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.
View Pate Brisee Pie Crust Video
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.
Butter tarts are unique to Canada and consist of flaky pastry shells that are filled with a sweet mixture of butter, brown sugar and eggs. So proud are we of our Butter Tarts that Marie Nightingale tells us in her book 'Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens' that "even today at County fairs there are special awards for the best butter tarts, and this award is vied for and coveted by the winner". Some say Butter Tarts descend from the American Pecan Pie or even the British Treacle Tart, but history neither confirms nor denies these claims.
Now, there are many opinions as to what makes the perfect Butter Tart. What is the best pastry crust? Should the filling be firm or runny and should the filling have raisins or nuts? What I do know is that Butter Tarts are always small, not to be eaten daintily with a fork, but picked up and eaten in a few delicious bites. For me, I like a Butter Tart with a crisp and crumbly tart shell made with a Pate Brisee, a short crust pastry. I like a filling that is soft but not runny, which means no corn syrup is added and all the ingredients are simply beaten together. I waiver on whether I prefer raisins (currants) or nuts and sometimes I simply use both. As far as the raisins go both the California and Thompson varieties are excellent. If nuts are desired Canadians tend to favor walnuts but Americans may want to use pecans to emulate the pecan pie. These little gems are baked in a fairly hot oven until the crusts have nicely browned and the filling has set. They are excellent warm from the oven, at room temperature, or even chilled.