Oh how to fill in a day off without Mr O hovering about?  Well, sometime earlier this morning I came up with the brilliant idea of making my own dan tats.  To be serious… I have no idea what I was even thinking!  I’m not exactly the most avid (nor skilled for that matter) baker… but admittedly, it’s been a long while since my last dan tat and I had a sudden craving for it.  And since the nearest Chinese bakery is a good 5-6 hours drive from where I am, if I wanted some then I had better learn to make them myself!

First, let me tell you a bit about this lil mouthful of heaven… dan tats are essentially egg custard tarts that are found aplenty in any reputable Hong Kong style bakery, and is served hot, not room temperature like a western style custard tart.  You can find dan tats in 2 different types of crusts: shortcrust and puff pastry.  And I had a helluva time finding  a recipe… I cannot believe how elusive the recipe to this sweet and savoury Cantonese treat is!!

After much surfing through the world wide web, I finally came across a YouTube video with step-by-step instructions.  Here is her recipe:

Dat Tat crust:

  • 200g flour
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 egg, beatened
  • 100g butter, room temperature
  • 1-2tbsp cold water

Dan Tat filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 100ml water, hot
  • 80g sugar
  • 100ml milk

So you’ll notice that the ingredient contents is by *weight*… I know I sure did!  Already I’m feeling way over my head… but the girl in the video made it look so easy!  Luckily, I found a small scale on sale many moons ago and bought it on a whim.  This is the first time I get to use it… but I had to find it first…

Before I began, I took the hot water from the filling’s ingredients and stirred into it the sugar so that it would be dissolved by the time I was ready for it.  Set it aside and begin to work on the dough.

...scaling...

First of all, this dough is the shortcrust variety.  And it started off easily enough… first I blended the flour and sugar together, then added in the butter and mixed until it was all crumbly, then added in the egg.  It was terribly dry looking  after a few minutes of kneading before I added in the cold water.  As soon as I did it became this watery mushy mess which threw me into a full blown panic mode… zOMG!!  What did I just do?!  I killed my dough!

But to my relief, as I continued to knead the dough eventually smoothed right out and became a proper consistency again.  It was still nowhere near as smooth looking as the one in the video, and it looked terribly greasy.  Perhaps I was off in one of my measurements?  I had no idea what to do.  Had I been a more experienced baker I probably would’ve known what the problem was and how to rectify it… but alas I wasn’t, so I kneaded for another few minutes and hoped for the best.

I stuck the bowl into the fridge while I put the filling together, and it was at this point I pre-heated the oven.  For some reason I had it in my head to bake these at 400F, but later as I was re-watching the video, I saw that she had the oven set to 350F.  Oopsies!!

The filling is super easy to make.  Beat the eggs well, then add in the sugar-water mixture and milk, and beat some more.  Pour everything through a sieve to get all the gunky eggy parts out.  Keep the custard mixture in a measuring cup for easy pouring.

Now comes the hard part… the assembly of the tart shells!  I found some foil tart tins at a dollar store some time ago and brought those out.  I brushed very lightly with butter so that the finished product won’t stick to the surface, but now I’m wondering if I had to since the dough was so buttery to begin with!

To make it easier, I rolled the dough into a huge log and sliced them into 10 equal pieces.  I placed each dough disc into the bottom of a foil tin and, using the thumbs of both my hands, began to painstakingly press the dough up along the sides of the shell.  Be diligent, you want the layer of crust to be even, particularly along the bottom edges.  Once I was done all 10 tins, I pricked along the bottoms with a fork to let air escape during baking so that it doesn’t puff up and spill the custard everywhere.

Place all your tins onto a baking tray and fill with the egg mixture.  Carefully slide it onto the middle rack of your oven and let bake for 20-25 minutes.  I checked in on them after 20 minutes and saw that there was some uneven heat flow going on in my oven as half the tray was ready and the other half wasn’t, so I rotated the tray by 180 degrees and let it bake for another 5 minutes.  They came out perfect!  (Even despite being baked at a higher temperature!)

...into the oven we go...

...dan tats fresh out of the oven!...

The kitchen smells really good by this point and I carefully transferred the tarts onto a cooling tray… I was so anxious to try them!  Now, the egg custard is quite puffy looking when they first come out of the oven, but they do settle down once they’re cooled.

...cooled and ready to eat...

...yummo!...

The crust ended up much thicker than I’d like them to be… they’re usually quite a bit thinner at the bakeries.  But boy did these end up tasting good!  I will definitely try to make these again, but I think next time I will try to yield 12 tarts out of this recipe.

Now I just have to find a good recipe for the puff pastry version and then all will be well in my world!