In real life she didn't disappoint. She sparkles...and not in a contrived Meyeresque way...she's stylish, astute, sharp-tongued and sharp-witted. And here's the kicker...she's even more beautiful in real life than she is in her photos. Yes. Really.
When foodbloggers gather, kitchen-themed gifts are offered (whether we expect them or not). She brought me the most amazing Garrett's Chicago mix popcorn (who knew cheese and caramel would be so addictive). My gift to her? A selection of a Canadian staple: home-made butter tarts: traditional raisin, maple walnut and chocolate.
Notice how I write "traditional raisin?" Well...them's fighting words up here. The pro-raisin and the anti-raisin tribes have been hurling insults at one another for a while, each claiming their version superior to the other. I'm with Team Raisin.
That is...I would be with Team Raisin if I could eat them. I can't--I find them migraine-inducingly sweet. But, according to various afficionados around here, I make a mighty fine butter tart. So fine, in fact, I've been known to use them instead of currency: it's amazing how many extra hands are lent when butter tarts are mentioned in passing.
A basic butter tart is a rich shortcrust pastry shell filled with a (raisined) thick buttery-sweet filling, akin to what swathes pecans in pecan pie. There are many types of fillings available--nuts, fruit, peanut butter...They are incredibly easy to make--like other tarts, you can just buy frozen pastry shells if you need to, but really...pastry-making skills are easy enough to acquire...
The filling is forgiving, just keep in mind to not fill each shell more than half, for fear of that sticky, buttery sweetness overflowing its pastry bounds. You can make them in tartlette tins, but all the homemade ones I've been offered and the ones I've bought from local Mennonites have been formed in muffin tins, which I think add to their allure.
Maple Pecan Butter tarts
Adapted From Edna Staebler's Butter Tart Recipe in Food That Really Schmecks
For the pastry:
350g (2.5c) ap flour
125g (0.5c) cold butter (frozen, preferred)
a few tablespoons
For the filling
250g (2.25c) brown sugar
60ml (0.25c) maple syrup
30g (2Tbsp) butter, melted
1 beaten egg
1.5 Tbsp water
a pinch of salt
100g (1c) pecan pieces
Grate butter into the flour and with the tips of your fingers, rub the mixutre until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough cream to moisten the mixture so it forms a cohesive dough. Form a disc and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
While the dough is cooling, beat together all the filling ingredients, except the nuts, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 220C/450F.
Roll the pastry to about 0.3-0.5cm (aprox 1/8"-1/4") thickness. Scry circles large enough to fit the bowls of a 12-bowl muffin tin. Divide the nuts between the bowls and cover with enough
filling to reach the half-full level of each tart. Don't go much beyond this as the filling will expand and overflow. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the shells are baked and the filling is set.
I'm a quill for hire!