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RECIPE: Hong Kong Style Egg Tarts

Hong Kong Egg Tarts

Hong Kong Egg Tarts
Fragrant and warm from the oven: Who can resist? (Photos #1 and #2 courtesy My Bare Cupboard, which has a slightly different recipe).

Natural Hens' Eggs Colors

[3] Where would dessert be without the incredible, edible egg? (Photo courtesy The Egg Farm.)

Check out the different types of eggs in our Egg Glossary.

See the different types of custard in our Custard Glossary.

 

World Egg Day was established in 1996, and is celebrated on the second Friday in October.

Since the dawn of the hunter-gatherer, eggs have played a major role in feeding mankind around the globe. They one of nature’s highest quality, and most affordable, sources of protein.

Since this is a global celebration, we’re featuring one of our favorite global recipes with eggs.

No, it’s not egg drop soup (we published an egg drop soup recipe last year). It’s a favorite Cantonese dessert made with eggs: Hong Kong egg tarts.

Walking around the streets of Hong Kong or any Chinatown elsewhere, you’ll see these popular tartlets* through the windows of bakeries.

Whenever we hit New York City’s Chinatown for a dim sum brunch, we look forward to a dessert of Hong Kong Egg Tarts. We like them so much, we buy extras to take home.
 
 
THE HISTORY: WHAT ARE HONG KONG EGG TARTS?

Egg tart, dan tat in Cantonese, is sweet tart pastry crust filled with egg custard. It’s essentially fusion food, since custard was created in northern European dairying countries.

Hong Kong egg tarts (also called Chinese egg tarts, but that’s too nonspecific a term given the variety of regional cuisines), are related to Portuguese egg tarts.

The concept arrived in Hong Kong during the 1940s—from, some sources believe, the neighboring island of Macau, which had been colonized by the Portuguese.

According to more likely sources, the egg tart first appeared in Guangzhou (Canton) in the 1920s [source].

There, the local chefs, inspired by western fruit tarts, filled tart pastry with egg custard. As butter was very costly, they used lard crusts instead of making puff pastry.

At the time, there was tough competition between department stores in Guangzhou. To attract customers, the chef of each department store would invent a new dim sum or dessert weekly; hence the initiative that produced these first Chinese egg tarts.

A few decades later, in the 1940s and 1950s, many chefs migrated to Hong Kong and brought the recipe with them.

Portuguese egg tarts—pasteis de nata—scents the custard with cinnamon, in a puff pastry crust. Here’s a recipe.

Both versions taste best when freshly baked and still warmed. Even when we warm the take-out tarts we bring home from Chinatown, they’re a shade less heavenly than those we eat on the spot.

Yet, they’re so easy to make that they can be whipped up to serve regularly at brunch, or with tea and coffee breaks.

In fact, we’re making them both on Saturday and Sunday to serve at brunch. We’ll double the recipe but only cook half on each day.

If you have a source for very good tart or tartlet shells, you can substitute them. The texture isn’t “Hong Kong,” but the overall taste is good.

You can buy Clearbrook Farms’ tartlet and mini-tart shells at Sur La Table, Walmart and elsewhere. We always keep a few boxes in the pantry. You can fill them with berries, pudding, cream cheese and preserves, ice cream, etc. when you need a quick dessert or teatime treat.

 
RECIPE: HONG KONG EGG TARTS

This recipe was sent to us by The Incredible Egg (the American Egg Board), via All Recipes.
 
Ingredients

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 dash vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 9 eggs, beaten
  • 1 dash vanilla extract
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the confectioners’ sugar and flour in a medium bowl. Blend in the butter with a fork, until the mixture comprises small crumbs.

    2. STIR in the egg and vanilla until the mixture forms a dough. The texture should be slightly moist. Add more butter if the dough is too dry, or add more flour if the dough seems greasy.

