Tarte aux Oeufs de Mami
Growing up, no family gathering was complete unless tartes aux œufs were being served for dessert. The family recipe is an heirloom passed down from one Matriarchal generation to the next, and its secrets now lie with me. This dessert is Quebec’s spin on French flans, English custard tarts, Portuguese pastéis de nata and Chinese egg pies.
New tenants arrived in our garden this week: our laying hens are back! When Stu and I moved into our home, one of the first things we installed was a small chicken coop nestled between our garden and the forest. From Spring to Fall, I love going outside and hearing the sound of them clucking and digging around for grub. We let them forage the undergrowth of the surrounding forest to diversify their food sources, as a varied diet helps turn their yolks into a richly-saturated shade of orange. Having hens and a large vegetable garden were two personal goals that were largely responsible for our move to the Eastern Townships. As a pastry chef, most of my recipes are based on seemingly endless combinations of flour, sugar and eggs. The quality of a dessert depends on the ingredients, so I wanted to have my source of fresh eggs from happy, healthy hens. This kind of abundance is a privilege and a dream come true - it’s truly the small things that matter!
In my grandparents’ home, no après-church Sunday lunch was considered complete without a traditional tarte aux oeufs. My father was one of eight children being raised on the family dairy farm, and my aunts were usually in charge of preparing desserts – Plural because one pie was never enough for this crowd!
My most cherished kitchen tool is a simple pie tin that belonged to my grandmother, gifted to me by my aunt. Equally valuable are several recipes handwritten by my Mami (funny footnotes included!) that my aunts have generously shared with me. Armed with fresh eggs, my heirloom pie plate, and the original recipe, I set out to recreate this childhood favourite. My first roadblock was how liberal Mami was with her measurements. For example, she states that the recipe calls for 2 to 3 cups of milk…. As a pastry chef who measures her ingredients to + or - 1 gram, this is a big discrepancy! After a call to my aunts and cross-checking my own recipes, I felt confident with my interpretation of Mami’s original, vague directions. Following my professional instincts, I pre-baked my crust to get the flakiest dough possible, and the results were amazing; I couldn’t wait to taste the finished product.
When I pulled the quivering pie out of the oven, its fragrance instantly had me reliving family gatherings from my childhood. This delicious family heirloom is now my gift to you. My recipe is a proud mixture of tradition and innovation : the best of old school baking coupled with a modern, finely-honed approach. My tarte aux œufs is the perfect pie to celebrate fresh, new eggs while sharing my family’s heritage with my daughters.
Pâte Brisée, Pie Crust
450g cold butter
750g pastry flour
265g cold water
Cube butter and add to flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Mix on low until the butter is the size of peas or smaller.
Place ice cubes in a medium-size pitcher and add cold water.
In a medium bowl weigh out salt and sugar.
Add 265g ice water to the sugar/salt mix when the butter and flour mixture is ready.
Change from paddle to dough hook attachment.
Pour the cold water solution onto the flour and mix on low until all the flour is incorporated.
Form the dough into a log and wrap it in cling film.
Let the dough rest in the fridge for 1-2hours.
Cut the log into four discs.
Wrap 3 discs in cling film individually, identify and place them in the freezer for your next pies!
Roll out the remaining pie dough to 3mm thick, dusting your work surface and the top of the pie dough to prevent sticking.
Place the pie dough into the pie plate, pressing along the bottom corner and the top.
Let the dough rest in the fridge while the oven preheats to 375°F, with the rack placed in the bottom third.
Place a piece of parchment on top of the pie crust and fill with pie weights (or dry beans- I’ve been reusing mine for yeasr!).
Par bake the crust: bake for 15 minutes, remove parchment and weights and bake for another 10 minutes.
Prepare the tarte aux oeufs filling.
Tarte aux oeufs
150g (3 large) eggs
Pinch of salt
Dash of vanilla
2g (1/2 tsp) freshly grated nutmeg
Once the pie crust is par-baked and out of the oven, preheat it to 450°F.
In a medium-size bowl whisk the sugar and cornstarch.
Add the eggs and whisk until completely homogenous.
Add the milk, vanilla, salt and half the nutmeg. Whisk until completely combined.
Pour into the parbaked pie shell and sprinkle on the remaining nutmeg.
Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350°F and cook 30 minutes.
The egg custard will be set along the edges and alarmingly wobbly when it comes out of the oven. The temperature should be 80 to 85°C.
Let it cool completely (minimum 4 hours) before enjoying a silky set of custard and a taste of my childhood.