Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart
Popular Malaysian Sweet Tart Inspired by Japanese Cheese
You can't work in hospitality or be a food blogger and NOT have heard about the Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart. Even if you're just a regular Joe Blow, they would have been hard to avoid on social media. I'm not sure exactly how the craze started, but suddenly they were EVERYWHERE - little yellow rounds of promise.
Like any good writer (!), I hot-legged it to the new Melbourne Central HBCT venue soon after its opening to try and obtain one of the cult-followed baked items, and alas, my first attempt was futile. (I stood in the queue for about 10 minutes, with over an hour left until the store's official closing time, only to see the person three ahead of me in the queue buy the last tart. So. Much. Sad.)
My second attempt was better; also towards the end of the day - on a Friday, no less, when I would have thought queues for anything self-indulgent would have extended round the corner - but I waltzed right in (no queue! woohoo) and had my choice from the last few neatly-packed trays. I bought two, so as not to be a miser, but also to allow myself a second opportunity for an opinion, in case my first one was biased by hype or hunger, or ruined by forgetfulness. I clutched my clear little plastic bag all the way home, careful not to smush the prized tarts.
|Carried 'em all the way home in my l'il clear bag|
They're little fullas, only about 8cm in diameter, and some may find them pricey at $3.90 each. Me, I justify everything by how much it costs compared to a magazine or glass of wine, and since both of those are easily around the $12.00 mark these days, four bucks for a potential piece of heaven is worth the investment. Plus, it's CHEESE.
These guys have been selling like hotcakes (well... they ARE hotcakes) in Shanghai, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, since the original Malaysian venues opened in early 2016. Sydneysiders and Melburnians have been the next to sample the treat inspired by Japan's Hokkaido region, famed for its dairy products, including its mild but distinctive cheese. The Aussie version uses three types of locally-made cheese to replicate the flavour.
|The first glimpse!|
The curiosity I had going in was mostly about the level of cheesiness. Was it like stringy, melty-pizza cheese? or sweetened, creamed-down cheese, like in cheesecake? The answer: it's more like the latter, but not as creamy or sickly sweet. I would liken the cheesiness intensity to a cheesy bechamel sauce, like the kind your Mum would cover cauliflower with so you'd eat your vegies as a kid. It's similar to that in texture, too - kind of gluggy, but more aerated. It's very light, really. The sweetened shortcut pastry is thin but firm, so you almost get crunch alongside the fluffy pillow of filling, like a mini fluffy cheese pie. The overall effect is rich, but not overpowering - kind of savoury and sweet at the same time.
|So you can get a good idea of the texture...|
|Creamy and sort of gluggy...|
|...but also fluffy and held its shape.|
HBCT venues are take-away only, so as to minimise overheads and queues. Australian venues now include Melbourne Central, QV, Box Hill and Chadstone in Melbourne, and World Square in Sydney. All tarts are baked fresh onsite daily (in some kiosks, up to 20,000 a day!), and it is suggested you try them reheated, chilled, or even frozen - as well as fresh, of course ;)
I can see how these could become addictive. I definitely liked them, but for my waistline, will try and keep them as a once-in-a-while treat (thank heavens I don't work near the city).