Butter Tarts because they’re Canadian

May 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Slow Food USA had a potluck lunch on Friday and the theme was family recipes and food that reminds you of your family. So many food writers and activists say that growing up food was an important part of their family traditions and they always had access to wholesome. nourishing meals. I think part of the reason I’m so obsessed with food is because my family isn’t like that. My mom makes a few dishes very well; she cooks simply, doesn’t use spices and we have one family recipe, a pasta sauce from my grandma. But my mom only cooks about twelve times a year.

So I made butter tarts, because I have never done so and because they are Canadian. I thought it would be a nice representative dish since I’m the only Canadian at the office. The one food that I will absolutely not eat without exception is raisins, which are notorious for sneaking into perfectly delicious butter tarts and rendering them inedible for me. It is so satisfying to finally be in control of the raisins in butter tarts.

I used this recipe from Joy of Baking which is great because it is simple and doesn’t use corn syrup.

Butter Tarts

Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry):
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water 

Butter Tart Filling:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup light cream (half-and-half)
1/2 cup raisins or 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (toasted and chopped)

Pate Brisee:
Mix flour, sugar and salt. If you have a food processor, you can add the butter and process until it resembles coarse meal. I just used a fork and pressed it through the butter until it was mostly separated and it wasn’t at all difficult. Add the water (you’ll probably only need 1/8 cup) until the dough just holds together. I used my hands for the mixing!

Gather dough into ball, flatten into a disk and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough and cut into 12 4-inch rounds. I made mine smaller because I wanted to have more than 12 tiny tarts, but you can make the executive decision. Put the rounds of dough into a muffin tin. (The house I’m staying at right now doesn’t have a muffin pan, which I realized at this step in the recipe. I had to mold my own little cups out of tin foil, which was tedious, but worked totally fine.)

Put the tin in the fridge to firm up the dough, for about half an hour. You can make the filling during this time!

Butter Tart Filling:
Cream the butter and brown sugar, and beat in the eggs. Add vanilla extract, and stir in cream.

If you really must, you can add your raisins now. Or nuts. Just add a spoonful to the bottom of each empty tart. Fill the unbaked tarts with the filling.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The pastry should be golden and the filling should look set. Remove from oven and room. Refrigerate until serving, and serve at room temperature or chilled.

My tarts kind of bubbled up. I was a bit alarmed and thought I had overbaked them, but they were fine! A little misshapen because of the DIY muffin cups, but totally delicious.

The folks at Slow Food liked them! Although the president, Josh Viertel, was in disbelief when I introduced my dish at my family’s lack of cooking traditions. I explained to him that my mom doesn’t like her foods touching and isn’t terribly interested in food; she just likes to be full. She could eat a tuna sandwich on white bread with a glass of milk everyday for the rest of her life and that would be fine. Josh seemed fairly alarmed.

It was probably the best potluck I will ever attend. There was homemade stuffing, two very different kinds of chicken salad, roasted chicken necks, fava bean salad, shortbread cookies, roasted pork, homemade hummus, beautiful salads, rhubarb preserves, whole milk ricotta toasts with honey and fleur de sel, kale, a noodle dish I don’t remember the name of and freshly made crepes (seriously, a hot plate was involved) with either homemade hazelnut spread or arugula, smoked salmon and creme fraiche – among other things.

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