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May 2010

In Recipe, Yum Cha on
May 4, 2010

Egg Custard Tarts

It’s not actually a thousand layers…..probably around a hundred

Apparently, girls are better than guys at multitasking. But if all guys are worse than me at multitasking, then I truly fear for the human race……..

For instance, unlike most others I know, I cannot listen to music and do homework at the same time, much less watch TV (or blog….tehehe) – I get to caught up in the other thing and just ignore the homework (although that may be only because it’s homework…..).

Another thing I cannot do is bake more than one thing at a time. This is not to say I don’t do so regularly (hehe…) but when I do, things just don’t come out quite right…….

I like to make more than one thing at once for many reasons. For one thing, I don’t actually have that much time to bake- especially since I take so long to make things (I almost always take longer than estimated time on the recipe). My ever growing list of things to make means that unless I multitask, I will still be up to item number 25 when I die. Also, many recipes that I make require awfully short oven times and I don’t like to waste this precious heat, especially if I’ve taken longer to preheat the oven than to bake whatever I’m baking. Although I admit, I don’t actually properly preheat my oven…….hehe

I’ve had plenty of bad experiences with multitasking so I really should have known that trying to bake a cake and make egg tarts at the same time was not a good idea. Especially since I was planning to make a layered egg tart pastry (like puff pastry) and a decorated cake. Needless to say, the cake didn’t end up being decorated properly and the egg tarts didn’t turn out too good.
The cake was originally going to be for a friend, and I had planned to cut it into a cute cartoon shape and then cover it with fondant. I thought it would be simple:
Making the cake: 30 minutes
Baking the cake: 30 minutes
Icing the cake: 10 minutes
Making the fondant + covering with fondant= 1 hour MAX

So at maximum I would spend 2 hours and ten minutes making the cake, which isn’t very long in my time because I had left half a day to make it. Since I was in the kitchen anyway, why not make something else? ……………………….like egg tarts!

Thousand layer egg custard tarts are not my favourite dim sum dessert but seeing that it was possible to create the many layers after reading about it on a couple of blogs, I was interested in trying so myself. Although I had made puff pastry (once) before, that did not turn out too successfully so I was still a little scared about making the dough. It sounded fun enough though- I like fiddly recipes =]

The last time I made puff pastry, I’d spent about 10 minutes just on the rolling out of the dough, putting the butter in, rolling out etc. etc only to look at a video minutes later, to see that the people in the video only took about half a minute to do each turn and then BAM, back it went into the fridge. I was determined to speed myself up a bit this time and successfully completed the first turn in about 3 minutes or so……still slow but I guess it’s progress! I happily rolled the dough out for my second turn/fold, rolling it out until it was large enough to fold (this was not as easy as it sounds…..) when I lifted one end of the dough and then…………I rememebered

I forgot to reflour the surface!
Part of the dough had stuck to the surface of the table as a result of my slightly light flouring which meant all the flour from before had stuck onto the dough so the work surface had barely and flour left on it. Which was exactly the same mistake I made last time. And this was terrible because that meant the bit of dough separating the fat from the next layer of fat was GONE and this meant that the layers wouldn’t be perfect any more!!!

After recovering from this horrible realisation, I tried to slowly peel the dough off the table- luckily it had only stuck onto the table at two places and the holes were relatively small. I did what I did last time, and covered the holes with a lot of flour and kept going knowing that the result wouldn’t be too great and making sure I floured the table a lot each time. I think the sticking of the dough onto the table made the dough weak (it was wrinkly…) because I kept getting holes after that (just like the first time I made puff pastry) no matter how much I floured the table- the holes were forming just from the rolling out of the dough! I eventually lost count of how many times I rolled and folded the dough (I think it ended up being around 5 times) so I don’t know how many layers it ended up being- but definitely far from a thousand =]. When I rolled the dough out to cut into circles, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the layers were still there, even if not perfect and you could actually see them!