    3. SHAPE the dough into 1-1/2 inch balls. Press the balls into fluted tartlet molds to cover the bottom, extending the dough higher than the sides of the molds. Use this technique to place the dough into one tart mold, then tamp it down with an empty mold.

    4. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F.

    5. COMBINE the white sugar and water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature.

    6. STRAIN the eggs through a sieve, and whisk into the sugar mixture. Stir in the evaporated milk and vanilla. Strain the filling through a sieve, and fill the tart shells.
    Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown, and the filling is puffed up a little bit.
     
     
    *TARTS VS. TARTLETS

    To be completely accurate:

  • “Tart” refers to a full-size, multi-portion tart.
  • Individual-size size tarts are called tartlets.
  • Bite-size versions are mini tarts.
  •  
      

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    RESTAURANT: Oscar Wilde Gastropub In New York City

    Oscar Wilde, the gastropub, has the longest continuous bar in New York City, at 118.5 feet.

    There’s a cocktail and spirits list almost as long—such that if we lived or worked in the neighborhood, we’d be tempted to head to the bar every day after work and work through the list.

    The restaurant celebrates the acclaimed Irish writer (1854-1900).

    The venue should become a tourist destination for literati. If you don’t foresee a trip to Dublin to see the stunning Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculpture in Merrion Square in Dublin, then Oscar Wilde restaurant in New York City is an opportunity to capture yourself with bronze Oscar Wildes.

    There are two photo ops with Oscar: one inside with a standing bronze (photo #1), the other outside, seated on a bench (photo #4).

    These bronze Oscars are even better photo ops than Real Oscar’s tombstone, a popular destination in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. It is beautiful piece of modern sculpture, but not an image of Wilde (and now, it’s surrounded by a glass wall to keep [more] people from further defacing the monument with lipstick kisses).

    But back to the gastropub Oscar Wilde: The interior is a showplace. One expects to see a motion picture or period televisions series in production.

    An almost incalculable number of artifacts have been gathered—clocks, marble mantles, fireplaces, carved columns, candelabra, chandeliers, lamps, statuary, paintings, prints, newspaper holders, painted/stained glass, objects d’art. They cover almost every inch of wall space.

    You can photos of the rooms here..

    The eclectic furnishings look like they may have been a part of Wilde’s milieu—and many could have been, gathered throughout the U.K. and Paris. Others come from points around the globe. The Victorian-style wallpaper was handmade in Mexico, some hand-carved marble is from Vietnam.

    An Irish Writers Wall pays homage to the other greats: Beckett, Joyce, Shaw, Yeats, etc.
     
     
    DINING AT OSCAR WILDE

    While you may have stumbled back into Victorian England visually, don’t expect a corresponding bill of fare.

    Oscar Wilde’s food menu does feature traditional dishes such as cottage pie, striped bass, moules frites and Skellig cheddar from Ireland (on a grilled cheese sandwich).

    But patrons are more likely to order contemporary items that Wilde never envisioned:

  • Crispy cauliflower Buffalo wings
  • Fried tomato BLT
  • Kale Caesar salad
  • Salt and pepper squid
  • Wilde burger with chili aïoli
  •  
    There’s something for everyone.

     

    Oscar Wilde Statue NYC
    [1] Have a drink with Oscar: a great selfie opportunity (all photos courtesy Oscar Wilde restaurant).

    Cocktails Oscar Wilde NYC
    [2] Specialty cocktail menus include both Victorian and Prohibition favorites.

    Broccomole

    [3] Broccomole: broccoli purée mixed with guacamole. A hit!

     
    We tried just a few items; each was excellent. New to us was broccomole—a relatively new creation you can find online, but we’d not previously seen on a menu.

    Broccoli is puréed into guacamole, served with taro chips: a great marriage of ingredients.

    Oscar Wilde is located at 45 West 27th Street, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue.

    It’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., 7 days a week. There’s a private events room. Phone: 212.213.3066.
     
