The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Chinese egg tart and other Chinese flaky pastries

mrpeabody's picture

Chinese egg tart and other Chinese flaky pastries


    It's been awhile since I've wandered into this site (I've been working long hours recently).  Anyways, I've been trying to learn how to make some Chinese breads/pastries lately.  My boys have sesame/nut allergies so if I don't learn to make them, then they won't get a chance to try some of these treats from my childhood.

    I've been looking around the internet for an "easy" recipe for Chinese egg tarts (aka custard tarts) that are common dim sum treats.  The best egg tarts are make with a flaky crust (made from a laminated dough).  Many internet recipes have a shortbread type of dough which would taste fine but are not the same as the more authentic (and more daunting to make) flaky crust.  The flaky crust appears to be made from two types of doughs (one water and one oil) and then rolled out.  When baked it then forms the laminated layers like puff pastry, although perhaps not as tender.  This type of dough is also used for a baked curry chicken turnover also seen in dim sum.  So, any hints/tips at how to do this type of dough/crust would be helpful.

    Is there an easier recipe/technique out there rather than the traditional puff pastry techniques?  What about some variation of the quick puff pastry recipes that I see in the internet (Cook's Illustrated has a quick puff pastry recipe)?  Has anyone tried to adapt these puff-like recipes to Chinese treats?

Just wondering,

Mr. Peabody

P.S. I'm finally happy with my bao (fill bun) recipe.  The dough recipe that I now use is a fast food processor technique that is infinitely simpler and more reproducible compared to my old grandmother's recipe.

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

If you don't get the answer here or elsewhere on the internet, you will probably find it in the encyclopedic cookbook "Chinese Dim Sum" by Wei-Chuan School.  I have tasted several dim sum dishes, including the egg tarts, prepared from this cookbook, and they taste just like the best ones I've had in Chinese dim sum restaurants.  

mrpeabody's picture

an easier way to make Rough Chinese Flaky Pastry.  Stuff that is suitable for Egg Tarts (Daan Taat) or Curry Turnovers. So, I'm puffing my chest out a bit (no pun intended...well, OK maybe a little). The recent articles on this site on Dim Sum and Chinese appetizers rekindled my desire to make Chinese Egg Tarts but my previous failures were all about getting the crust right.

Sure there are easy substitutes (store bought puff pastry, pie crust dough, phyllo) but these were not quite right in texture. And there are lots of internet recipes with a shortbread-like crust, which are OK tasting but not exactly what I was looking for. The gold standard for Egg Tarts are the flaky crusts that are multilayered (the result of a laminated dough). My problem is that I could never get the hang of the traditional Chinese recipes that make use of two doughs (Water and Oil doughs), despite claims that the Chinese version of this laminated dough is easier than making normal puff pastry. I guess I just don't have the touch, I'm just too klutzy. The two doughs had to be just right in pliability and there is real skill in rolling and folding (which I just don't possess, my attempts were just total failures with the oil dough extruding out of the water dough during the folding and rolling...ugh!).

So, I fused techniques for Rough Puff Pastry and the Cooks Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust on a traditional Chinese recipe for flaky pastry. Certainly, not as flaky as the traditional technique but still pretty credible when I made some Egg Tarts recently AND a whole lot easier and forgiving.


So, in case anyone is interested here is my most recent version of a Rough Chinese Flaky Pastry and Egg Tart recipe.  Maybe someday, I'll master the "proper" way to make this but for now, this works well enough for me:



Mix A: 3.3 oz (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour

            1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk

            1/4 teaspoon table salt

            1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

            1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut as 1/4-inch slices


Mix B: 3.75 oz (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour

            8 tablespoons (1/4 cup) cold shortening, cut into 4 pieces


Mix C: 1 large egg yolk

            2 tablespoons (1 oz) cold water

            2 tablespoons (1 oz) 80-proof vodka


1.      Make Mix A: Place the dry ingredients in workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Process this dry mixture until well blended.  Add the 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter; process for 10-15 sec to blend well (mixture looks like coarse meal).  Dump the mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

2.      Make Mix B: Place the flour and add the shortening in workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Process until homogenous dough just starts to collect into clumps, about 15 sec.  The dough will be very soft and sticky, looking chunky at this stage, resembling paste.  There should be no uncoated flour, there should be no dry flour remaining.  Dump all of Mix B onto Mix A in the bowl.  With a butter knife or with your fingers, gently cut the clumpy Mix B into Mix A, leaving large, 1-inch clumps of Mix B coated with Mix A to prevent the clumps from sticking to each other.  Leaving large clumps of Mix B is important for maximum flakiness.

