Way back in the spring I sent out a call for tart recipes, and then promptly got sidetracked by seasonal summer dishes. I'm happy to get back to tarts, and thanks to everyone who sent in recipes, including Dufresne's Cecile Olivier, Julie Jeannotte of Traverse Bay, Enid Barnes and Jean Wilson.
Let's start with the quintessentially Canadian butter tart. Enid Barnes sent in her favourite version, which comes by way of renowned Toronto food writer Lucy Waverman. And Julie Jeannotte sent in a family recipe for chess tarts, a dessert popular in the American South that's a kissing cousin to the butter tart. The chess tart has many variations (pecan, chocolate, citrus), but this one, intriguingly, uses raisins, walnuts and a hit of lemon in a stovetop-cooked filling.
Alert reader Norma W. phoned in to point out a discrepancy in the Make-Ahead Tea Biscuits (July 20) between the metric and imperial amounts of shortening: The correct metric amount is 500 ml shortening. I suspect that most of us still bake in cups and tablespoons, so I'm hoping no one was affected by my mistake. I apologize if you were.
Carly Unger wrote in hoping to find a recipe that ran a few summers ago in an all-blueberry feature in the Free Press food pages: It was a blueberry pie with a butter-based crust and orange peel in the filling. We weren't able to track it down, so we're hoping a reader might have clipped this one. If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to email@example.com, fax it to 697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave. Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.
114 g (1/2 cup) butter, softened
250 ml (1 cup) brown sugar
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
15 ml (1 tbsp) white vinegar
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
250 ml (1 cup) golden corn syrup
125 ml (1/2 cup) raisins
750 ml (3 cups) all-purpose flour
5 ml (1 tsp) salt
285 g (3/4 cup) butter, chilled and cubed
60 ml (1/4 cup) shortening, chilled and cubed
125 ml (8 tbsp) ice water
15 ml (1 tbsp) white vinegar
To make filling, in a medium bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and salt. Stir in vinegar, vanilla, eggs and corn syrup, but don't over-mix. Chill mixture in fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 175C (350F).
To make pastry, sift together flour and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and shortening and work in quickly and lightly with fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix together water and vinegar and sprinkle over flour mixture. Work in quickly with hands just until dough starts to come together into a ball. On a floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll out pastry quite thin, about 0.3 cm (1/8 in), and cut out into 10 cm (4 in) rounds. Fit rounds into medium-sized muffin cups (125 ml or 1/2 cup capacity). Place about 5 ml (1 tsp) raisins in each tart shell. Stir the filling mixture and then spoon filling over raisins, filling each tart about 3/4 full. Bake tarts for 25-30 minutes or until pastry is golden at edges and filling is set. (There can be a little jiggle. Tarts will firm up after an hour or two at room temperature.) Let cool in pan and then gently remove.
Makes 12-15 medium tarts.
Tester's notes: These were, for my mind, perfect butter tarts -- not too runny, not too gelatinous, just nicely soft and gooey. This is also a really good all-purpose pastry recipe, with butter for taste and shortening for texture. (And don't worry too much about making the pastry pretty. I've noticed that even large commercial bakeries now leave their butter tarts rustically unfinished at the edges so they have that "homemade look.") Make sure you don't overfill -- I'm one of nature's over-fillers -- because the tarts will puff up quite a lot before sinking back down when taken out of the oven. If there is sugary overflow around the edges of the muffin cups, let the tarts sit a minute or two after they come out of the oven and then make sure you run a sharp knife around the tarts before they start to cool, or you'll end up with pastry adhered to the pan with toffee-type glue.
Pastry (see above)
114 g (1/2 cup) butter
250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar
juice of 11/2 lemons, about 100 ml or 7 tbsp
250 ml (1 cup) raisins
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
125 ml (1/2 cup) walnuts, chopped very fine
For pastry, roll out pastry (made as above) very thin, about 0.3 cm (1/8 in) and cut into 7 cm (23/4 in) rounds. Fit rounds into mini-muffin pans (30 ml or 2 tbsp capacity) and prick bottoms of tarts with a fork. Chill for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Bake pastry shells for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden at edges, watching carefully. Cool on rack.
For filling, in medium heavy-bottomed pot, beat eggs and then stir in butter, salt, sugar, lemon juice and raisins. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to thicken (about 10-15 minutes) and is just about to come to a boil. Remove from heat, cool slightly and then add vanilla and walnuts. Cool completely and then spoon filling into baked and cooled tartlet shells.
Makes between 24-30 tartlets. Store in sealed container in the fridge.
Tester's notes: In most chess tart recipes, the filling is cooked with the pastry. This is an unusual method, and it yields a lovely combination of lemon curd tart and treacle tart.
I ended up stirring the filling for 20 (very soothing) minutes because I used a very thick-bottomed pot and a very low temperature. You need to be patient -- and to make sure the mixture doesn't boil -- or you'll end up with small bits of cooked egg. The filling will thicken as it cools, but I ended up letting it set in the fridge for about an hour to thicken up even more.
The very small mini-muffin tins are perfect for this rich treat, but you'll need to roll out the pastry very thin or you'll end up with too much pastry and not enough filling. (Alternatively, you can roll pastry into small balls and press up the sides of the muffin cups, keeping the shells thin.) Baking empty tartlet shells is fussy work. I pricked the bottoms with a fork, and then halfway through the cooking time took the pan out of the oven and gently pushed down any "bubbles." (But really, if you want to buy pre-baked pastry shells, nobody has to know.)