     
    Oscar Wilde Restaurant NYC
     
    [4] Have a drink with Oscar, at Oscar Wilde’s in New York City. Irony: In 1919, following the Volstead Act, the building became Prohibition Enforcement Headquarters. It was later discovered—purportedly—that the federal agents’ phones were bugged by the mob.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking With Pumpkin Liqueur

    Pumpkin French Toast
    [1] For brunch, pumpkin liqueur French toast with an optional topping of sauteed apples (photo courtesy Domesticate Me | Peapod).

    Bailey's Pumpkin Spice Liqueur

    [2] Baileys is one of a number of pumpkin liqueurs available in the fall (photo courtesy Baileys).

     

    Last year we received a bottle of pumpkin liqueur, and put it to good use in Halloween cocktails…plus coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

    But we overlooked all the other uses for the seasonal spirit. Here, some ideas from Fulton’s Harvest Pumpkin Pie Cream Liqueur. There are many more here for your perusal.

    You can substitute apple or spice liqueur for the same seasonal touch.
     
     
    BREAKFAST: PUMPKIN FRENCH TOAST RECIPE

    You can add a topping of diced apples for a festive brunch dish. Instead of the apple garnish, you can substitute a few roasted pumpkin seeds, toasted nuts, and/or dried fruit: cherries, cranberries, raisins.

    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin liqueur
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 loaf of dense bread, 12-16 slices (we used brioche)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons. butter, as needed
  • Optional garnish: sautéed diced apples
  •  
    For Serving

  • Butter
  • Syrup
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the apple topping: dice and sauté in butter with a splash of pumpkin liqueur and a dash of pumpkin pie spice. Cover for warmth and set aside.

    2. MIX together the milk, liqueur, eggs and brown sugar

    3. MELT the butter on a hot griddle or in a pan. Dip the sliced bread into the batter and allow it to soak in, turning if needed.

    4. PLACE the battered bread on the griddle and cook until the first side begins to turn golden brown. Flip and repeat on the other side.

    5. TOP with the apples or other garnish, or serve them on the side. Serve with butter and syrup.

     

    SNACK OR DESSERT: CARAMEL FRUIT DIP

    You can dip fruit, or top desserts with this boozy caramel dip. You can also use it as a garnish with cake or pie…or make [adult] cookie sandwiches.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin liqueur
  • 1 package caramel topping
  • Optional garnish: 1 package Heath Bits
  •  
    Plus

  • Fresh fruit(s) of choice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BLEND the cream cheese, brown sugar and powdered sugar with a hand mixer. Add the vanilla and the liqueur.

    2. BLEND in the caramel sauce and scoop into a serving dish. Top with the Heath Bits.
    Cut up apple (of your choice) to serve with dip.
     
     
    DESSERT: PUMPKIN LIQUEUR ICE CREAM #1

    Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin liqueur
  • 14 ounces can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups half and half
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BEAT the eggs with an electric mixer at medium speed. Gradually add the sugar while continuing to mix. Add the liqueur and condensed milk and mix well. Add the half-and-half and mix well.

     

    Caramel Fruit Dip
    [3] Serve your favorite fresh fruits with a pumpkin-caramel dip (photo courtesy BR Farms).

    Pumpkin Liqueur Ice Cream

    [4] There’s a good supply of store-bought pumpkin ice cream…but it doesn’t have liqueur (photo courtesy Dolcezza Gelato).

     
    2. POUR the mixture into the canister of a one-gallon ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. When finished churning, place the canister in the freezer and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving.
     
     
    DESSERT: PUMPKIN LIQUEUR ICE CREAM #2

    Soften store-bought pumpkin or vanilla ice cream until you can swirl in pumpkin liqueur. Mix and return to the freezer until ready to serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Replace Avocado Toast With Sweet Potato Toast

    Sweet Potato Toast
    [1] For fall, replace avocado toast with sweet potato toast (photo courtesy François Payard | New York).

