Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Most Ambitious Session: Flaky Egg Tarts



I must be crazy to try these 2 challenging bakes on the same day. Puff pastry and macarons: the must-try for all avid bakers, among other baking techniques. I've always wanted to try making puff pastry as I've always like freshly baked chicken puffs and thick creamy soup with puff pastry on top. But researching online on puff pastry puts me off with trying it out due to the amount of butter used and the difficult technique in making it. Feeling adventurous, I decided to try it out this week.
For puff pastry, it is very time-consuming as the dough needs to be relaxed and chilled for 30 minutes in between folding. Since there is lots of waiting time in between, I've decided to try out another recipe. Feeling even more adventurous, I decided on macarons: every baker's dream. Even though I'm pretty sure I will definitely fail in my maiden attempt, I went ahead to try it.



I used the recipe from my favourite Chinese blog. From the pictures, I realised that his macarons are pretty flat. I'm no maracon expert but from his recipe, I thought the ratio of dry ingredients to egg white is lower than other recipes, and the whites needs to be beaten to stiff, which was quite surprising to me. Nevertheless, I tried out his recipe as the instructions were very detailed with pictures attached, which were very helpful to me, and most important, the recipe only uses one egg white!

I used my mum's blender to grind the ground almond and icing sugar to fine powder. It took me quite a while as the blender is not very efficient, and I had problems sieving the ground mixture. I beat the whites manually since it only uses one egg white. I've never had good experience with beating egg whites till stiff as folding stiff whites is a nightmare, with stubborn lumps refusing to blend into the mixture. I decided not to follow the recipe to a T and beat it to soft peaks, but still able to hold its shape when the bowl is inverted. This was probably a bad choice, as the mixture was quite runny after folding in the dry ingredients. Somehow it doesn't look like the "lava flow" batter I saw online.

I piped onto the parchment paper using a small tip. As the batter was runny, the circles spread quickly and were flatter than I expected. Perhaps the recipe was meant to make flatter shells? Anyway, after airing for 30 minutes I baked it at 180 deg C, as indicated in the recipe. The feet formed quickly but the shells cracked! The only one which didn't crack was the one at the corner of my baking pan. My guess was: the temperature was too high. Perhaps I should have lowered to 140 deg C immediately when the feet forms. To make matters worse, I underbaked the batch and the shells were stuck to the parchment paper with a wet center.



For the second batch, I baked it initially at 160 deg C and immediately lowered to 140 deg C when I saw the feet forming. I baked for a longer time and removed them when the shells started to turn brown. But still, it feels a little underdone. Most of the shells turn out well,l except one, which cracked in the oven. But unmoulding the shells was a disaster. I cracked 2 while trying to peel them off. I suspect because it was not baked properly. Even though I used dark bitter chocolate as the fiilling, the macarons were extremely sweet. In the end, all of them went into the bin.

Ingredients (makes 14 3cm shells):
35 g ground almond
65 icing sugar
35 g egg white (1 large egg white)
15 g caster sugar

Method:
  1. Grind almond with icing sugar until fine. Sift mixture.
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy. Add in caster sugar and beat till stiff peaks form (I beat to soft peaks stage).
  3. Add in almond and icing sugar mixture and fold till well incorporated.
  4. Pipe mixture into 3 cm circles.
  5. Let circles air dry for 30 mins. If the batter does not stick to your finger when touched, it is ready to be baked.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 180 deg C for about 6-8 mins until feet forms. Lower temperature to 140 deg C and bake for further 25 mins. (I baked mine at 160 deg C until feet forms, then lower to 140 deg C.)
  7. Peel off shells from parchment paper when fully cooled.
Adapted and translated from Junzhi's 马卡龙(杏仁蛋白糖饼).




Inspired by KFC's portugese egg tarts, I decided to try out a flaky egg tart from the same blog. The technique used here is similar to the puff pastry techique where butter is folded into the dough and the dough is folded over and over to form alternating layers of butter and dough.
I have read of the horrors of making puff pastry: dough tearing, butter oozing out, butter melting into the dough. Unfortunately, I struggled with all of the above. I didn't have the mood to take pictures of the procedure and the process of me making it can only be described with the Chinese idiom "慘不忍睹". The dough was so difficult to handle, I only managed to make 3 tarts even though the recipe was for 6 tarts.

Surprisingly, the pastry still manages to puff up nicely. But seeing the butter oozing out in the oven, I told myself I won't be making this anytime soon, unless I want to gain 20 kg and get a heart artery blocked.

Ingredients (makes 5-6):
Crust:
110 g plain flour
25 g egg (1/2 an egg)
55 ml water (or less, depends on consistency of dough)
7 g butter, softened
7 g caster sugar
63 g butter (for wrapping)

Filling:
25 g egg (I used about 20 g egg + 1 egg yolk)
33 ml milk (I used 60 ml)
20 g sugar

Method:
  1. For crust, mix all ingredients (except the butter for wrapping) and gather into a dough. Place in fridge for 30 mins.
  2. Place 63 g of butter for wrapping into a plastic bag and roll into a rectangle. (I mixed butter with 2 tsp bread flour to absorb moisture). Place in fridge until harden.
  3. Roll dough from step 1 into a rectangle twice the length and slightly longer breadth than the rectangle butter.
  4. Place rectangle butter on one side of the dough. Fold the other side of the dough over the butter. Seal seams to prevent butter from leaking.
  5. Tap on the dough gently with a rolling pin to lengthen the dough. Roll lightly to form a rectangle.
  6. Fold both sides of the dough toward the centre. Fold the dough into half. This makes the first 4-fold. Place dough into the fridge for 30 mins.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 to make the second 4-fold. Place in fridge for 30 mins.
  8. Repeat step 5, and this time round, fold the dough into thirds. Place in fridge for 30 mins.
  9. Roll dough to 0.3 cm thickness. Cut into circles. Place in the fridge to relax for 20 mins.
  10. To prepare filling: heat sugar with milk until sugar dissolves. Add egg and strain mixture.
  11. Mold circles into tart pan, making sure the dough is taller than the pan.
  12. Pour filling in until 70% full.
  13. Bake in preheated oven at 220 deg C for 20 mins.
Recipe adapted and translated from Junzhi's 酥皮蛋挞.


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