3.      Make Liquid Mix C: Combine the liquid ingredients and then sprinkle this liquid over the dry mixture in the bowl.  With rubber spatula, use gentle folding motion to lift and turn, getting all of dry ingredients thoroughly moistened (without disturbing the Mix B clumps).  Then continue folding and press down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.  Flatten dough into 4-inch disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 min (don’t rush the chilling or the dough won’t fully absorb all of the liquid and will be excessively wet) or up to 2 days.  The dough will have big patches of Mix B streaked throughout the rest of the dough, which will create separate layers in the flaky pastry.

4.      It is best to roll this dough straight out of the refrigerator.  Remove dough from refrigerator shape the dough into a rough square on a generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface.  Roll the dough to about 9 by 8-inch rectangle.  Flip the dough over and lightly flour top of dough.  Press dough with rolling pin to flatten, then roll back and forth several times with rolling pin to make 9 by 16-inch rectangle of dough.  If necessary, whisk excess flour off both sides of the dough with a brush.

5.      Invert dough onto floured work surface, long side facing you.  Fold top third of dough down and bottom third up to make a 3 by 16-inch rectangle (folded like a letter, creates 3 layers).

6.      Fold the two short 3-inch ends so that they meet in the middle of the dough, then fold the dough in half at the meeting point so that the two free ends that met at the middle are now inside the second fold (this creates 4 more layers = total of 12 layers).

7.      Roll out the dough out again to make about a 3 by 16-inch rectangle (if the dough is getting soft, you can briefly firm it up by chilling in the refrigerator before this rolling step).  Do the four layer fold of STEP #6 again (this will create a 3 by 4-inch square of dough with 12 x 4 = 48 total layers).  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until needed. 





Makes about 12 small dim sum sized tarts (2-1/2 inch mini tart pans) or about 9 muffin sized tarts


·         1 recipe of Rough Chinese Flaky Pastry for Egg Tarts (see above)

·         3 large eggs, room temperature

·         1 large egg yolk, room temperature

·         1/2 c (3.5 oz or 1/2 c) sugar

·         3/4 c + 2 tbsp (7 oz) whole milk, room temperature

·         1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Roll out the pastry: Take the dough out of the refrigerator, press, then roll out pastry into a rectangle of about 12 by 15 inches.  Slide the rolled out pastry sheet onto a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and then refrigerate until firm and rested (about 1 hour). 

Make the custard filling: Carefully mix (air bubbles ruin a smooth custard) the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, milk, and vanilla extract (optional) until well incorporated.  Sieve this custard mixture and set aside (allowing the mixture to rest will also allow any remaining air bubbles to rise to the top, thus minimizing any puffing when baking).

Cut out pastry circles: Preheat oven to 500°F, with rack at the lower third of the oven.  Take out rolled sheet of pastry from the refrigerator and cut out 12 circles using a 3.5- to 4-inch round plain or fluted cutter.  Center each pastry circles in ungreased fluted egg tart molds (typically mini tart tins) and lightly press dough into the bottom and sides.

Fill the tarts and bake: Place the molds onto a baking sheet and fill up to 75-80% full with the custard filling (If you don’t have fluted tart molds, you can also just gently press the pastry circles into muffin pans).  Put the tarts into the oven immediately after filling them (do not let the custard mixture sit on the unbaked crust too long) and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 400°F.  Bake for 10 min.  Turn the oven temperature down to 350°F and bake a further 10 min, or until done (insert a toothpick into the custard, if it stands on its own, it’s done).


Maybe one day, I'll figure out how to make a "proper" laminated dough but for now this seems to work well enough for me.  I happen to have unbleached AP flour but Chinese flours seem to be bleached.  I'm sure that bleached AP flour will work but it likely will use a bit less liquid because bleached flours absorb less liquid.  The vodka trick is so that I can wet the dough to make it easy to roll (even right out of the refrigerator) without making the pastry tough because vodka is wet but 40% is not water (this is the Cooks Illustrated pie crust trick).

Mr. Peabody