    Balsamic Vinaigrette

    [2] Balsamic vinaigrette: so easy to make, we don’t understand why people buy it pre-made (photo courtesy Canola Eat Well).

     

    Chef François Payard has put a seasonal twist on the ubiquitous avocado toast: sweet potato toast!

    We love avocado toast, but sweet potato is a good seasonal variation.

    Chef Payard suggests that you top your morning toast with a layer of caramelized onions, balsamic vinaigrette and sliced roasted sweet potatoes. We re-created the recipe: It’s easy.

  • You can bake the potatoes the day before (or steam them to al dente), and warm them in the microwave prior to serving.
  • Garnish your toast with fresh herbs. Parsley is shown here, but you can use whatever you have.
  •  
    And although Chef Payard makes some of the most delicious pastries in the world, he starts the day well. Use whole wheat or mixed whole grain toast, he says.

    Make it a crusty loaf, we say.
     
     
    RECIPE: SWEET POTATO TOAST Ingredients

  • Crusty bread
  • Balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below) or a simple drizzle of balsamic vinegar
  • Caramelized onions (recipe)
  • Garnish: fresh herbs
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BAKE the sweet potatoes. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pierce each potato several times with the tines of a fork and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until al dente, about 35-40 minutes (test with the tines of a fork or the tip of a paring knife). When ready to serve…

    2. REMOVE the skins and slice the flesh into 1/2-inch circles.

    3. TOAST the bread. Spread the caramelized onions on the toast. Layer the potato slices on top; drizzle with the vinaigrette; garnish with the herbs and serve.

     
    BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE RECIPE

    Balsamic vinaigrette can be as simple as one part vinegar to two parts oil. Olive oil is classic; but if you like playing with different flavors, try an infused oil, a nut oil, or whatever you have on the shelf.

    For a more complex recipe, try this:

    RECIPE: DELUXE BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE combine the vinegar, mustard and garlic in a small bowl.

    2. ADD the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly; or emulsify in a blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
     
    Variations

  • Substitute pesto for the vinaigrette and fresh herbs.
  • Add a slice of gruyère or Swiss cheese on top of the toast; assemble and microwave for a few seconds to melt the cheese.
  • Combine slices of avocado and sweet potato for a fall leaf-turning effect.
  • Use black sesame seeds to make a jack o’lantern face on the center slice of sweet potato.
  •  
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: What’s The Best Candy For The Diet-Minded?

    October 31st is Halloween, and November 4th is National Candy Day. What’s a calorie-counting candy lover to do?

    Here are some of your best candy choices.

    Note that this is not permission to gorge on anything on the list. You should limit yourself to 150-calorie portions daily—and limit gorging to lettuce and celery.
     
     
    BEST CHOCOLATE CHOICES

  • Cacao Nibs: These are sold plain in health food stores, but SweetRiot chocolate-coated cacao nibs are more of a candy treat. The brand sells its nibs coated in 65% or 70% chocolate. Cacao beans, especially when eaten raw, are one of the highest antioxidant foods (however, roast them and coat them, and you lose a lot of “benefit.” You can find Sweet Riot at retailers nationwide.
  • Chocolate Bars: Choose bars that are 70% cacao and higher. The higher the percentage of cacao, the lower the amount of sugar. With milk chocolate the situation is reversed. You can have 70% cacao bars enhanced with nuts (but not “praline,” which adds sugar) or an “Aztec” chocolate bar, which adds chile and cinnamon spices.
  • Chocolate-Covered Fruits: From dried apricots to fresh strawberries, there are good choice here. Fresh fruit—apples, strawberries, orange peel and segments—are a better bet. Strawberries are particularly low in calories: They’re almost a freebie with the chocolate—and you can dip your own at home.
  • Chocolate-Covered Expresso Beans: The crunch of the roasted beans and the added caffeine make this confection popular among coffee lovers.
  • Chocolate-Covered Nuts & Seeds: Whatever nut you choose, you’re getting a hit of protein, fiber and healthy fats. Ditto with sunflower seeds. Look for artisan brands or head to your local chocolatier or natural foods retailer for a 70% cacao coating. Mass-market brands (Hershey’s, Nestlé, Mars, etc.) use high-sugar chocolate coatings. Still, in a choice between Goobers and a Milky Way, pick the Goobers.
  • York Peppermint Patties: We always have a Costco-size box of these on hand, and grab two or three when we need a chocolate fix. You can also melt them into a no-sugar-added hot chocolate or a glass of microwaved hot milk. The chocolate is both darker and higher quality than that of Junior Mints. While the York brand is now owned by Hershey’s, it has maintained the chocolate coating that its fans love.
  •  
     
