From tofu to tempeh, soy milk to miso, the soybean is the culinary workhorse of Asia, providing many staple ingredients to dozens of cuisines throughout the continent. But there are still forms of this humble bean that have yet to reach soy latte-levels of ubiquity. Soybean has so much more to give.
While tofu or bean curd might not see much daylight in the dessert realm in the U.S., over here in Asia, soy treats are the focal point of many cuisines. In China and many parts of Asia where Chinese communities reside, sweetened soy milk and douhua (soy milk curd traditionally had with ginger syrup) are the coffee-and-cereal counterparts for breakfast (and supper too), with more modern inventions like soy shaved ice and soft serves serving as soothing post-meal dessert comforts.
All this is to justify my meerkat-like eagerness to try any and all novel ways to have soy. Not because I’m bored of the ones that I’ve had, but because I love all the shades of soy there are.
So when I heard whispers of a tofu tart from a friend from Singapore, made famous by a particular neighborhood bakery in the island state, L.E. Cafe Confectionery & Pastry, my soy sensor perked up. This tofu tart (or bean curd tart) is made of a mirror-smooth custard, nestled inside a flaky shortcrust tartlet. Only instead of a regular egg-or-dairy-based custard, it consists solely of soy milk set into a wobbly pudding, resembling a Hong Kong-style dan tat (egg tart), but less sugary, less cloying, and a whole lot silkier and milkier. Oh, the soy aficionado in me so wanted to try it the moment I set sight on it (on a virtual screen, lamentably), but owing to the pandemic and travel bans, I had to—yes, had to—make it at home.
But back to this tofu tart, which brings all the joy of soy, into the form of a tartlet. To make it, get your favorite shortcrust recipe (I riffed on Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ All-Butter Crust), and blindbake it until brown. Then, heat soy milk—whether it’s in from a carton, stirred from powder, or even bottled fresh (I’m in Malaysia, so I’m fortunate enough to have roadside soy milk and douhua stalls in every neighborhood)—together with some gelatin, and fill the tart shells to the brim with the liquid. Let sit overnight in the fridge until set.
The very next day, you’ll have silky, sultry soy custard sitting snug on top of a flaky, buttery tart crust. You’ll know when you get it just right—the tofu-like pudding will be just barely set, shimmering and jiggling as it makes its trip to your tummy.
- Prep time 1 hour 40 minutes
- Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
- Makes a dozen 3-inch tarts, or one 12-inch tart
1 1/4 cups
stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
apple cider or white wine vinegar
large egg, beaten
sheets gelatin (or 1 tablespoon powdered)
1 1/2 cups
soy milk (I used a fresh soy milk that was sweetened, but any regular carton soy milk, or even Vitasoy would work)
- We’ll start with making the tart crust. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Then, add in the cubes of butter, and rub and pinch the butter into the flour with your hands, until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture turns sandy. Add in the vinegar and ice water and gently coax the dough together into a unified mass. (If it doesn’t all come together at this point, you may need to add another teaspoon or two of water.) Give the dough a few kneads, then pat it down into a disc, wrap it tightly in plastic, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
- When you’re ready for baking, heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a dozen mini tart molds. (I used 3-inch tartlet molds.)
- Take your pastry dough out of the fridge. Roll it out with a rolling pin until 1/8-inch thick. Then, using a round cutter, cut out 4-inch circles out of the dough, and nestle them into the tart molds. (You might not get all 12 circles on the first roll out, in which case, just gather the dough again, roll it out, and punch out more dough circles.) Put the tart shells into the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to firm up slightly.
- Now for some blind baking. Line the chilled tart doughs with similarly sized squares of parchment paper. Then fill the tart shells with baking beans or baking weights, and bake them for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes are up, remove the baking weights from the tart shells, and brush the bottom of the tart shell with the beaten egg. (This forms a protective sheath so the filling won’t make the tart crust soggy.) Bake them for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the center of the tarts turns golden-brown. When done, take the tarts out of the oven and let them cool to room temperature in their molds.
- For the filling, start by blooming the gelatin in ¼ cup of water for 5 minutes, until the gelatin is fully hydrated. Heat up the soy milk in a pan until it starts to steam, careful not to boil it. Pour the gelatin, water and all, into the hot soy milk, and stir to dissolve. Pass the liquid through a sieve to make sure there are no lumps of gelatin.
- Carefully fill each of the tart shells to the brim with the soy milk. Chill them in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight, until the soy filling is perfectly set. Then, eat!