Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cherry Custard Black Sesame Tartlets

It has been quite some time since I last baked anything! I have a weakness in this category of the kitchen culinary world and when I leave things for too long and not practising nor repeating the kneading of flour and butter or perfecting the skills of egg white beating, my next baking results will definitely turn out mediocre or disastrous. And when I need to get back on track, I always start small, in size and quantity so as to calm the nerves that in case I fail, I don't waste too much.

The cherries this year is extremely humongous and sweet. I first tasted cherries from the tree when I was in England pursuing my degree. And like a kid in a candy store, I overstuffed myself till the point of diarrhea. Despite the nasty aftermath, the experience of seeing a cherry tree for the first time and picking from it was enough to make me yearn for more. Back then, imports of cherries and berries were very limited and I hated those bottled and syrupy maraschino cherries that normally adorn the black forest cakes back in Malaysia.

One thing about my baking is that I love to experiment with every recipes in the cookbook and tweak it here and there. However, I have a bad habit of trying too much and I should learn to stick to recipes that I have already tried and tested before. As in this case, I have already found the best recipe for sweet pastry in making tarts long time ago and yet, I still ventured out from the obvious to the allure of the numerous baking books that boasts the best tart shell recipes.

I tried a new recipe and omitted its egg content while adding some black sesame paste and seeds into the sweet pastry dough. The tart shells turned out pale instead of the usual brown and at first I thought I should bake it longer but they really just stayed pale throughout while the cherry custard was already cooked and set. And after cooling down, they kind of turned a little soft rather than being firm like those egg tarts that we get at dim sum tables and thank goodness, they still possessed some strength to hold the custard. Luckily, the custard part tasted as good as the usual egg custard filling, smooth and firm to the right consistency. My father in law said so and I am glad that I have found the right recipe for baked custard filling.

For the custard filling, I pureed 12 huge cherries to get the juice and for a 200gm weight of cherries, I only managed to get 50ml of the liquid. I was hoping the dark red color of the cherries will prevail after the baking but once it was added to the eggs, it kind of turned brownish pink and I can surely pass the tarts as chocolate tarts! I am not sure on how the baking part will enhance the color, I just had to make it nice and not brown definitely and so I added 2 drops of red coloring! And I am so glad that I did as the baking kind of paled out the custard color and as you can see now, it is pinkish in the inside! I think the addition of custard powder and heavy cream made the custard smoother in texture, rather than using eggs alone.

After they were baked, the next mind boggling thing was how to get them out of those small tart moulds. It is really a hassle to roll and put the sweet pastry dough inside them in the first place and now I was not keen of digging each and every one of them out of it with the custard filling. I remembered seeing the Hongkong pastry shops taking them out of the oven and turning them over and whacked them hard on the surface. So, I followed suit, although I admit the whacking of each of those shells made me nervous as I didn't want the custard mushed up and breaking the tarts. And amazingly out of the 30 tarlettes, all 30 survived my mighty hand!

Although the tart shells was not as firm as they should be, it was still a delight to pop them into my mouth with the subtle burnt toasty aroma from the added black sesame paste. Same as my fascination with the green tea, I dare to say that I have grown to love black sesame seeds so much that I bought boxes of paste and packets of seeds. I am yet to confirm my father in law's claim that black sesame seeds have numerous nutritionous value but as long as it is good, I can eat and use it in everything. As for the cherry custard filling, I am just happy that it turned out the right color and texture and the cherries placed on top of each complete the pretty tartlets.

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