Monday, October 3, 2011

Classic Butter Tarts and my Obsession Tales

Yesterday someone asked me if I thought I was the only one on the planet who obsesses this much over cookies and brownies.

It was a reasonable question considering I spent exactly 87.4% of my weekend baking chocolate chip cookies, and then trying to figure out how I can justify having three different chocolate chip cookie recipes in my cookbook.

Yes, three. They all kind of look the same because, well, I'm a purist at heart. Only dark chocolate goes into my chocolate chip cookies, and mostly in chunk form.

But, they have different textures. There's crispy, soft and chewy. Some taste more caramel-ly, while others brown up faster. It's science.

Would you be annoyed if you saw three different chocolate chip cookie recipes in a cookbook. Is it a waste of space? Am I crazy?

I know it is totally bold and daring of me, but people like people who take risks right? Or at least people like people who show them pictures of butter tarts.

So that's what I'm going to do.

Butter tarts are a true classic Canadian dessert. My mom always had to bring them with us when we visited cousins in the States because they loved them.

You know who loves these? Jonathan (my other half). Ya! Holy cow. Of all the things I make, including intricate cupcakes with secret fillings and four layer cakes, he went crazy over these. He had to eat them in peace practically closing his eyes to take in the true flavour experience.

I didnt' know this about him. He loves butter tarts. Easy. Done. Every birthday he will get butter tarts. you even know what they are? Excuse my ignorance. Think of a pecan pie filling in a flaky pastry. It's made with eggs, butter (duh) and brown sugar. Like I said...easy.

They can be runny and gooey or firm. These are on the firmer side with a hint of gooey.

A hint of gooey....that sounds weird.

Classic Butter Tarts
Makes 12 tarts

For the crust:
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
6 tbsp very cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
2 - 2½ tbsp cold milk

For the filling:
2/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup golden corn syrup
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

To make the pastry, whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and rub it into flour mixture rapidly until it resembles coarse crumbs. The butter should be well dispersed with some larger pieces the size of oatmeal flakes, and there should be no dusty flour left in the bowl. Beat together egg yolk and milk in a small bowl and drizzle into cold flour/butter mixture while gently tossing with a fork. Continue to stir until dry ingredients are evenly moistened and it holds together in clumps. The dough will hold together when squeezed in your hand when ready. If the mixture is still rather dry, drizzle in another ½ tablespoon of milk. Turn the crumbly dough out onto a clean work surface and gather it together with your hands slightly cupped, turning it frequently and pressing in loose bits until it is cohesive and forms a mass. Press the dough firmly to form a roughly-shaped ball. Shape dough into a disk, wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Leave to soak for 20 minutes. Drain well and reserve.

To make filling, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Beat in corn syrup and vanilla extract. Stir in salt.

Divide raisins evenly among unbaked pastry shells. Pour filling over raisins so that the tarts are about 3/4 full and bake about 15 minutes or until filling is bubbling and pastry is golden. Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack to cool. Let tarts cool completely in pan before removing. 

Serve at room temperature or chilled. 
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