Disclaimer: I have a queue of draft posts that I have neglected for whatever reason. This one is from the Olympics back in February – but it seems fitting for Canada Day!
For most of my life, I thought that I didn’t like butter tarts.
I think it’s because of the name and possibly because I was never quite sure what was in a butter tart (beyond butter).
Just under two years ago, I found myself at the Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve. I was working on a second Woods Canada campaign. The first one had Cedric and I trek across the country, but the second one was an online reality TV style competition and I served as the shuttle driver/content writer/French speaker/general gopher (it was a weird but fun experience). Anyway, I can’t remember what we ate for dinner on this particular night, but I remember eating it outside and I remember that dessert was butter tarts.
At first, I passed. But then, the people who had taken one seemed to have an out-of-body experience, proclaiming that these were the best butter tarts they’d had in their entire lives. Well, that did it – I grabbed for one, and then I had an epiphany: I do like butter tarts!
Despite my very positive first butter tart experience, I hadn’t had another one since until I recently decided to give the Bobbette & Belle recipe a stab. The occasion: a loosely Canadian-themed celebration in honour of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
I worried at the name of the pastry used for the butter tarts: pate brisee, which translates directly to “broken pastry”. I have found B&B’s pate sucree recipe (used in the Mixed Berry Tart and Mini Blueberry Hand Pies recipe) to taste delicious, but to be extremely finicky to work with.
I’m pleased to report that the pate brisee is much easier to handle. I love the technique it uses to integrate cold butter with flour/sugar/salt: it calls for the butter to be grated in to the dry ingredients, so you barely have to handle it in order for the pastry to come together. Brilliant!
An egg and a little cold water gets added to the dough, then it is mashed into a disc and refrigerated for about three hours. The waiting is always the hardest part!
Next up: blind baking the pastry. I rolled out my dough and used a 4 inch round paper template (which I printed off from the internet) to stencil and cut out dough circles. The recipe states, “Make sure the pasty expands half an inch above the edge of the muffin cups to allow for shrinkage.” Mine were too small to do this, and although they turned out fine, I might use larger circle templates in the future for a more even tart.
The blind bake involves putting a cupcake paper over each tart, then filling it with beans and baking for 15 minutes. As always, add a good 10+ minutes to Bobbette & Belle recipes – mine were in about 25 before they started to get a nice golden colour.
While the shells were cooling, I got to work on the filling. At last, I solved the mystery of what goes into a butter tart. In a word: sugar. In several words: sugar, butter, honey, corn syrup, cream.
Making the filling is easy, namely because it doesn’t require a candy thermometer – you just have to cook it on the stove top until the sugar is dissolved.
Once the sweet stuff has melted, you carefully mix in an egg, vanilla, salt, and sugar mixture, finally whisking in some vinegar (which I’m sure does something scientific to make it all come together).
The recipe calls for straining the mix, which I did, though I’m not sure it did anything. Oh well, better safe than sorry. The glorious filling gets added to the shells, then then whole she-bang bakes until the filling jiggles slightly. As you can see, the filling gets kind of puffy and doesn’t look very butter tart-like – but the whole thing settles as it cools.
The recipe opener says that the butter tarts should have a filling that has a slightly runny centre – specifically, the words “oozing” and “look like lava” are used. I was incredibly pleased when I cut a test tarte in two and saw flaky pastry with a slightly oozing middle. They were perfect.
The tarts were very well-received at the Olympic shindig, by Canadians and non-Canadians alike (we had Brits, an Aussie, and a Kiwi in attendance as well – a truly international affair!)
The pastry and the filling both pull their weight equally here. Each recipe is perfection, and together, they are unstoppable. Like a male and female figure skater in the pairs competition. Or the doubles luge. Or… something.
Butter tarts: I’m officially a fan.