Remember the eggs I got from Lauri? Remember I thought such special eggs deserve special treatment? Well, I turned some of them into macarons. Can’t get any more special than that, don’t you think?
I will give the recipe for these macarons in a separate post, so this one won’t be too long. Macarons are one those things that require a bit of an explanation to make.
The rest of the eggs were made into these yummies.
Egg custard tarts, gougères, and eggs en cocotte.
Egg custard tarts are TB’s favorite. They are not to be found anywhere else, except in Chinese bakeries. No trip to Chinatown is complete without buying these tarts. I don’t know why I haven’t tried making any before. They shouldn’t be too hard. I’ve made pies many times, including custard pies. These are just miniature versions, nothing more.
Don’t say that to Hong Kong or Macau residents, though. These tarts are beloved there. So much that Kentucky Fried Chicken in the area has added them on their menu, as a dessert choice. If you ever visit Hong Kong, you should try egg tarts from Tai Cheong’s bakery. I had to endure some waiting in line before I was able to get my hands on the famous silky smooth tarts, the one time I went there!
I don’t know if my tarts turned out as exceptional as Tai Cheong’s, but they were pretty darn good! And best of all, my kitchen briefly turned into a bakery while I was making them. A sweet buttery aroma was wafting throughout the air, compelling the family to investigate. They wouldn’t leave the kitchen until they got their hands on the tarts.
This recipe should make 10 small-sized tarts like the ones sold in bakeries, but my tart molds were tiny, so I was able to make 14 miniature ones.
At first I thought I would have leftovers for the next day, so I can eat them cold, the way I prefer to eat a custard pie. But, nope. TB wolfed down 3 in one sitting, and when I told him to pace himself, he politely took just 2 more and set them next to his keyboard, to be eaten while chatting online with friends.
In the end, there was no leftover. Might as well, they really are better enjoyed warm.
You have a few options. You can use puff pastry, sweet pastry crust, or regular pie crust. My preference is for the first, which I can easily pick up from the store. Tai Cheong’s tarts, however, had some kind of sweet pastry crust. And sweet pastry crust is not hard to make. So, I decided to give it a try.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled
2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1. In a food processor, mix flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse to combine.
2. Cut butter to pieces. Add to the flour, and pulse until mixture is crumbly.
3. Add the egg and continue pulsing until mixture begins to clump together.
4. Remove dough and place in a mound on a clean surface. Gently shape the dough mixture into a ball, then flatten it into a disk. Try not to overwork the dough, to avoid tough crust. Cover dough with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.
5. Once chilled, divide the dough into equal portions, and press each into a tart mold, so that it covers the bottom and sides of the mold.
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks + 1 whole egg
2/3 cup milk (I used 1%, but you can use whole milk.)
1 tbsp cream
1. Warm milk on low heat. Dissolve sugar in the warm milk. Set aside to cool.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk milk and eggs together. Add the cream and vanilla. Stir.
3. Strain mixture to remove any lump or foam. The foam causes the custard to form a crust while being baked, preventing a silky smooth result. (I learned that the hard way. The tarts still tasted good, just not pretty.)
Preheat oven to 375° F. Place tart shells on a cookie sheet. Pour filling into tart shells. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the custard filling puffs up a little. Do not over bake. It’s okay if the filling still jiggles; it will set. Trust me.
After turning the eggs into 2 kinds of dessert, I thought the rest should get the savory treatment.
You can make these any size you like. I like making them into two-bite sized puffs, about 2 inches in diameter. They are good served warm as an appetizer or snack, as they are. Or you can split them in half, and stuff them with chicken ragout, my family’s favorite way of enjoying these cheese puffs.
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese, and more for sprinkling.
Freshly grated nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. Combine water, milk, and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough forms.
3. Continue stirring until it dries out and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 2 minutes.
4. Scrape the dough into a bowl; let cool for 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating thoroughly between each one, until mixture is smooth and glossy.
5. Add the cheese and a pinch nutmeg, mix well.
6. Transfer the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a wide plain tip and pipe the dough into rounded mounds, about 1½ inches in diameter, evenly spaced apart.
7. Sprinkle more cheese on top and bake for 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
After all that, would you believe there were still 4 eggs left? Just exactly what was needed for our breakfast. Isn’t life perfect?
Really, just eggs cooked in little pots or ramekins. I’m not aware of any other meaning of the word “cocotte.” Ask a French person if you really want to know.
In its simplest form, these are just baked eggs with cream and perhaps cheese added. But you can add more ingredients, if you like. I added mushrooms in these, and they turned out very, very good! Ask Sabo if you don’t believe me. He was hmm, hmm, hmm … the whole time.
1 shallot or half a small onion, minced
5 oz mushrooms, sliced thin
1/3 cup cream
Gruyère cheese (optional, I actually like mine without cheese)
Chives or thyme for garnish (optional)
1. Sauté shallot/onion in a little oil or butter until translucent.
2. Add mushrooms, sauté a bit longer.
3. Add cream, stir, and remove from heat.
4. Divide creamed mushrooms into 4 portions, and spooned into the bottom of 4 buttered ramekins.
5. Sprinkle some cheese, if using.
6. Crack an egg into each ramekin. Try not to break the yolk.
7. Sprinkle more cheese, if using.
8. Place the ramekins in a bain marie (water bath).
9. Bake in 350° F oven for about 15 minutes, or until the whites are set, but the yolks are still soft.
10. Garnish with chopped chives or thyme, if desired.
I think I made the most out of Lauri’s eggs, don’t you? Next time, though, if I get more of those eggs (big, shameless hint!), I’m going to serve them in the most perfect way of all, boiled, just for 3 minutes, no more, no less. After all, good quality eggs don’t need a lot of doing to them. Agreed?