Friday, February 18, 2011

Jean's Famous Butter Tarts

The best baker I know is Jean White. She'd knock my block off if I mentioned her age, so let's just say that she's a Great Grandmother. My point being: she's been baking a lot longer than many of us and has learned a few things in her time, like how to make the World's Best Butter Tarts. But that's only half the story, because Jean also makes the World's Best Pastry. I don't know how she does it. Her pastry always rolls out perfectly, and her baking is consistently light, flaky and mouth wateringly good. So I figure, why knock ourselves out when we can borrow shamelessly from Jean's arsenal of baking secrets. Just don't let her know I told you.

Jean's Famous Butter Tarts
Makes 12 tarts

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup corn syrup
1 large egg
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup walnuts, chopped
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, mix the butter with brown sugar and corn syrup. Add the egg, vinegar and vanilla, and stir well. Line 12 muffin cups with pastry. Sprinkle some walnuts in each cup and then spoon filling overtop. Bake for about 5 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F and continue baking for another 8-10 minutes. These are delicious on their own, and even better with a scoop of ice cream. They also freeze very well. Just store in an airtight container until needed.

Jean's Secret Pastry Recipe
Makes 3 2-crust pies

5¾ cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 lb Tenderflake lard
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbsp white vinegar
¾ cup cold water

Mix the first five ingredients together well, until it's in crumbs. Add the egg, vinegar and water together in a small bowl and combine together. Then add it to the flour mixture and mix together with your hands until it becomes a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 3 round portions and wrap in saran warp and then aluminum foil. This is enough for three 2-crust pies, and it also freezes really well — so you can always have some on hand.