Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Butter Tarts

I became a part of Terry's family when I was 18ish. Terry's mom is one of the best cooks I have ever met. I think I loved her cooking so much because she made foods that I had never tasted before, and had never even seen before. Kibbi, yuckni & Rice, cabbage rolls, peroges, flatyre. She made pies by the triples... never just one. Always three. Apple pie, pecan pie, lemon pie, sweets and squares....

When Terry and I got married I was 22 and the first week that Terry went out to sea, Joan came to my apt in Halifax for the whole week to teach me to cook these things. Before I got married, I had learned a few cooking techniques that I hadn't before like gutting hundreds of smelt under running cold water... blah. And I learned to make pie crust too.

To be fair, my mom was also an amazing cook, but I took her good cooking for granted. She made things that others might find strange like egg rolls by the hundreds, and cod tongues and cheeks, escargots. We blanched and froze garbage bags full of fiddleheads, and we sat for hours with rolling pins cracking and de meating crab legs by the 100 lb. She was a roast and candy maker, so I learned to make fudge and chocolates from mom. And Roasts and spaghetti too.

Anyway, back to Joan. That week she came I learned to make almost everything I listed above. My freezer was full by the end of the end of the week. One of things I didn't learn from her was her amazing butter tart recipe. But she wrote it out for me, and I already knew how to make the pie crust so I was ok to try it on my own.

I lived in Halifax for a year, and in that time, Terry was gone for 90% of it, so I didn't attempt the butter tarts because I really didn't need to eat a whole batch myself. I was also working, and able to work a lot of over time so I didn't even give it a thought.

We moved to Borden in July of that year and I was unemployed and living in a sublet apt in a big building in a big city (by my standards). I didn't know anyone and I was fairly shy and nervous of strangers so I stuck pretty close to home. This is where I learned all about "Another World", Texas and General Hospital. It was my 3 hours of social time each day with Rachel and the Carringtons from Another World and Iris and Dennis Carrington in Texas. Then of course... General Hospital with Luke and Laura!

While all that was going on, I would bake.... cookies mostly. But then I decided, it was time... to attempt the butter tarts. I only had one muffin pan, but it had 12 cups in it. So I made my pie crust, cut all my tarts shells and popped them into the cups. Mixed the stuff for inside the tarts. Now I always felt that Joan was very stingy on the buttery stuff in the tarts. You know, it was mostly pie crust with a splash of that yummy filling at the bottom. I decided that since I only had 12 tarts anyway, I might as well fill up the cups to at least 3/4 of the way up to make them really GOOD tarts.

Have you ever made butter tarts.

Can you guess what happens when you do something that stupid! Well, let me tell ya. They bubble up to 4 times the size of the cups, boil over the top down the sides and into the oven and catch on fire but not before they burn BLACK onto the muffin pan! After I calmed down the smoke detector, threw water all through the bottom of my stove, and cooled off the blackened muffin tin..... I sat down with Luke and Laura and proceeded to eat the butter tarts with a knife and spoon. (the knife was to chisel it off the sides of the muffin cups). I learned a valuable lesson that day! But that was not the only lesson I learned from butter tarts.!

After ruining my only muffin pan, I ventured out of the apt and went to Woolco and bought myself 3 muffin tins with 12 cups in each. The recipe said it made 30 tarts.

My second attempt was very successful and I was so proud of them, I began making them often. I first made a plateful and Terry brought them to his workplace where they gobbled them up without ceremony and Terry arrived back home that evening full of compliments from all his staff. That felt pretty good. I made them at least once a week and I even started to double the recipe so that I was getting 50 or so tarts and would freeze some, send some to Terry's work and bring some to Terry's grandmother on the weekends. When I was invited to outings, I would bring my tarts. Finally in November that year, I too, got a job. I still seemed to have time to make butter tarts and would bring them to my work and send them to terry's work. I was becoming famous for them and they became "Donna's Butter Tart" recipe. Over the next year I made them at least once a month if not more and I changed jobs in the spring and worked for a larger group and would make a large batch and brought them in for the whole building! They were fiddly to make but I loved the attention!

That Xmas, Terry and I decided to stay in Borden for the holidays because I was more than half way through my first pregnancy and we wanted to save our money for a trip home in the summer with our new little one. My good friend and coworker Joanne decided that she would invite all the childless couples that she worked with to her house for Xmas dinner but the catch was we all had to come to her house on this particular day to help with her Xmas baking. I was to make the butter tarts, naturally! I was quite famous for them by this time! Sooooo, I made two big batches of pie crust the day before to get a head start.

On the "baking day" Terry and I arrived at Joannes and found the house full of people making different things from bread to meat pies and a little spot was reserved for me to roll out my pie crust and make my tarts. Joanne had the flour there and the muffin pans. I got my stuff all ready and then Joanne came to me and asked me what size circle cutter I needed to make my tart shells................

Ok, I stood there looking at Joanne like she was an idiot. Why on earth would I want a circle to cut my tart shells. She looked at me confused by my blank stare. I stood there processing.... a circle cutter..... makes the circles... and you pop them into the little cups..... ummm. I reviewed my technique in my head.....

cut out a square of dough, press it into the cup, then take scissors and cut all around the top of the muffin cup. take the bits of dough and make a pile for the next rolling. Humm...... I tried my hardest to not show on my face how I was feeling. for almost two years..... at least once a month and most months TWICE A MONTH.... I made 50 butter tarts by cutting squares of dough and trimming them after they were in the muffin tin... with scissors.....

Terry could tell I was perplexed. And when I squirrelled him into a corner to tell him what I had just discovered..... the miracle of a circle cookie cutter..... he looked at me like I had two heads. He told me that was how his mother cut them ... with a big round cookie cutter! And then I remembered that never, when I was making them was Terry ever home! I usually made them when he was working (shift work) or golfing. Hundreds and hundreds of butter tarts carefully trimmed with scissors....

8 comments:

Cricket said...

That is a very funny story. By the way, do they have raisins in them?They LOOK yummy yummy!

dp said...

Oh, Cricket, I have never taken a picture of my own butter tarts so I nabbed a picture of some butter tarts from the internet, and yes they have raisons in them but MINE NEVER HAVE RAISONS. Terry would kill me!

ancient one said...

Funny story. I just typed a book in here and the page didn't work.. so this time I'm just saying they look so good.

Planted my beans on the back side of the ancient fence and they are starting to climb.

Mary said...

Mary said...
The story is very funny & the tarts sound delicious but where is the recipe??

Anonymous said...

I second Mary - Where's the recipe!? And Donna? Are they special scissors that are used to 'trim' the tart shells in the pan? ah hahahahahahaha I love that story every time you tell it....at least your crust didn't have yellow flecks in it.. love ya baby.. Albert

Sue said...

Donna Honey,
When they don't have raisins, they're called Egg Tarts. And I love them too. Mmmmm, making my mouth water. Might have to make some this weekend.
Sue

GailM. said...

Cute story, but you know, I like hand trimmed butter tarts better than circle cut ones. I like hand chopped pickles too rather than food processor chopped ones. Will you post your pie crust recipe and the butter tart filling too. And what size is your round circle cutter :). We should make a collection of recipes and do a shutterfly book. I think I have Mom's Dirty Macaroni recipe. I think it's slightly different that the one Tracy made last month.

cpm said...

Too funny! Very cute story! but all I could think of was...Why the hell haven't I tasted those butter tarts yet?!? I LOVE butter tarts!