Monday, January 19, 2009

Making Butter Tarts

I made a post a few days back about butter tarts. I had never made them, but I was up for the adventure, thinking every good Canadian ought to be able to whip up a batch of the best, eh?

I don't have my mom's recipe, and since nobody was forthcoming with their mom's secret recipe, I did the next best thing and turned to the inner-nets for assistance. Now my problem was two-fold, in that I had not only never made butter tarts, neither had I ever made pastry dough. Over the years I had heard it was a minor art-form, something refined from years of practice. I couldn't just try it, could I? Surely disaster would be imminent.

Here's the recipe I used for the pastry:

2.5 cups flour
1 rounded tablespoon sugar
1 rounded tablespoon salt
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter
2/3 cup frozen vegetable shortening
4-6 tablespoons ice water
2 teaspoons cider vinegar.

I combined the four, sugar and salt, then cut the butter and shortening into little chunks and cut them into the mixture until the whole business was kind of mealy. I added the water and the vinegar and stirred it around to make moist clumps, then formed two balls. I flattened each ball, wrapped them in plastic and chilled. It turned out that this recipe was enough for a couple dozen tarts. However, my filling recipe was enough for half that, so there's some pastry dough in my freezer, awaiting a new adventure. I rolled out the chilled dough, and made 4 inch rounds using a glass, and I shaped these rounds in a tart tin, then I put the tin in the fridge and went to work on the filling.

I decided to make my butter tarts with currants. Some people use raisins instead. Some people use neither. Some people even use nuts but in my book that crosses an invisible threshold into some other kind of tart. I soaked half a cup of currants in warm water for half an hour. Next time I do it, I'll use about a third less currants.

OK, so I added the following to a bowl....1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup of corn syrop, a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla...and I mixed it all together (all by hand by the way...I didn't use any mixing devices for the whole business...was that wrong?) until it was more or less homogeneous. Then I lightly beat an egg with a fork and added it into the mix and stirred it around for a bit.

I took the tart tin from the fridge and divided up the currants by placing some in each tart. Then I added the goop to each tart. My recipe said to cook them at 400F for 15-20 minutes (shorter if you like them runny, longer if you like them firm). I'm pretty much convinced that this temperature (or my oven) is a little high, and next time I'll try it at 375F. Tuffy voted for firm, so I baked them about 18 minutes. On a few of the tarts, some of the filling boiled up over the pastry and hardened some. I think if I baked them at a slightly lower temperature, I could control this better.

Overall, I'm giving my first attempt a B+. The pastry was remarkably good, much better than I imagined it would be. I'm not sure what exactly I did right here, but I did something right for sure. I like the tarts with the currants. They add a nice texture. I seemed to recall that my mom used to make them sometimes with currants and sometimes with raisins. I'll use currants again next time, but as I suggested earlier, I think I'll go with fewer of them (meaning I'll need to make up more filling to compensate).


Candy Minx said...

I've heard the secret to making good pastry dought is having a qquick light touch, cold materials and not losing sleep. The adage "easy as pie" comes to mind but I've only made pie twice. Well done Mr. A.

Wandering Coyote said...

Practice, practice, practice! And send leftovers to the coyote!

S.M. Elliott said...

Sounds yummy, but the problem with making butter tarts is that I would then eat butter tarts...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh how I love butter tarts! It's been so long since I have had one, but now I really want one.

I always use the recipe on the back of the Tenderflake lard box for my pastry dough and have never had any problems.

Well done you!

zydeco fish said...

Good job. If you ever decide to make a gluten-free pastry, be sure to invite me over :-)

Anonymous said...

I made butter tarts on the weekend, for the first time. They were remarkably good, but the filling did boil over and create a bit of a crunchy crust on the pastry. I'm hoping a lower temperature next time will solve the problem.

Good job on your tarts, Mister Anchovy!