Ana - The Suburban Peasant
Butter tarts- the quintisential Canadian desert. It’s sweet, humble and tender, kind of like us Canadians!
Do you know what today is? Go on, take a guess. It’s not my birthday. It’s not my husband’s birthday. It’s my blog’s birthday! Yay! Happy Birthday to The Suburban Peasant! It has been one year since I started writing this blog and boy am I ever glad I did. It has been so much fun cooking and sharing some of my favourite recipes with you, capturing the process along the way and reminiscing about memories attached to these much-loved foods.
Your reception to these recipes has been monumental and I can’t tell you how much that means to me. A lot, and I mean a lot of time goes into each and every post. I have to admit there have been times when I asked myself if the countless hours I spend testing and cooking, shooting and editing, writing and editing, researching and networking are worth it – and you know what? Your feedback and readership makes it all worth it. I am so grateful to be doing what I am doing and extremely fortunate to know that you like me, you really like me!
When I began this blog my premise was to share with you recipes that are fresh, wholesome, simple and authentic. Many of these meals, soups, sides and deserts are from my own background; the foods I grew up with in a Croatian household. I receive the most hits on these humble dishes (my top three most popular posts are Goulash, Krafne and Palačinke). It never ceases to put a smile on my face when a reader tells me that they’re so happy to find a particular recipe because their own grandmother made it and they can’t wait to share it with their family. It’s with comments like that I know I must be doing something right.
Today, instead of sharing a recipe with you from my cultural heritage, I’d like to offer one up from my dear home, Canada. Canadian food and culture can be rather hard to put your finger on. Ask any Canuck to describe what makes a Canadian, a Canadian and you may or may not be surprised to find out that we’ll struggle with that answer for a bit. More often than not, we’ll describe what it is to be a Canadian by differentiating ourselves from Americans. So if you think about it, Canadians don’t describe themselves as what they are, but what they’re not – Americans. No offense to Americans here, it’s just really difficult to shine next to your big and powerful next door neighbour. Throw in the same language, similar historical beginnings and that modest underdog persona we’re so well-known for and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a sibling rivalry.
Americans may not know it, but Canadians try hard to differentiate themselves from their big “brother”. We might highlight the fact that we are a peace keeping nation – well sort of. That kind of changed after Afghanistan, but nevertheless we do not have the military prowess of the U.S. Canadians like to think of themselves as modest people, we have universal health care, we say things like schedule pronounced with a “sh” sound. The letter “z” is pronounced “zed” not “zee” and colour is spelled with a “u”. We really do say “eh” a lot, and find it much more polite than “huh?” Winter hats are called toques and we drink pop, not soda. But perhaps one of the most telling characteristics of Canadian culture is how seamlessly other cultures are woven into it. Canada is a multicultural nation, we are one big tossed salad where other cultures are welcome to be who they are, and we see our country as being better off because of it. This notion rings so true that the first thing people often say when visiting Canada, especially a huge, diverse city like Toronto, is how multicultural it is. Perhaps Canadian culture is the sum of all its people’s parts in a land where diversity is treasured.
So in honour of my dear, humble home I give you a treat that is as sweet and unpretentious as the land from which it comes from – the butter tart. I have to admit I did not know butter tarts were Canadian until I caught this interesting bit of information in a radio program I was listening to. If you’re new to Canadian cuisine, the butter tart is similar to the French-Canadian sugar pie and can be juxtaposed to the Southern American dessert, pecan pie, but it is different in its own way. Unlike pecan pie that is made with a thickened filling, butter tarts have a oozing centre that slowly seeps out when you bite into it. If you’ve ever had a butter tart you might have had one with walnuts or pecans. This is acceptable, but if you’re looking for the authentic version you got to add raisins. This is actually my variety of choice, as I find the crisp and flaky crust adds enough texture contrast against the gooey filling, and the absence of nuts really allows the natural flavours to shine through. So if you’re reading and you’re Canadian, embrace the Canuck-ness within you and give this recipe a try and if you’re not, here’s a great way to take a bite out of our culture and try something new, eh?
Flashback to last year: Gnocchi and the Best Tomato Sauce You’ll Ever make
To prepare for this post, I read through many different recipes and decided to test out two. The first was a more sophisticated version with extra dark, demera brown sugar, maple syrup and pecans. The second was the traditional variety with regular brown sugar, corn syrup and raisins. The first variety was very good, but the demera sugar was a bit too overpowering and left me with an almost bitter aftertaste, reminiscent of burnt sugar. The second recipe, with the regular brown sugar had flavours that reminded me of great butter tarts I had in the past, but felt it could have been even better with maple syrup instead of corn syrup. So, sticking with Canadian tradition and ingredients I subbed in the king of syrups for the over processed corn variety and came out with a butter tart that will just knock your socks off.
Makes 24 butter tarts (recipe can be easily halved to make 12)
2 1/4 cups cake and pastry flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
For the shells:
Stir the flour, sugar and salt to combine in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cut into the flour on low-speed until just small pieces of butter are visible and the mixture as a whole just begins to take on a pale yellow colour (indicating that the butter has been worked in sufficiently).
Stir the water and vinegar together and add this to the dough all at once, mixing until the dough just comes together. Shape the dough into a disc then cut in half. Roll the halves into logs, wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour before rolling. Note: If you have chilled your dough for 2 hours or more, remove it from the fridge 20 minutes before you intend to roll it out. Failing to do so will make the dough very difficult to roll out.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheit and grease two muffin tins. When ready to roll out pastry, cut each log in half and cut those halves into three, giving you 12 pieces all together. Roll out each piece to about a 1/4 of an inch and use a 4 inch circle cookie cutter to cut out circles. Fit the cut out pastry into the tin, gently pressing down into the sides, to take the shape of the cup. Repeat this process with all 12 pieces then combine the scraps and start again for the next 12.
For the filling:
In a bowl, with a set of electric beaters, beat together the softened butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt, until just combined. Divide the raisins and place them in the bottom of each tart shell. Divide the mixture between the shells and bake in a 400 degree farenheit oven for 10 minutes before reducing the temperature to 375 degrees farenheit. Continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the filling is set (centre will still be gooey) and the edges of the tart shells are lightly browned. Cool the tarts in the tin and after 5 minutes, gently twist them to ensure they don’t sick to the pan. Serve warm and refrigerate to keep for up to 4 days.