There’s always been controversy about whether Canada has a cuisine of its own, or even a national dish. If it comes down to recipes, yes, we do have recipes people recognize as Canadian. Apple pie, for example – but the US and Great Britian enjoy it too. There’s chowder – in the Maritimes – and in France. Canadians love tea biscuits, but so do the Scots who call them scones. In fact, many of our dishes right up to the latest Vietnames pho or Tamil fish curry are shared. That is, all except the butter tart.
So it is only fitting that when food writer, broadcaster and author Rose Murray wrote A Taste of Canada, A Culinary Journey, Whitecap Books, 2008, $34.95) that she included a recipe for butter tarts. But not the old pastry-based tarts, where the pastry can be so thick as to diminish the impact of the sugar filling. She chose a phyllo pastry tart shell, with these advantages. You don’t have to be a pastry pro to make pretty fine butter tarts. The phyllo itself becomes a good-looking feature with its many pleats and layers. And it’s great entertainment for you mouth – crunchy crisp pastry, runny sweet filling, toasty pecans.
In honour of Canada 2009, here is Rose’s recipe. However, if you’re too busy swimming or watching the fireworks, and miss baking the tarts this Canada Day, never fear, you can make them any time of the year.
Butter Tarts in Phyllo
There are even a couple of controversies about butter tarts. Should they be runny and dribble down your chin? Or, custardy so you can make a clean bite with your front teeth? Should they contain currants, raisins or nuts? Rose settles on nuts – pecans to be exact, and opts for the fluidy. although in real life she eats butter tarts very graciously - on a plate, with a fork.
6 sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
3 tbsp (45 mL) melted butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) corn syrup
2 tbsp (30 mL) melted butter
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
1 tsp (5 mL) fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup (75 mL) coarsely chopped pecans
. Place the phyllo pastry between two sheets of waxed paper and cover with damp tea towel. Place 1 sheet on a work surface, keeping the remaining sheets covered. Brush the phyllo with some of the melted butter; top with a second sheet. Continue stacking the sheets of phyllo, brushing each with melted butter, until you have a stack of 6. Brush the top sheet well with butter. Cut into 12 even squares. Press the squares evenly into 12 muffin cups.
Filling; In a bowl, beat the egg well with a whisk, then whisk in the sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla and lemon juice. Stir in the nuts.
Spoon the filling evenly into the prepared phyllo cups, being careful not to let the filling come up above the pastry (They will appear about half full.) Bake in the bottom third of a 375°F (190°C) oven until the pastry is golden, about 15 minutes. Place the pan on a rack to cool completely.
Makes 12 tarts.