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Notes from the Kitchen: Butter Tarts

mennonites and butter tarts

 

When I took over the cheffing duties at Roundwood I was entirely new to the game. I didn’t arrive with a bag of tricks, so I had to learn some quickly. After acquiring a few and building the confidence to experiment, I thought it would be fitting to put a Canadian twist on the food we were making here. But an inventory of my childhood culinary experiences left slim pickings for inspiration. Cuisine in Canada in the 70’s and 80’s moved in very questionable directions. This was a time and place that would suspend ham in jello and call it a salad.

Then I remembered the Mennonite Farmer Markets in St. Jacobs. I wish I could say that I was drawn to the fruit and vegetables spilling out of baskets on endless rows of tables, but my love of fresh, hand-picked produce would take a few decades to grow. Little-kid-me made a bee-line for the homemade baked goods, specifically the butter tarts.

What is a butter tart, you ask?  According to Wikipedia, “A butter tart is a type of small pastry tart highly regarded in Canadian cuisine and considered one of Canada’s quintessential treats. The sweet tart consists of butter, sugar, syrup, and egg filled into a flaky pastry and baked until the filling is semi-solid with a crunchy top.” Well described Wikipedia.

Happy that I had come up with a uniquely Canadian offering, I just had to figure out a way of jazzing it up a bit. Delicious as butter tarts are, they certainly don’t qualify as fancy desserts and if I was going to introduce Ireland to one of Canada’s national treasures, I wanted it to be wearing its Sunday best.

So, why not make it into a tart? With a chocolate crust. As far as I can tell, chocolate never made anything worse. Add a few dried cranberries and toasted cashew nuts, and presto. Ireland, I give you fancy chocolate crusted butter tart. Recipe below.

Chocolate Crusted Caramel Tart with Cranberries & Cashew Nuts

plain flour (sifted)        450 g
cocoa powder (sifted)        50 g
icing sugar (sifted)        100 g
salted butter (cold)        250 g
eggs            2

Combine dry ingredients in the food processor. Cut butter into workable cubes, and slowly add to mixture. After all butter is incorporated, add eggs and mix until the dough is formed. This is the finished product, no kneading, resting, or proofing is required. Refrigerate for a couple hours before working.

Roll out dough to ¼” thick. Press into a 2” deep, spring form pan. Dough is somewhat malleable and can be cut and reformed into pie pans if being uncooperative. Blind bake for 15-20 min at 180º C, or until top edges of crust begin to brown. Cool.

Filling
brown sugar        1½ cups
melted butter        ¼ cup
eggs (medium)        3
vanilla paste        1 tsp
AP flour            1 tbsp
whiskey            to taste

Sprinkle craisins (dried cranberries or raisins) and toasted cashews (or any nut) into the cooled pie shells. Pour in filling mixture. Should fill shell completely. Bake for 25-30 min at 180º rotating pie half way through the cooking process to ensure even baking. Let cool before serving.