Chinese Egg Custard Tarts (Dan-ta)

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Crumbly pastry with a yummy not-so-sweet set egg custard in the middle. Once again, I have my mother to thank for this lovely recipe. An egg tart was sometimes my after-school treat – delicious straight out of the oven, washed down with a glass of cold soy milk. You often find these little delights in dim sum restaurants too and they can be made with puff pastry (equally tasty). Dan-ta resemble the Portuguese tarts (pasteis de nata) and it may have been Portuguese travelers who introduced this recipe to the Orient, for they sailed the South China Seas and landed in Taiwan – my birth country – in the 16th century, calling it Ilha Formosa, meaning ‘beautiful island’.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 7 oz ready-made piecrust
  • butter for greasing

For the Filling

  • 2 small eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 12 oz evaporated milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan with some butter.
  2. Roll out the pastry on a board to about ¼ in thick. Cut out 12 circles using a 3in round cutter and line the tart holes with the pastry circles.
  3. Put the filling ingredients in a small bowl and beat lightly until smooth. Pour the filling into the pastry-lined tart pans but leaving ¼ in at the top.
  4. Bake the tarts for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Bake for a further 10–15 minutes until the custard has set. Test by inserting a small toothpick – it should come out clean. These can be served cold, but are much nicer warm!