The Greatest Gift
October 14, 2009

Butter Tart

We've been living in the same place for a little over three years, and I'm really happy with the location, our neighbors and the proximity to decent restaurants and grocery stores. We've got no intention of going anywhere any time soon. But this is the thing. Our place? It's small. And we have a lot of stuff. Okay, so I have a lot of stuff. And for me, the best way to purge stuff is to move. All that emotional baggage that I attach to my stuff tends to disappear when relocating. Especially when it won't fit in a box, or it means one more car load of crap that has to be moved. But since we aren't going anywhere, the only things I manage to purge are shoes and clothes. Because that makes room for more shoes and clothes!

But I digress. I have a point! Which actually has nothing to do with moving. This is the someone who doesn't have room any more room in her apartment for ANYTHING, I've realized that I really appreciate gifts of food. It helps that I really like food. But also, it's a gift that doesn't usually have anything left over that you have to find place for in your tiny crowded apartment. And since the holidays are coming up, I thought I'd point this out. But even if it's just a "Thank You" gift, food is awesome. In a world of wish lists and one-click ordering, isn't it nice to know someone went through the effort to make you a batch of cookies?

ML has a whole army of "Aunties" that keep an eye on her cat when she travels (I'm one of them), and you know what she does to thank us? She invites us all over for brunch or dinner, and it's fantastic. A lot of the time there's even a theme. When she got back from Thailand, we were treated to a feast of home made Thai food. Her last trip was an annual jaunt to a cabin somewhere in Canada, so when she came back we were all treated to a Canadian brunch. All sorts of classic recipes and food from her childhood. One of my favorites was the butter tart. Which is a slightly deceptive name, because there's actually more sugar than butter in the filling. They very much reminded me of a pecan pie with out the actual pecans. As someone who LOVES pecan pie, I didn't miss them. Though there is a variation where you can add raisins or nuts, but why ruin something that's already so good? The recipe (after the jump) includes instructions for a pate brisse crust, but you can use your favorite pie dough recipe instead. I found that the dough for a single 9" crust was just enough for 12 tarts.

Recipe from MaryLynn

Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry):

1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water

Butter Tart Filling:

1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (215 grams) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) light cream (half-and-half) (10% butterfat)
1/2 cup raisins or 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (toasted and chopped) (optional)

Pate Brisee: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds.

Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.

After the dough has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and cut into 12 - 4 inch (10 cm) rounds. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards).) Gently place the rounds into a 12-cup muffin tin. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up the dough. Next, make the filling.

Butter Tart Filling: In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla extract. Stir in the cream. If using nuts and/or raisins, place a spoonful in the bottom of each tart shell and then fill the unbaked tart shells with the filling. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 15 - 20 minutes or until the pastry has nicely browned and the filling is set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 12 - 4 inch tarts.



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© Whitney Brandt-Hiatt: All writing, images, and photogrpahy are the property of Whitney Brandt-Hiatt unless otherwise noted.