Bourbon Browned Butter Tarts

I feel like as soon as I got back from Boston, fall unceremoniously came and knocked us off our feet.  No more easing into September with warm days and nights where bare legs are still ok, but “bring out your leather jackets and tights because fall is here” weather.

So what better way to stay warm than toasty brown butter and bourbon in butter tart form!

This was my first foray into butter tarts (I don’t know how that happened either) and they turned out MARVELLOUS!  I used my typical pie dough recipe for the crust, which creates a beautifully flaky crust and doesn’t require any messing around with lard or eggs.

For the filling, I texted my Grandma as she is the butter tart lady in our family and she sent me two recipes.  Both were from old-school recipe books, and one mentioned adding another egg to have a firmer filling (aka my preference).  I fiddled with both, and ended up browning the butter (adds a delicious deep, nutty component), used maple syrup along with corn syrup (duh) and added a splash of bourbon (why not).

The end result?  Deliciously flaky tarts with a filling that is soft but not runny, sweet yet complex and ends with the subtle warmth of bourbon.  Canadiana, perfected.

Makes about 16 tarts

Crust Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar

Filling Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp bourbon
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Steps

To make the crust, mix together flour, sugar and salt.  Using a pastry blender, “cut” in the butter. This means you’re almost mashing the butter into the flour with the blender, ensuring all butter is covered in flour until the butter pieces are about the size of peas or a bit bigger.

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Then, splash in a bit of your water mixture (2-3 tablespoons) and mix it around with your hand.  Continue to add a little at a time and mix and squish with your hand until a large dough ball forms.  If you need to get a bit more binding, add a bit of water to your fingers to help it along.  Don’t feel compelled to use all the water, mix it in until just combined and the dough is holding together.  Cut the dough ball into two halves and flatten into disks. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

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Remove from fridge and let sit for 5 minutes so the dough doesn’t crack. Roll out each disk on a floured surface until about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.

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Using a circle cutter (mine was 3 inches and I cut around it, 4-5 inch cutters are ideal), cut as many dough circles as you can, re-rolling and re-cutting scraps once (anymore and the dough will be tough). Line a lightly buttered muffin tin with the dough rounds, gently pressing into the bottom of the tin.  Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  To brown the butter, place butter in a pan over medium heat and allow to melt, bubble and foam, stirring occasionally.  Once the butter starts turning a dark golden brown and smells nutty, remove from heat and pour into a large bowl.  Whisk in brown sugar until incorporated.  Add corn syrup, maple syrup, vanilla and salt and whisk until smooth.  Add eggs, bourbon and a squeeze of lemon juice and stir until the filling is smooth and uniform.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Spoon filling into chilled tart shells until they’re about 2/3-3/4 full (it was a scant 2 tbsp of filling per shell for me), being careful not to get filling between the shell and the pan as it will stick.

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Bake for 20 minutes, until the filling has puffed and the shell is lightly browned.  Allow to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes then cool on a wire rack.

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Dough recipe adapted from Four and Twenty Blackbirds

 

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