Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sweetheart tart - Hong Kong Milk Tarts

I was lucky enough to go back to Hong Kong for a week last week. Sadly, for a funeral - however the silver lining being able to see family and friends who mean the world to me. An emotional visit to say the least, however I'm so glad I went. Hong Kong to me is sometimes so strange - a homeland, but never technically a home I've permanently lived in and there are elements of great nostalgia, but always new things to discover and admire. Home is wherever your family is, and mine happens to be split between London, Leeds and Hong Kong...not the most convenient, but it makes family time when we all see each other all the more special.

The smells, hustle and noises from central Hong Kong are still astounding, and I can't wait to go back for 2 weeks in December. One of the senses which always gets me is passing chains upon chains of bakeries within the MTR transport stations. You wouldn't dream of picking up a cake for a dinner party from the Underground stations in London, but in Hong Kong no one would bat an eyelid, they're all that good (and clean!). Cakes and tarts always have a special place in my heart, and in the midst of GBBO frenzy and fever, I decided I hadn't done a sweet in a while. A haze of jetlag, I got to baking - however I state my disclaimer now, that the pastry I had made was from an old cook book, and did not make for an easy and thin casing...(and unassumingly large quantities of it were made) so we can probably skip that part of the recipe and would advise anyone to use a normal sweet shortcrust pastry dough. BBC's recipe is an easy win here. I'm pretty sure Mr.Hollywood would not be impressed with my pastry skills this time round. Substitute about 25g of the flour in the recipe for some sieved milk powder for a little more of a milky finish to the pastry if you can. 

The milk tart seems to hide away in the darkest corner of most Hong Kong bakeries. It's like the little sister of the custard tart...a little less known, a little less ambitious but a lot easier to make (mind my pastry...). The filling is a flan like texture, with a silky white finish which slips down so easily you may forget you're tucking into your third consecutive tart without knowing it. The contrast with the buttery and crumbling pastry is just heaven - and all delicately finished with a glimmer of ginger flavours for an unexpected zing.

Ingredients (makes about 12 tarts)

Pastry (adapted from BBC's pate sucree)

90 grams of butter, softened
65 grams of caster sugar
25 grams of milk powder, sieved
3 free range egg yolks
175 grams plain flour

185 grams of egg white (about 5 egg whites)
75 grams of granulated sugar
225 ml of milk (full fat is best, but semi-skimmed can be used)
1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder

Make your pastry by creaming the butter, sugar and milk powder until well combined. Beat in the egg yolks until fully incorporated. Add flour gradually into the mixture and knead on a work surface until the pastry comes together as a smooth ball of dough.
Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your filling. Whisk all the ingredients together by hand until you can no longer see any egg white strands in the mix. Strain the mixture through a sieve to make sure your filling comes out smooth when baked.

Set the oven to 170 degrees. In a muffin/cupcake tin, grease lightly with butter. I like to cut strips of greaseproof paper - about 1cm wide, and long enough to be able to pull the tarts out on either side of the muffin tin once baked. It's not wholly necessary, but easier to lift out the tin.
Time to blind bake the tarts - roll out your cold pastry to about a 1cm thick pastry and cover over each of the cupcake holes - press down gently and trim any excess pastry from the top. Place small squares of greaseproof paper over the pastry and add some weights in (these could be coins, rice, beans) to keep the paper down. Bake for 15 minutes, until the pastry just starts to turn a more yellow/gold. Remove the paper and weights from the pastry.

Carefully add your milk filling into the cases - you want to fill up to about 90% of the tart. Put the heat up to 180 and bake for 10 minutes. Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes and then take out and place on a wire rack until cooled. Demolish.

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