Buttery sweet pastry crusts filled with fluffy, sticky coconut filling. Coconut Tarts – a classic Hong Kong bakery treat.
I’ve talked repeatedly about how hard it is to find really good bread in Hong Kong. As a huge bread lover, its always one of my moans. A crusty loaf smothered in butter, still steaming inside from baking is, even after 5 years away, one of the first things I crave when I set foot on British soil.
I realised lately, however, that I’m doing Hong Kong bread rather a disservice. True, the sliced bread is deeply unappealing, packed full of sugar and air and additives. Yes, its near impossible to get a good crusty loaf without selling a kidney to pay for it, and granted, you won’t find a flavourful sourdough without some serious detective skills. However if put aside these western bread ideals, you can find all kinds of tasty bread in Hong Kong.
A trip to a Hong Kong bakery is one of my guilty pleasures. Part with a few pence at one of these small, family run hole-in-the-wall bakeries, and you have a whole selection of warm, just out of the oven, breads and pastries available to you. Huge amounts of bread are churned out of these kitchens on a daily basis. Piping hot, delicious smelling buns are whisked from ovens in the back, and out on huge metal trays. Tall, plant pot style tins, used to make extra fluffy fat-less sponge cakes are piled high in windows, and little fluted pastry cases hold golden topped crispy pies, kept warm in hot cabinets just waiting to be bitten into.
I can’t get enough of Pineapple Buns, which, despite the name, don’t actually have anything to do with pineapple, but are soft, sweet buns with a golden yellow crackled sweet crust. I find it very hard to resist the sausage buns sold in a little bakery on my way to work. Soft, fluffy white bread twisted around a sausage, and topped with a glistening egg wash. Sometimes paired with lighter than air honey bread, studded with raisins, or big doomed buns filled with deliciously sweet and sticky barbecue pork.
As well as bread the bakeries sell sweet treats. Wife cakes, little round flakey pastry disks, filled with lotus seed, or red bean paste, are a taste it didn’t take me long to acquire when I arrived here in Hong Kong. Or the classic egg tarts, their vivid, sunny yellow filling marked with black patches where the sugars have caramelised in an oven so hot the flakey pastry puffs up in minutes.
These coconut tarts are one of my favourite treats. The base is a sweet shortcrust pastry, and they’re topped with a light, slightly sticky sponge-like coconut filling. The pastry is incredibly short and buttery, it melts on the tongue. The coconut filling is moreish, and not overly sweet.
I’ve bought so many of these little coconut tarts while I’ve been out here, and I was so happy to discover how well they turn out baked at home. They remind me a little of maids of honour, the little sponge topped jam tarts, that I used to make with my Mum when I was small. Hong Kong bakeries sometimes top these with a gleaming glacé cherry, and I feel a little spoonful of jam under the coconut filling might work really well too.
– coconut tart recipe adapted from Vagabond Baker.
– This is my entry this month for the Bumpkin Betty Baking Club. This months theme was travel, and bakes from abroad. Come and join in!
– Enriched shortcrust pastry can be challenging to work with if you’re not used to it. Make sure you chill it well before trying to roll it out, and work quickly in a cool kitchen. You’ll also find it helps to roll your pastry out between two sheets of greaseproof paper.
- --- for the pastry
- 125g plain flour
- 70g chilled unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- a splash of milk
- ---- for the coconut filling
- 100g desiccated coconut
- 40g caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 50g butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 egg
- 30ml milk
- Begin by making the pastry.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl, and add the chilled butter. Use your finger tips to rub the butter into the flour until the you have achieved the texture of bread crumbs. Add the sugar and the egg yolk and cut it into the flour mixture using a kitchen knife. Add a splash of milk, and bring the mixture together into a ball. Wrap it in cling film, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ 350F.
- Take your chilled pastry from the fridge, and roll it out on a floured surface to a thicken of 3 - 4mm. As the pastry is so buttery its easiest to roll it out between sheets of greaseproof paper.
- Cut out 8 rounds using a fluted cutter, and place into a shallow tart tin. Put the tin into the fridge to chill while you make the coconut filling.
- Put the desiccated coconut, caster sugar, plain flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add the butter, egg and milk and mix to combine. Once everything is well combined in a thick paste, spoon the mixture into the prepared pastry. The cases will be quite full, this is fine. Don't worry about smoothing the mixture down, it will settle in the oven.
- Put in the preheated oven, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the tarts are golden.
- Cool for a few minutes in the tin, then carefully transfer to a wire rack.
- Store in an airtight tin or container.