More than a month ago, Stel and Sha were witness to my obsession with custards at the time. I baked daan tart (Chinese egg tarts) - the delectable kind you find in dimsum trolleys. A Chinese dim sum cookbook (with English translations of course) was whipped out and I followed the recipe to the letter. My kids were eagerly awaiting the tarts, anxiously peering through the oven glass door. Five minutes after I took it out of the oven they were gobbling it up. They only ate one each and left the rest to completely cool off. But when it did it was met with "Yecchh! It's green !" Indeed, the custard turned greyish-green. Hahaha! It was all right when I tasted it but had that very unappetising colour of molting fungus. Did I overcook it? Could it be that the only ingredients of the custard are egg yolks and syrup? I didn't try to find out because I've just about given up on having a 'eureka' moment for daan tart (that was my fourth experiment).
Instead I turned my obession to egg pies. You know, that type of custard set on a pastry case. Of course my earliest memories of these would be the one you get from bakeries on the Philippines - less eggy more on the milky side set on sweet shortcrust crumbly pie shell with a very dark skin on top. Lately in my travels here and in France I would encounter something similar various names - creme tart, creme flan, nature flan, custard tart, etc. but it would always be that same custard on a pie crust. Although I have to admit the European model is more on the eggy side.
My search for a recipe in the internet started several years ago but I can't find a decent one. Then when I was flicking through various cookbooks that has been neglected gathering dust in the book shelves, I came upon Gordon Ramsay's Sunday Lunch cookbook. (Even though I abhor his constant swearing on the telly, his recipes has been very reliable, quite accurate and really works based on my experience.) He has in there a custard pie recipe which I didn't lose time in adapting and trying out. It turned very very successful ! At last my long lost egg pie/creme flan/creme tart I've found you !
I will have to make it another time without the beating of the egg whites. Let's see if adding whole eggs without beating it separately will result in the same delicious pie. Take note, this is not exactly like the commercial version we buy in the Phils. This is a more eggy version which for me is preferable. Try to use the best possible eggs and milk. If budget permits organic, go for it. As always, the quality will shine through the finished product.
* For the pastry:
125 g [1/2 cup] unsalted butter - at room temperature
90 g [1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp] caster sugar (superfine)
250 g [1 cup + 2/3 cup] plain flour
1 egg - beaten
1-2 Tbsp cold water
* For the filling:
2 1/3 cup milk
4 eggs - separated
100 g [1/2 cup] caster sugar (superfine)
1 1/2 Tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- To make the pastry:
- Combine flour and sugar in a bowl.
- Cut in the butter with two butter knives or a pastry cutter. Then rub in the butter with your fingers until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
- Mix in lightly the egg and knead the dough until it just about comes together. If necessary sprinkle cold water if the dough seems dry.
- Knead for a short while and form into a ball. Do not over knead or it will be difficult to roll out.
Wrap in plastic or cling film and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm it up.
- Roll out thinly on a floured table top to a circle about 12 inches in diameter.
- Line a 23 cm (9 inch) pie pan or fluted flan tin making sure to press the pastry well into the sides.
- Put the tin on a baking sheet and bake blind: line the pastry with foil and baking beans.
- Bake in a preheated oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F/gas mark 6 for 15 minutes.
- Remove foil and baking beans then return to oven to bake for another 5 minutes.
- Trim the excess pastry from the edge of the flan tin with a knife.
- To make the filling:
- Turn the oven temperature down to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
- In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and egg yolks.
- Stir in the milk into the mixture.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg white to soft peaks and fold gently into the milk/egg yolk mixture with a metal spoon.
- Place the pastry lined flan tin on a baking sheet.
- Pour the filling in the tin and bake for 20 minutes until the top is brown.
- Bring down oven temperature to 110C/fan 90C/250F and bake for a further 1 hour until the custard is just set. The centre should wobble a little.
- Remove from oven and cool completely.