Monday, July 2, 2018

Canada Day Butter Tarts

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For anyone who was not aware, yesterday (July 1st) was Canada Day. Short explanation - it's like Independence Day, except Canadian. For the rest of the story, see my Canada Day post from two years ago. 

Canada Day Butter Tarts on Homeschool Coffee Break @

One of the Canadian treats that my family misses is Butter Tarts, and although we often just settle for bringing a supply back with us when we visit Canada, last year I set out to find a really good from-scratch recipe so I could make my own. Because homemade is almost always better, right? Yes, in this case, it really is. And besides, for some reason, American stores don't sell tart shells ready-made to save me the trouble, so shortcuts aren't an option in this case. 

I wouldn't say this is completely foolproof, because I find that good pastry requires a bit of luck along with lots of butter, but this is good stuff. 

I found an award winning recipe on the blog The Back of the Cupboard, which recommended the pastry recipe found at the Simply Recipes website, so for the original stuff visit these two sources: The Back of the Cupboard: Butter Tarts and Simply Recipes: Pate Brisee. Also, the pictures they provide are much more attractive than mine!

Here's how I make them:

Pastry (Pate Brisee)

2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
1-1/2 cups cold unsalted butter
6-8 tbsp ice cold water

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut the cold butter into approximately half inch cubes and add about a quarter of it at a time, mixing with a pastry blender, until it's evenly mixed and looks like a coarse meal. It's okay - it's actually good! - if you still have pieces of butter visible that are about the size of peas. Add two tablespoons of the cold water, and mix a bit. Add the rest of the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition, until the dough just starts to stick together a bit. When you can squeeze it between your fingers and it sticks together, it's ready and you don't need to add any more water!

Divide the dough in half. Squish each half together into a ball and press it with the heel of your hand a few times on a smooth dry countertop. It's not quite kneading - it's gentler than that. Shape each half of the dough into a disc, sprinkle just a little flour on it, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour before working with it. (At this point, you should still be able to see little chunks of butter in your dough - that means it will be flaky and wonderful when it's baked!)

When you're ready to roll out the dough, take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Then warm it a bit with your hands before unwrapping it. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface, using just a light dusting of flour on top so it won't stick to the rolling pin. Roll to about 1/8 inch thick, and cut in rounds to fit in a foil tart pan (if you can find them - good luck with that if you live south of the butter tart border) or in a muffin tin. This recipe should make about twenty, depending on the size of your individual tarts. Oh, and you don't need to grease the muffin tins or tart pans.

Canada Day Butter Tarts on Homeschool Coffee Break @

Now you're ready for the filling. This is easy!! The only real trick is getting the amount of filling to be about equal to the number of tart shells to fill!

Butter Tart Filling

1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup softened (not melted) butter
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla

Soak the raisins in hot tap water for about 30 minutes. While that's happening, cream together the butter, brown sugar, salt, and corn syrup using a wooden spoon. When the sugar is dissolved and the butter is completely mixed in (not like the one in the picture below, where you can see some small chunks of butter - oops!), add the beaten egg and the vanilla and mix well.

Drain the raisins, and add a few to each of the pastry shells. Then spoon the butter filling into the shells. Don't fill them all the way, because they do bubble up as they bake, and you don't want to lose any of it! Plus it would make a mess.

Canada Day Butter Tarts on Homeschool Coffee Break @

Bake at 400⁰F for 15 minutes or so, until the filling is slightly browned and bubbling a bit. If your tarts are small, check at 10 minutes. If they are larger, they might need up to 20 minutes. Let the tarts cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

Canada Day Butter Tarts on Homeschool Coffee Break @

Enjoy with a good cup of coffee!

Canada Day Butter Tarts on Homeschool Coffee Break @

Now don't you feel Canadian?

Our Canada Day dinner menu included poutine, and you can find out more about that Canadian specialty and my recipe in my post Eating the Americas - Poutine.

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We're also enjoying my all-time favorite dessert, Nanaimo Bars. Find out how to make this decadent three-layer dessert bar in Eating the Americas - Nanaimo Bars.

Nanaimo Bars recipe

Not on our Canada Day menu, but another favorite Canadian dish of mine is French-Canadian Tourtiere, a French-Canadian meat pie.

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