Now. What happened to that cake I was talking about before?? I chose this time to quickly whip up a simple buttercake, which didn’t take me long because I’d made it a few times before. It went pretty smoothly and then I divided the batter into a round mould and a rectangular swiss roll pan because I needed to cut it into the shape of a cartoon character. I figured a swiss roll pan would be better than a rectangular pan because it would save on baking time and I could easily cut them into rectanlge and stack them instead of baking a rectangular cake and having to slice it into layers.

So off the custard tarts and the rectangular cake went into the oven- the cake, I figured, would only need about 5-10minutes. In which time, I could quite fry a pad thai! Yeah. You can probably see where this is going. I’d made it the night before but I had some sauce left and some noodles so all it require was for me to get everything out and fry it for a couple of minutes. I made sure to check the oven at 5 mintues- the cake batter was still liquidy. At 8 minutes, it was still far from done. So I went on with my pad thai frying…….until about 15 minutes, I realised that I had completely forgotten about my cake! It had, by then, turned a dark brown and I knew instantly, I could not use it. Cutting into it, I realised it was hard. Actually, the texture was much like a cookie and it tasted like a really nice cookie too =] I had no problem eating up all of the baked-for-too-long cake but it ruined my plans for the cake I would bring to my friend’s place. I ended up baking the round cake and just covering it with pink buttercream for a ‘pink and fluffy’ cake.

And the egg custard tarts? I ended up baking them for about 10 minutes more than the recipe said to because the pastry didn’t look done after 20 minutes and was much too white. This however, meant that the custard was overcooked- and overcooked custard is not nice. Especially the smooth sily custard is supposed to be a main feature of chinese egg custard tarts. The pastry was layered, but in a weird way- the layers just would not adhere to each other! They fell off one layer at a time, so the pastry ended up much like patty cases…….The pastry also lacked the slight crispiness that you would normally find in egg tarts. Not sure if that was the recipe or me……

Overall, I guess it was a BIG FAILURE apart from the fact that the pastry was layered.

I think I’ve learnt my lesson now =]

So here’s the recipe from Cafe of the East. The recipe wouldn’t let me copy and paste but that’s okay because I can type 😉 But I figured the author didn’t really want me to copy it exactly, so I figured I should try and write it out the way I did it -hence the dodgy instructions. If you’re thinking of making these, I would suggest for you to read the original recipe =]

Flaky Egg Custard Tarts

150g white sugar
200mL water
2 eggs
50mL evaporated milk

1. Bring water to boil. Add in sugar and mix until dissolved, leave to cool.
2. Combine 150mL of the cooled syrup, beaten eggs and evaporated milk

Water Dough
80 gm plain flour
5g milk powder
6g custard powder
1 egg yolk
10g lard
12g icing sugar
~40g water

Short Dough
100g plain flour
100g lard

1. Mix all the dry ingredients of the water dough and then slowly add water until a soft but not sticky dough is formed. Knead in the lard. Cover with cling wrap and chill in fridge for 20 mins.
2. Mix the flour and the lard for the short dough. It will be sticky. Cover and refrigerate this too, for around 20 minutes until it has hardened.
3. To make the pastry, you’d probably be better off referring to the original recipe or rather, the illustration provided here on how to make it.
4. Roll the pastry into roughly a 30cmx35cm rectangle. Using round cutters (I used a bowl) cut round circles large enough to fit into the egg tart moulds. You probably want to cut it so that you can still see the layers around the edges….
5 Preheat the oven to 240C(or as high as your oven can go. Put the fluted tart moulds onto a baking sheet. Line each mould with the pastry and fill up to 80% full with the custard filling.
6. Put the egg tarts in the oven and turn the temperature down to 200C celcius and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 180C and bake for a further 10 minutes or until they’re done.

In Hong Kong, Travel on
May 1, 2010

Hong Kong, part 1

When I was young, my mother would often take me to Hong Kong to visit my grandparents and relatives there. I didn’t think too much of it then- you never really appreciate things until you get older. Now I love going there, although my visits have become less and less frequent as a result of the difficulty of taking days off school (since the airfares in the school holidays are too expensive).

