaining 6 brioche molds then place them directly atop each of the dough crusts. This will help the dough stay compact (and not rise) and make room for more custard filling. Alternatively, use bunched up foil shaped into balls to achieve similar results. Place crust-filled brioche molds onto a baking sheet. Bake the phyllo crusts in oven for 6 minutes.
5.) After 6 minutes, remove the par-baked crusts from the oven. Let cool for a few minutes then remove top brioche molds or foil balls (be careful, the molds will still be slightly hot). Carefully pour custard liquid into par-baked crusts, filling each crust until it is almost full.
6.) Carefully place in oven, making sure to keep the custard from flowing over the edges of the crusts. Bake for 15 minutes until the custard is set and doesn’t jiggle in the center. Remove custard tarts from oven, let them sit for a few minutes to cool, then push/slip them out from the brioche molds and transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling (this prevents a soggy crust). If you prefer, place tart in cupcake liners for easy serving.
Do you love Dim Sum? Please check out the other recipes from my Dim Sum Series: