((UPDATE: my second attempt at Sandakan cow pat tarts were made with my new, improved recipe, follow the link to check them out!))
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My mum grew up in Sandakan, Malaysia, although her immediate relatives now live in Kota Kinabalu. We often go to KK as a family to visit my jia po, aunt and uncle, but a few months ago my mum and dad went by themselves as I couldn't afford to visit this year (quite handily leaving me free to keep an eye on our cats).
During their time there, my aunt found and bought some cow pat tarts for mum and dad. These suspicious-sounding cakes were first created in Sandakan, apparently in 1955, by Hainanese master baker Fu Ah On, when he burned his usual tarts a bit. His friends decided that they looked a bit like cow poo, and thus the nickname was born and stuck. In any case, mum knew I'd be up for the challenge of re-creating them, and reported back to me with her findings.
Cow pat tarts are basically flat, biscuit-like cakes with a dollop of custard in the centre, finished off with some piped and then oven-browned meringue around the custard- much more delicious than the name implies! It can come in two styles: cow pat-style and UFO-style. I decided to try both styles.
Well, it's pretty obvious which ones are the cow dung piles!
The UFOs usually have a thinner meringue cross on top, but I didn't have the right sizes piping nozzle, so I just left them open. My recipe for them- adapted from many others after a bit of research- is really simple.
How to Make Them:
The cake part of it is my bog-standard Victoria cake recipe scaled down to one egg, baked in a shallow bun tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top and cooked through. Once you've made the tart bases and they're cooling, make the custard and meringue.
The custard is 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of caster sugar, 2 level teaspoonfuls of custard powder, half a teaspoon of vanilla and 5 tablespoonfuls of milk. Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and microwave in two lots of 30 second bursts, until the custard is thick and dollopy (but not thick enough to be pipeable). Leave it to cool: when it cools down it'll thicken even more, and it has a round in the oven to come, so don't cook it for too long.
The meringue is the leftover 1 egg white, 2 tablespoonfuls of caster sugar, a pinch of salt and a teaspoonful of cornflower, whisked up to stiff peak stage like a regular French meringue.
Now start assembling your cow pats and UFOs! Pipe a wide ring in the centre of each tart as a guide, scoop some custard into the middle, and either cover in a poop-like swirl or build up some stacked rings. If you like, make an 'X' on top of your UFOs with more meringue.
Finally, pop back in the oven at the same temperature for 10 minutes until they just start to brown up (some people grill them, but I prefer baking because then the meringue gets a nice crispy shell all over).
According to mum, I found the wrong resources when it came to judging just how flat the tarts needed to be. Apparently they should be made truly flat by dolloping the tart batter straight onto a flat tray. The people I'd based my tarts on had made them a bit thicker, so that's what I did too, and used our ancient bun pan:
I can't wait to try these again, and make them even more like the ones that the bakeries in Sandakan and KK sell. Still, everyone agreed that even though mine could have been more authentic, they were still delicious. Crispy on the outside, gooey and creamy on the inside. <3
Not bad for a dessert named after cow poo. ;)