Of course, food is a major highlight as it is much more affordable to eat out than here in Australia. On average a meal there costs about $15-20 for the four of us. Not surprisingly, we eat out for at least two meals everyday. Being a food blogger, I brought my camera with me and took shots of food whenever I could (although only when I was dining with my parents) At first, I was afraid I would get told off by people at restaurants but I got no response (or maybe I snapped the photos too quickly for anyone to notice, hence the poor quality of the photos). It was really interesting though, when we got home to look back at what we ate- time flies too quickly when you’re having fun to remember what you eat!

Breakfast at the Airport

Waking up early to make it in time for the plane was not the best way to begin a holiday especially as not enough sleep + a 9 hour plane ride= BAD plane sickness. I get awfully plane sick (hence no pictures of planes anywhere!) and spend most of the trip there either sleeping or looking/feeling dead. I really envy those who can eat on planes because I can’t even stand the smell of plane food- it makes me vomit. Although not as much now that I’m a BIG girl =] (although it may have something to do with the travel sickness pills I take………)

I recover from plane sickness quickly once I get off the plane and away from the airport, and my lack of eating for so long leaves my tummy very empty, but not for long……

Egg Waffles, $7 HK (~$1 AUD)

It was winter when we visited (hehe……yes this was 5 months ago) and with the occasional bursts of coldness, street food is very comforting and convenient whenever we feel hungry. Asian waffles are extremely popular and we witness many people lining up for hot crunchy waffles whilst they’re being made. I’ve never had these as I prefer the egg waffles, which, I suspect is made from the same (or at least a similar) batter to the other waffles as they look the same. When freshly made, the exterior is crispy with a soft, slightly cakey centre. The sweet and eggy taste makes them taste slightly like pancakes- although these are better =] A couple are made in advance, I guess for the convenience, but they cool down quite quickly and are usually warm when purchased. They are awfully good though, even when warm and I just wish I could try one hot! Sadly, every time I buy one, there’s already a premade one =[ Some stalls also sell them in different flavours such as taro, chocolate and sesame although they’ve always run out when I want one =[ *sigh* I have such bad luck with these things……

Red Bean + Green tea waffles $13 (~$2 AUD) from Coco Sweets, which, I suspect is somewhat affiliated with Beard Papa’s

When I saw these waffles sandwiched with a selection of cream fillings, neatly packaged in clear plastic wrap, sitting elegantly with a selection of cakes and desserts, I had to have one. With so many flavours to choose from, I spent a couple of minutes just choosing which one to have. Since I love foods with an Asian twist so I chose the red bean and green tea waffle which was advertised as a ‘crispy waffle’. The waffle was cold, as it had a cream filling which had to be refrigerated so maybe this was why, when I took my first bite, I was severely disappointed to find out that it was any BUT crispy. The texture was like a hybrid of asian and western waffles- it was slightly breadier than the asian waffles I had on the streets but still had a sort of cakiness to it……. The ratio of waffle to cream was much too low and left the mouth filled with cream. As much as I love cream, it made the waffle taste really weird and even with four people, we didn’t end up finishing it and had to throw it away. I think I’ll stick with the crispy waffles from the streets =]

With the coldness of the winter, hot food is something that will never fail to attract me, no matter how full I am. Roaming around on the streets of Yuen Long, we passed an interesting looking cart which advertised a bowl of noodles for $10 ($1.50 AUD). With the freezing coldness, we decided to buy a bowl, despite the fact that we were making our way to dinner anyway. Turns out the cart was only part of the marketing plan to lure customers in. They made us pay in the store! After we paid a large bowl of noodles was ladled up from a huge pot and given it to us. Eating noodles on the streets is terribly difficult- taking a photo of a hot noodles in the middle of an overcrowded street is even more difficult so excuse my poor photography here! The noodles are smooth and thin, the bowl is full of various different ingredients and the broth is awfully flavoursome.

We later stumble past this little snack shop on the streets (as we make our way to dinner….tehehe) which sells a variety of little things- bread, dumplings, sweets etc. We buy two buns (pan fried buns) which are still warm, and so delicious in the cold weather that we would buy more, if it weren’t for dinner waiting for us.