    BEST HARD CANDIES

    Nutritionist Joy Bauer recommends hard candies, “because they automatically pace you. They take a while to finish (as long as you suck or lick, not chomp!), so you get to savor the sweetness for a bit and stretch your sugar calories.

    “As long as you limit yourself to a few pieces, you can’t do that much damage,” she concludes.

    Joy’s comments on her favorites in the category:

  • Atomic Fireballs: Unlike some addictive sugary candies that you can swallow by the handful, Atomic Fireballs are a great “one and done” candy option. They’re hard as a rock, so you can’t bite through them; and after you finish one flaming sucker, you’ll be ready to give your mouth a rest. One large, individually-wrapped Fireball has only 35 calories.
  • Lifesavers and Jolly Ranchers: Fruity Lifesavers have 15 calories, Jolly Rancher has 23 calories. Both are available in a wide variety of flavors.
  • See’s Gourmet Lollypops: In butterscotch, café latte, chocolate and vanilla, they’re 80 to 90 calories apiece.
  • Smarties: These have just 25 calories for an entire roll, a calorie bargain! (Note: It’s a skinny roll.)
  •  
     
    BEST CHEWY CHOICES

  • Australian or European Licorice: Unlike American brands, there is no HFCS or artificial flavors in Australian and most European licorice (they spell it liquorice). We don’t like the artificial-tasting domestic product, but we can’t get enough of brands like Kookaburra.
  • Florida’s Natural Au’some Treats: Joy Bauer likes Florida’s Natural Au’some Nuggets and Sour Strings because they’re made with more than 60% real fruit and fruit juices. A bonus: They come in pre-portioned, 50-calorie pouches. “These fruit chews are a terrific step up from sugary gummy bears and traditional fruit snacks,” she says.
  • Yummy Earth Sour Worms: These sugarcoated worms are made with organic fruit juice instead of high-fructose corn syrup. While “sour” means less sugar, note that sour candies have more acid (the “sour”), which can erode tooth enamel. So don’t eat to many; and if you can, brush afterward.
  •  
     
    WHAT ABOUT SUGAR-FREE CANDY?

     

    Kookaburra Allsorts Liquorice
    [1] For licorice lovers, Australian liquorice and European brands are better bets than American licorice (photo courtesy Kookaburra Licorice).

    Chocolate Covered Almonds
    [2] Chocolate lovers: Chocolate-covered nuts are a better choice than chocolate bars (photo of chocolate- and cocoa-covered almonds courtesy Charles Chocolates).

    Chocolate Covered Strawberries
    [3] The best choice may be chocolate-covered strawberries: low-calorie fruit and a thin coating of chocolate (photo courtesy Balducci’s).

    York Peppermint Minis
    [4] The chocolate coating on York Peppermint Patties is very good, and two or three minis do the track (photo courtesy Hershey’s).

    Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans

    [5] Coffee lover? These coffee-coated espresso beans (photo courtesy Superior Nut Store).

     
    Most of us have the impression that sugar-free candy is “better for you” than regular versions. The truth is that all candy, sugar-free or regular, can be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrate.

    Most healthcare professionals advise that it be limited to diabetics and those with other special needs, like too much tooth decay. Here’s more detail.

      

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