I may have mentioned before that I don’t have the typical nostalgia that most people seem to cherish for home-cooked meals – given both my parents’ work schedule plus my numerous after-school activities as a kid, they showed their love in other ways than making dinner. Besides, family night is more about the people than the food right?
But I do have a few fond childhood memories of my mom in the kitchen, and perhaps these moments are more precious for their rarity. Egg tarts were my absolute favorite treat as a little girl and I never passed up a chance to snag one (or two, or three) whenever passing through Chinatown. The first time I saw my mom making her own homemade egg tarts, I was completely fascinated – how could just a few staple pantry ingredients pop into the oven and come out such perfect flaky, buttery, rich soft custard magic? And just like magic, the entire batch quickly disappeared into my tummy 😉
Last year, I finally remembered to ask my mom for the recipe and she e-mailed me back a word document she’d typed up herself, broken English and all. I have it saved on my computer because it makes me smile whenever I feel homesick, as does the warm aroma of these baking in the oven. Last time I went home, I asked her where she got the recipe from, and turns out she learned it in her high school home ec class in Taiwan! (Apparently she was also top of her class, which explains why she still remembers the recipe despite not writing it down until giving it to me.)
My mom particularly stressed the importance of straining the custard mixture before baking – this is the key to a smooth custard. She only instructs straining once, but sometimes I like to strain twice just in case. She then added that the tart crust recipe also comes in handy for pies or pastries like empanadas. Interestingly enough, with a cream cheese and butter base it’s actually pretty similar to the dough used for rugelach.
While I’m sharing my mother’s recipe mostly faithful to the original, I’m also the trouble child of the family and a little monkey (Happy Year of the Monkey everyone!) so I’ve also added my own little flair. A few teaspoons of ginger, accompanied with a little cinnamon in the crust, add a subtle kick that sets it apart from the typical egg tart found on the street. Feel free to leave it out or add more as you like!
Without further ado, from my mother to you (with a little pinch of spice along the way). Hope you enjoy this Liu family recipe!
Ginger Egg Tarts
adapted from my mother’s recipe
makes about 15 tarts
dairy free options available
tart crust dough
- 1/2 cup butter or vegan butter, softened
- 3 oz cream cheese (I use neufchatel cheese or reduced fat cream cheese) or vegan cream cheese (I’ve had good experiences baking with Tofutti brand)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 7/8 cups (3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons) milk, either 2% or greater, or coconut milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease tart molds (a cupcake pan will also work though will not have the same look; I use these flower-shaped silicon molds that don’t require any greasing) and line them up on a baking tray.
- Combine all ingredients for the crust together and use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix it into a soft dough. If it’s too sticky to work with, add a little more flour gradually. If you have metal tart molds with sharp edges, you can roll out pieces of dough slightly larger than the molds and press it over to perfectly shape it; otherwise, take roughly golf-ball-sized pieces of dough and free form it into your cupcake pan/silicon molds.
- Heat the milk up in the microwave for 1 minute. Whisk in sugar and ginger to dissolve. Let the milk cool for 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs and whisk until the yolk is mixed in. The mixture will not look smooth.
- Strain custard mixture into the tart molds, filling each mold only 80% full. You may have a little extra egg mixture left over, and that’s fine – better to discard than to try to use it all up. Make sure you do not overfill the tarts, otherwise the custard will bubble over and create a sticky mess!
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the custard is set. You know your oven best – if it heats unevenly, rotate the pan halfway through baking. The set custard might look puffy, but don’t worry! It’ll settle down once cooled.
- Once the custard has set, turn off the oven and open the door, leaving the tarts inside. The idea is to let the custards cool slowly to avoid any cracking on the surface. Once the custards have cooled enough – essentially when they no longer look puffy, around 20 minutes – you can remove them to continue to cool at room temperature. Once cool enough to handle, pop them out of the molds – a toothpick comes in handy for this.
- Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled, however you like! Though if you’ve never had an egg tart warm and fresh from the oven, you’re in for a treat 🙂 these can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for at least a couple days – I’ve never had the occasion to test if they would last longer!
Nutritional description: eggs do offer some nutritional content in protein, vitamins, and minerals, though it’d be a stretch to call the recipe fully nutritious. They’re sort of low carb though if you need to watch that, since the dough is mostly butter and cream cheese! You can make them lower carb/sugar as well using sugar replacements like Swerve.
Nutritional information (calculated without dairy-free substitutions): Calories 137, Total Fat 8.4g, Saturated Fat 5.1g, Cholesterol 46.4mg, Carbs 13.5g, Fiber 0.2g, Sugars 7.3g, Protein 2.7g, Sodium 38.7mg