Ever since I posted the Portuguese Egg Tart recipe a few weeks ago, I have been thinking how I can make improvements on it. After doing more searches and experiments with different recipes, baking temperatures, etc, I am very pleased with the final results.
All the tarts in the following experiment have been made using the same store bought puff pastry as the crust.
1) dimcookguide recipe: 2 egg yolks, 60g milk, 30g sugar and 60g heavy cream, bake at 350F, 20 mins
2) Egg Tart King recipe: 2 whole eggs, 60g milk, 280g water, 30g sugar and 5g heavy cream, bake at 446F, 18 minutes
3) morethanbread recipe: 2 egg yolks, 260g milk, 60g sugar and 60g heavy cream, 1 tbsp cornstarch, cook to thicken, bake at 485F, 30 minutes
4) morethanbread recipe: 2 egg yolks, 260g milk, 60g sugar but without heavy cream, 1 tbsp cornstarch, cook to thicken, bake at 485F, 30 minutes
Results and observations:
1) dimcookguide: a few brown spots, custard wrinkled and shrank after cooling, crust puffed up more than the others
2) egg tart king: watery custard, pale, custard sank significantly, turning concave
3) morethanbread recipe with heavy cream: good brown spots, crispy and thin crust with silky custard
4) morethanbread recipe without heavy cream: no significant difference compared to 3)
1) Baking temperature: Portuguese egg tarts have to be baked at a high temperature for those iconic burnt spots or splotches to appear. The high temperature also prevents the crust from puffing too much (as seen in the dimcookguide recipe).
2) Ingredients in the custard: In order to prevent the custard from sinking after baking, the addition of cornstarch is essential because it has an stabilizing effect. Water is a no no in the recipe (as in all other pastry making) because it dilutes the custard. Egg yolk is preferred over whole eggs in making the custard. And as long as there is a lot of milk in the custard, cream may be omitted. The milk protein, casein, is what turns into the brown spots on top.
This is my take on the classic Italian dessert panna cotta. It means "cooked cream" in Italian and is very much like a Western version of a popular Chinese dessert, steamed eggs with milk. By adding two other flavors--raspberry and chocolate mousse--I have created a new combination that compliments each other and at the same time adds depth to the flavor. With the right amount of gelatin to firm up the liquid, the texture of the panna cotta becomes delicately smooth and silky. They are served in small glasses of the perfect serving size. Mmm....yummy!
Since there are three layers and they all need to be refrigerated and set before adding another one, a bit of patience is needed. It can be prepared one to two days before serving.
First Layer: Panna Cotta
1) Slice open the vanilla bean with a paring knife and scrape the seeds out. Put the seeds and the pod with heavy cream, whole milk, and sugar in a small pot. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let it steep for 15 minutes. Remove the pod. Rinse, dry, and store for another use.
2) Sprinkle the gelatin into a small bowl with 2 tsp of water. Let it bloom for 5 minutes, then microwave briefly to dissolve the gelatin.
3) Add to the warm milk and mix well. Pour into the glasses and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until set.
Second Layer: Dark Chocolate Mousse
1) Beat egg yolks in a small bowl with a handheld mixer for a few minutes.
2) In another pot, bring water and sugar to a boil. Then, pour into the egg with the mixer running. Continue to beat until the mixture has cooled to room temperature.
3) Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.
4) Beat heavy cream in another bowl until it holds soft peaks.
5) Sprinkle gelatin into a small bowl with 2 tsp of water. Let it bloom for a few minutes. Microwave briefly to dissolve. Add to the egg and stir well.
6) Pour the egg mixture into the melted chocolate and mix well to incorporate.
7) Fold the chocolate mixture into the heavy cream until well mixed.
8) Pour or pipe on top of the panna cotta layer and refrigerate until set.
Third Layer: Raspberry Mousse
1) Blend raspberries into puree. Strain into a bowl and discard the solid waste.
2) Put sugar and puree into a pot and heat briefly until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
3) Sprinkle gelatin into a small bowl with 3 tsp of water. Let it bloom for a few minutes. Microwave briefly to dissolve.
4) Beat heavy cream to soft peaks.
5) Add the dissolved gelatin to the puree and mix well. Add to the beaten cream and mix well.
6) Add on top of the other two layers and refrigerate for a few hours or until set. Serve cold.
1) To make 81g raspberry puree, you will need to double the amount of raspberry, approximately 162g. Fresh or frozen fruit can be used.
2) It is important to follow the instructions on how to melt gelatin. Do not directly put the powder gelatin into a hot liquid. It will clump and become difficult to dissolve. Gelatin sheet is more user friendly: soften it in cold water and put it directly into warm liquid.
A few years ago when I took a trip to Hong Kong, I also had a chance to visit Macau. The infamous Portuguese custard tart was the number one food on my list to try out. My friend in Macau brought me to Lord Stow's Bakery, which is extremely popular with the tart. The multi-layered puff pastry is crispy and the filling is silky and full of egg flavor.
After coming back to Los Angeles, I tried tarts that were made in different local bakeries and restaurants. They were very disappointing and did not come close to the original and authentic ones so I decided to do some research and experiment on my own.
The original name of this cake is prajitura desteapta which means "smart cake" in Romanian. This cake is also often referred to as magic cake because there are different layers and textures baked from one single batter. As you bite into the cake, you will be amazed by the different textures. I was intrigued by it and started to search for the rationale behind it.
The way it is prepared is basically the same as any chiffon or sponge cake. The eggs are separated from the yolks, which are mixed with the sugar, fat, liquid and flour while the whites are beaten to stiff peaks. Then the two are reunited and baked.
What makes it different from ordinary cake is the temperature of the oven and the amount of liquid. I am always amazed by how understanding the science can make one a better baker.
How can I describe this cake? It's moist and light. It melts in your mouth and is full of chocolate flavor. The addition of almond gives it a nutty flavor, and the cake isn't too sweet....in one word: delightful!
The original name of this cake is called Queen of Sheba. The recipe is one of the renowned chef Julia Child's. But unfortunately I forgot which cookbook it was published in. : (
I did make some adjustments, not to the ingredients, but as to how they are put together.
Buy the best chocolate you can get your hands on as it is the major ingredient and it does make a big difference to the quality of the cake.
These bite sized mini tarts are perfect to be served at a party without the hassle and mess of cutting a whole tart. Many people seem to enjoy finger foods more! The tart crust can be prepared one to two days ahead of time and the filling can be piped in the same day of serving.
This has been the longest stretch since my last post on 2/10/15. What I have been doing for the past month? I took a vacation to visit family and meet some friends whom I have lost contact with for more than two decades. It is a great feeling to reconnect with old friends and catch up with each others' lives.
What is most precious is after all these years we still treasure our friendship.
Believe or not, this is my first post on cupcakes. Although cupcakes have been popular for such a long time, for some reason I am not into this trend. My food critics at home have been bugging me to make cupcakes for a long time. I yielded to their requests when I saw this recipe on King Arthur's blog. It is a twist on the classic tiramisu, building on a cupcake.
I modified the recipe quite a bit and made it my own version with significantly less sugar. I call it an adult cupcake.