I can't think of a better way to remember my mom and celebrate one year of cooking from Lisa's Kitchen than by sharing my mom's best ever butter tart recipe. My mom was a master of pastry. Her pies and tarts always turned out perfectly. Though she was a good cook and excellent baker, her butter tarts are fondly remembered by all who tasted them as some of the best they ever had. The filling is gooey, but not runny, making it a perfect indulgence to enjoy without a fork. Store bought varieties of this classic Canadian treat are very pale in comparison.
I've had success in past with pastry, but I must admit, I still struggle with it. Take my first attempt at making these tarts for example. Though I understand that it is essential to use cold ingredients in order to produce a flaky, light tart shell, I was impatient to get baking and so did not chill the shortening long enough. I also overworked the dough and rolled it out too thin. The result was a rather tough, sticky pastry that tore when I transfered it to the tins. Not a good start, especially considering I had already prepared the filling. Thankfully for those unfortunate enough to be around when I'm making pastry, my once fierce temper has abated significantly. Instead of throwing the dough across the room, as I have been known to do, I merely uttered some oaths and punched the failed lump of waste before transferring the majority of it to the trash can. Then I had a cigarette before trying again.
They didn't work out quite as well as my mom's, but the filling tasted just as I had remembered it, with a slightly stronger vanilla taste because I doubled the amount called for in the recipe. Even the most classic recipes can sometimes be improved upon.
Usually I use butter for my pastry, but in the interest of documenting my mom's recipe, I've followed her version, provided here, which uses shortening instead. Feel free to substitute your own favored pastry recipe.
Mom's Classic Butter Tarts
To make the pastry:
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of shortening
5-7 tablespoons of ice water
Combine the salt and flour in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Add the water a bit at a time, mixing lightly with a fork, until the dough begins to hold together. Shape the dough into a firm ball with your hands. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out until it is roughly 1/8" thick. Cut into 4" rounds, and transfer to muffin tins, pressing down gently.
To make the filling:
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup of butter, softened
1 cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of milk
a generous 1/2 cup of raisins
1 - 2 teaspoons of vanilla
Mix together all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Spoon the mixture evenly into the tart shells. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes longer, or until the filling is set and the pastry is lightly browned.