My Love: Flaky Crusts

I promise, I didn’t flake on you all! Just wasn’t in the mood to write the last couple of days and took a break. I also wasn’t sure what to write about. I haven’t had a chance to cook anything with my thrifty attitude that is resistant to buying anything extra after I have so much at home. Haven’t really even taken the time to look through my kitchen to see what I do have. Plus, if you live in NYC, good food is in an abundance and sometimes it’s easier to pay for it than to take the time to buy and make it. But in cooking a dish that you normally entrust others to make for you, and you get it right, that must be an amazing feeling. My scones were so-so but it was fun to be the chef baking it.

Today, I’m going to talk about my love for all things with flaky crusts. Ok, maybe not all things. But flaky crusts are so yummy, I’m sure you agree… Unless you’re vegan since flaky crusts relies on butter… Let’s reword this: Those who are willing and can eat flaky crusts love them. Hm. Let me make it more acceptable and pretend that I had the word “usually” in that above sentence.

This morning, my mom was out and came home again with sum dim sum. In my last post on dim sum, I talked about Cha Siu Bao but I didn’t take a bite before I posted this. I’ve eaten it before, but usually in a steamed bun form, like in this picture from Wikipedia. Never quite liked it. One day, I had a bite of the one I posted before and realized I liked it – for all the wrong reasons. I liked it not because of the pork, which should be its star player, but rather for its flakiness. The bit of pork in there is surrounded by layer and layers of flaky crusts. The pork almost seems to be a small addition.

Cha Siu Bao (barbecue pork filled pastry or bun)

Cha Siu Bao: barbecue pork filled pastry or bun – You can see pieces of the crust already falling into pieces!

Look at all that flaky goodness

Look at all that flaky goodness. And that little red spot? That’s the amount of pork they put in. Can’t blame me for loving the pastry portion.

Next flaky treat is… The Egg Tart. Here is a quick history of the egg tart… according to Wikipedia. (This ain’t a school paper. I just hope that everyone contributing to Wikipedia is providing accurate information.) Egg tarts look very European. What are they even doing in China? Well, you are correct! Congratulations. Not. There are Portuguese style Egg Tarts so that probably gave it away. Based on that name, you are also correct, and have amazing inference skills (not, it was so obvious), that they originated from Portugal and were originally known as pastel de nata (you probably didn’t guess that did you). Portugal had colonized Macau, which I first heard about through Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I would give you the link to the entire episode, but alas, copyrights destroyed that video and I can only provide you with a 2 minute preview. Really would love to visit. Looks cool. Of course, I wouldn’t dare gamble there. But would be nice to see the mix of Chinese and Portuguese. Kind of like my love for mixes of things so drastically different: sweet and salty (ever tried dipping fries in ice cream at McDonald’s?) or the Highline with its harmonious interaction between the plants and railroad.

Anyways, I’ve had egg tarts where the crust is not that flaky. It tasted nice but didn’t satisfy the craving that I didn’t know I had – the need for flake. Ok, that sounded awkward. I wanted to emulate the saying “the need for speed,” but that probably words because “need” and “speed” rhymes. Now rhyming the alphabet with “-ake.” I give up.

But then, my mom introduced me to these lovely egg tarts from New Flushing Bakery. They satisfied my sake for flake (ok forget it that so did not work). And if you look below, my totally-awesome-phone-camera-quality captures the layers and layers of buttery flakiness:

See the layers at the rim of the crust?

See the layers at the rim of the crust?

Again trying to demonstrate the flakiness with a close up

Again trying to demonstrate the flakiness with a close up

Took a bite. Even the crust is starting to fall apart in layers. The custard itself is really good. Almost like a pudding!

Took a bite. Even the crust is starting to fall apart in layers. The custard itself is really good. Almost like a pudding!

Not only is the crust so flaky, but the custard is delicious. It’s not a gelatin solid mess, but pudding like yet able to hold its shape. Together, the flaky crust and pudding-like custard unite to create a cohesive and delicious dessert. Not only is it tasty, it’s kind to your wallet. Buy 3 at $1.25 each and get the 4th free. This isn’t only for one type of dessert tart, you can try their other flavors. Personally, I like the Portuguese Egg Tart.

I looked online for how to make a flaky pie crust. Here, Serious Eats demonstrate how they found the perfect ratio of butter and rendered leaf lard. After looking at more website, I now realize why the butter in all the videos and recipes I’ve seen on making flaky pastry has to be cold. The reason why the layers are flaky is because they are separated from each other, which make sense because you can actually see the layers in the picture I show you above. The butter is between each layer that is created by folding. When it is baked, it boils and the steam causes the layers to separate. If you create the dough with warm butter, the butter would spread everywhere and not stay in between the layers. Hm. Science in food!

Below is a video I found demonstrating how one woman makes egg tarts. They have the same flakiness as the egg tarts I love and she uses puff pastry. Maybe that’s the key for the flaky concoction I love – egg tarts. Maybe I can try it for that Cha Siu Bao. Just need to buy a lot of butter… And patience to work the butter in. I want a pastry cutter


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