I hail from Vancouver, BC, and we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in early October. I love having a holiday to celebrate in October that’s full of family and harvest foods. Until I got my November 2011 “Make this your best Thanksgiving ever!” Martha Stewart Living in the mail, and felt the horrible let down of all the wonderful ideas I didn’t get to pretend I was going to try, and will surely forget come next October (or even Christmas).
Butter tarts are hard to explain, and even harder to forget once you’ve had one. They’re a wonderful little buttery tart shell filled with a sticky, gooey, creamy, brown sugary centre, with raisins. (And sometimes nuts). They’re as delicious as they are simple to make, and I encourage you to break outside your normal traditions and serve these at your next Thanksgiving or holiday dinner.
Makes 12 - 4 inch tarts
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vinegar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup light cream
1/2 cup (120 ml) raisins or chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
In large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingers, cut (or pinch, if you’re using your fingers like I do) in butter until the mixture has little pea-like butter lumps.
Using a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the egg yolk and vinegar, then add enough ice water to make 1/3 cup. Gently pour this over the flour/salt mix, and stir with a fork (or equivalent) until the mix pulls together and forms a dough. Form the dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for an hour or so.
In a large bowl, preferably the one of your stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, until everything is light and reasonably fluffy. Gently stir in the cream. Filling is done!
Assembling the tarts:
Preheat the oven to 400F (190C).
Roll out one quarter of the dough at a time, and using a 4-inch circle cutter, cut out the tart shells. Press them into a muffin tray. Repeat until all the pastry dough is used, or all the muffins tray spots are full. (I like to use any left over pastry to make cinnamon sticks or a galette). Place the muffin tray in the fridge to set the dough for about 30 minutes. (This is a great time to make the filling).
If you’re using nuts and/or raisins (and you should, at very least, be using raisins), place a spoonful in the bottom of each tart shell and then fill the shells with the filling. They should be at least half full, but it doesn’t really matter as long as there is filling in there, and they aren’t overflowing. Aim for the middle ground between almost nothing and about to spill over.
Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes or until the pastry has nicely browned and the filling is puffed and set. They might be really puffy. You might start to worry that you’ve ruined the tarts, you’ve put in too much filling, and you have disgraced my country’s favourite dessert. It will be okay. The centres will settle once they cool.
Remove them from oven (be careful! ovens are hot) and place the tray on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Bask in love and compliments.