Have you ever had a Hokkaido bake cheese tart? If yes, then you know how good they are. I am addicted to these and they were quite popular back in Melbourne. You can find an outlet in most big shopping malls. But here in the states, they only sell these in Westfield San Francisco Center and Westfield Century City. I may be a fan, but I’m not going to board a flight just to eat a tart. So I decided to recreate it in my (test)kitchen.
First up, if you have a BakeCheesetart retail outlet nearby, by all means go get some and save all the trouble. Honestly, the original tart that you buy from their chain is the best.
If you are like me, ready to go the extra mile, then this is for you. I found this recipe to be one of the hardest to recreate. It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve had one, which made it even harder to remember the tiny details. However, after 4 batches and lot of cheese eating (and extra cardio) I decided to settle with this recipe.
In one sentence, these are shortbread shells, filled with cheese custard, that are then egg washed and baked for 5-6 minutes in a hot oven to finish off.
Following were my challenges and what I did to overcome them. If you are thinking about substituting, it’s worth while to read the next section.
Tart shell: I’m using the same tart shells I used for my lemon tarts. The recipe is from Haniela’s and this is the best tart shell recipe I have found so far. The only difference this time is that I rolled the dough much thicker. Because the tarts I remember had a thick crumbly shell. A thicker shell helps prevent the custard from being over-cooked too.
First I thought I could make the custard by only using cream cheese. Mmmm…technically you can, but as soon as I tasted it, I thought it wasn’t cheesy enough. It was just sweet and bland almost like cheesecake. I remember the actual tarts having a much more complex, pungent flavor. So yes, like many recipes I decided to use a collection of different, more potent cheeses to make the flavor interesting. I ended up using:
cream cheese, parmesan, mascarpone. I also added a tiny bit of sharp cheddar because I like that flavor, but it may not be for everyone.
To add a bit of tang, I used a little yogurt too.
Making the custard:
Okay so making the custard is simple. You have to melt, cheeses, butter, yogurt, powdered sugar, milk in a double boiler (bain-marie) until everything melts. Then add the cornflour(corn starch) and the egg white. Then you just have to stand there stirring for about 10 minutes, until the custard thickens. You can always taste the custard at this stage and adjust flavor (add salt/sugar or cheddar etc.)
It is very important to cook the custard to the correct consistency. I found out that under cooking (thin custard) would result in too runny center and over cooking (too thick custard) will result in set filling almost like cheesecake. The perfect is to have a gooey(oozy) center.
So as soon as your custard starts to thicken, reduce the heat (of the boiling water) and cook it just until you start to feel the resistance to the whisk.
A nice trick is, to drop some custard (about a teaspoon) on to a cold plate, let it cool (for about 30 seconds) and check the consistency. If it is still runny, cook the custard a bit longer. If it has set semi-firm like set yogurt, then your custard is done.
Using a double boiler is the safest option. You could use a heavy base saucepan to speed up this process, but there is a higher risk of cheese catching the bottom and/or cooking the egg. To prevent that from happening, you will have to stir vigorously and efficiently nonstop. So I thought cooking on a bain-marie is both safe and relaxing.
Chill the custard:
Chilling the custard helps easy piping. Also holds it’s dome shape which is unique to these tarts, but not necessary. But more importantly, cold custard has less chance of being over cooked in the oven.
Baking or broiling:
So the custard is cooked, the tart shell is cooked and what baking is really trying to achieve here is creating the golden top. The custard will cook a little too but not all the way. The options are either to bake in a very hot oven or to use the broil function to just cook the tops.
Baking: If you have a very hot oven (heat it to 500F) then place a rack in the top part of the oven and cook the tarts for 5-6 minutes or until the tops are golden brown evenly. Keep an eye. They can burn easily. And if you keep them for any longer, the cheese custard might fully set like a cheesecake.
Broiling: I went with broiling finally. Because my oven is not hot enough, and the heat is not evenly distributed. Also preheating the oven to a high temperature for just 5 minutes seemed like a waste to me. So I place these under the grill for 5-6 minutes. I kept watching them the whole time and pulled out the once that seem to be fully browned.
I used just egg yolk the first time and found that it sets like a rubber skin on top and it takes longer to brown. So I decided to thin it down with a bit of milk. Also added some sugar to remove the egg smell and taste. Sugar helps browning too (caramelizing)
Cool the baked tarts:
If you try to eat a tart as soon as it comes out of the oven or while still warm, you’ll find that the custard is still runny. For the best gooey consistency, chill the tarts in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for several days. I haven’t tried freezing them yet.
You will find other flavors at the shop, like blueberry and chocolate. Feel free to experiment. To introduce flavor, simply spread a thin layer of berry jam(bluebrry/strawberry) or lemon curd at the bottom of the tart before filling it with cheese custard. For the chocolate flavor you can place some chocolate chips at the base of the shell or add cocoa powder/cooking chocolate to the custard itself while cooking.
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Make the shortbread dough and chill it for at least 30 minutes.
Bring the chilled dough to room temperature (pliable) and roll out to about 4-5 mm thickness
Cut out circles and place in the tart molds
Dock the bottom and bake in a 180°C oven for about 20 minutes
Once baked remove from the oven and leave to cool completely
Cook the cheese custard to the right consistency. A semi-set custard will give the perfect gooey center. Overcooked custard will result in a set cheese tart.
Read the post above for further instructions.
Chill the custard before using
Fill a piping bag(fitted with a round tip) with the custard and pipe a dome shaped blob in the tart shell.
Placing the shells in the mold will help handling.
Apply a thin layer off egg wash on the piped cheese custard.
Place these under a broiler (or very hot oven) and bake/cook until the top is golden brown
Once done, place on a wire rack to cool. For the gooey center, chill the tarts for about an hour before serving