Sunday, November 1, 2009

Butter tarts, not butter pie

Butter pie is on the back burner for now. Not that I've given it up: if the Internet fails me, I may go all the way to Lancashire and a Preston North End football game to find out what butter pie is really supposed to be like.

Butter tarts, now: they're a Canadian specialty. When I was a kid, we always had them at Christmas. I hadn't had them for years, but what made me start thinking about butter tarts again was the Surrey International Writers' Conference, held every fall in Surrey, BC. I went two years in a row. It's a great multi-genre conference, not too big, not too small. I had a great time, but the highlight of the conference both times (for me) was the butter tarts. There were trays of them on the dessert table, and since the American attendees, by and large, didn't know what they were, that left more for those in the know, such as me.

And then, on another trip out west, I found the World's Best Butter Tarts, served at a cool little bakery/café. I don't remember the name of the café, and I think it was in Lillooet, which is a small town north of the famous Whistler ski area, but I can't say for sure.

All of which led to a major case of butter-tart homesickness, so I got a recipe from my sister and tried making them myself. Miracle of miracles, they worked! I gorged myself on them for several days. Here goes:

Pans: My mother used tart pans. I couldn't find any, so I used both mini and medium muffin tins. Both worked fine.

Pastry: You can make your own, or buy pre-made tartlets or pre-rolled pie pastry which you cut to fit the tart or muffin pans. I did the lazy version of make your own. I used a recipe from my old, battered, and very reliable Joy of Cooking. It's called Quick and Easy Pie Crust. You don't have to roll it out – you just pat it into the pans. My butter tarts didn't look all that gorgeous, but they tasted great.

1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the ingredients together and fill the pastry-lined muffin or tart pans about 2/3 full. Actually, they'll take a bit more than that, but if you over-fill them, the filling bubbles over and may burn. It still tastes good, though.

Bake at 450 degrees for 8 minutes, then at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. The recipe is supposed to make 12 to 15 tarts. I got a dozen minis plus nine mediums.

As my sister advised me – enjoy, but not all of them at once!

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