The store is very small and cramped- it’s only about the size of a store in the food court but has clear windows so we can watch the food as it is being made. What’s interesting is that they have a huge pan to pan fry almost anything such as these potstickers!

A barbecue is a great way to catch up with friends and relatives so it we always have one with our relatives whenever we come to Hong Kong. Although this place is old and may look as though you’ve entered Stonehenge, we’ve been going to this place for ages and ages and any attempts to change the location have always been hindered by something. It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and to travel here requires a trip on a public van which only comes here once every half an hour or so and sometimes even longer than that. Going home takes forever.

We arrive bright and early as the barbecues get taken quickly. We save two as our group is pretty big. The males start up the barbecue- I’m not sure how but it’s got something to do with fire, coal, and a lot of fanning with newspapers.

The Hong Kong style barbecue is quite different to the Aussie one- it’s more like the cooking marshmallows on a stick on a campfire type thing I’ve seen in movies. We bring our own food, coal and forks to the place and when the barbecue is up and burning, we stick food onto the ends of our barbecue forks and cook them over the flame. The food can be anything really, but there are almost always fish balls and sausages. We try to be a little creative with the food and get things which we can’t buy in Australia.

Barbecuing does require a certain degree of skill because you have to cook all the sides evenly. And if you’re not paying attention, your food may end up burnt like this.

The kids will usually cook the food so that’s it’s burnt on one side and raw on the other. And then give up halfway and go off to play whilst their parents cook the food for them…….not that I’m talking from self experience…………..=]

Getting certain foods into the fork can also be quite a challenge because some foods have awfully tough skins. My uncle poked holes into the eel beforehand which made it easier to put onto the fork, although finding the holes proved to be a difficult task in itself (but definitely easier than trying to poke through the eel). Eels work very well with the barbecue- it cooks relatively quickly and the skin goes really crispy, as does the exterior.

We had intended on ordering a suckling pig to cook but carrying a suckling pig across Hong Kong was a difficult task so we got pigeons instead. The barbecue meat shops sell cooked pigeons (I think they’re cooked in soy sauce) and so we only have to barbecue them until the skin goes crispy. I like to cook my food extremely slowly, and I manage to cook this pigeon in the time my uncle cooks two…….I don’t even know how I cook it so slowly! The pigeons are delicious though! The skin is really really crispy and the pigeon is really hot by the time it’s done. I like to eat it with my hands, although it gets awfully messy with all the oils (pigeon is pretty oily…) The pigeons are really filling though, but this doesn’t stop me from eating two =]

………Now, what’s a packet of pads doing at a barbecue?

They’re actually marshmallows! Tehehe……
We wanted to play a trick on our cousin but it didn’t work because he’d seen it before =[but we figured marshamllows would make a good snack, OR we could barbecue them. I bought another pack of these to trick my firends- it was very fun! A packet of these aren’t cheap though (I think it costed ~$9 AUD for a packet)….and it took us ages to find a shop which stocks them.

Turtle soup

Just to try something different, we visit a snake shop in Hong Kong ( don’t know what the name of the shop is…..) It’s small and cramped and very old, but that doesn’t stop the customers from coming. It’s hard to miss the shop- they have a huge tank at the entrance with live snakes. They good for scary children……..’if you’re naughty, we’ll let the snakes out on you!’….hehe The walls are filled with newspaper articles and photos of celebrities eating their slightly ‘famous’ snake soup (蛇羹).

Supposedly, snake soup is healthy, as is turtle soup, another thing they sell. We order that to try but to me, it tastes like a really ordinary salty soup…..

Snake Soup

The large bowl of snake soup is around $50 HK ($7 AUD) if I remember correctly…..and we share one between two of us, incase we (me and my sister) don’t like it. At first, it seems like any other thick soup I’ve had- with lots of mushrooms and pork, all cut long and stringy. I struggle to find the snake in it, until I ask my parents and see strands of strange looking things (which, might I add, look nothing like snake) of which you can barely taste. The soup is not bad, although I was disappointed that it didn’t feel like eating snake……