Butter tarts were a staple of pioneer cooking with the first known recipe dating back to 1915, becoming extremely popular during the twenties and thirties.
If you’re Canadian, chances are you have eaten a butter tart. They are part of our DNA! As a croissant is to France, the butter tart is to Canada.
Chatelaine Magazine printed its first butter tart recipe in April 1931. By the 1950’s, butter tarts were part of the picnic lunch boxes sold at Eaton’s Department Store in Toronto, Canada.
Tarts have continued along this commercial journey and now are pretty much in every cafe, bakery, at your nearest grocery store and even Tim Horton’s has them.
Overtime, the recipe for our ‘national treasure’ has been adapted to suit many different applications. Today’s recipe is a good example of that. I’ve swapped out the regular pastry for a shortbread crust and pumpkin seeds and cranberries for the raisins. Take note, that the one constant in butter tarts …. that syrupy, buttery filling remains in tact.
Pumpkin Seed Butter Tart Squares
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8 X 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper using only one piece so none of the filling leaks out during the baking process.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar & salt to combine. With a pastry cutter, cut in cold butter, adding vanilla & lemon zest. Transfer dough to prepared baking pan. Using your finger tips, evenly press the dough onto the bottom of the pan.
Carefully prick the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork making sure not to make any holes in the parchment. Bake for about 20 minutes or just until a pale golden color. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool while you prepare the filling.
In a bowl, beat together butter & sugar with a hand mixer until light & fluffy. Beat in eggs until incorporated then the corn syrup & vanilla. Stir in flour, salt & baking powder.
Sprinkle 100 gm of the pumpkin seeds & all of the dried cranberries over the baked shortbread base. Then pour the filling over this mixture & bake for about 20-25 minutes or until filling is set. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle remaining 20 gm of pumpkin seeds on top for decoration. Serve at room temperature or chilled (or straight from the freezer).
Bread Pudding ….. its just bread plus eggs plus a sweetened, spiced milk mixture. What makes it special is the blend of spices mixed into it and the sauce.
When done right, bread pudding should have the perfect balance of gooey goodness and chewy texture. That’s why stale bread is important. The bread needs a degree of crunch otherwise you will have ‘mush pudding‘.
For today’s recipe, I started by making a loaf of Challah bread. This is an ‘eggy’ bread that can soak up custard without collapsing. It will toast nicely on the outside and leave you with a creamy pudding inside.
Challah is a very straight forward bread to make. The dough is enriched with eggs and oil, while a few tablespoons of sugar add some sweetness and it doesn’t require any fussy techniques. Because challah is traditionally braided, proofing is key…. if the dough is not properly proofed, it will tear in the oven while baking.
Here’s where it becomes ‘comfort food‘ made with glorious challah, tropical mangos and spices inspired by the world’s love affair with Indian chai.
Chai, which is sometimes overlooked, adds a distinct warm flavor and depth. It can include a number of different spices. Cardamom is the most common ingredient, followed by some mixture of cinnamon, ginger, star anise and cloves. Pepper, coriander, nutmeg and fennel are also used but they are slightly less common.
For the finishing touch, I made a rum sauce. Who says bread pudding has to be boring!
Mango Bread Pudding with Chai Spices
In a small bowl, place lukewarm water & sprinkle with yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir to combine. Let stand about 5-10 minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, place 4 cups flour, sugar & salt; whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center of flour mixture & add eggs, egg yolk & oil; whisk to form a slurry. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Combine with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.
On a floured work surface, turn out dough & knead for about 10 minutes. If dough is sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough should be soft, smooth & hold a ball shape. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise, in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you wish to make. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16-inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest 5 minutes to relax the gluten & then try again. For the 6 stranded braid as I made, the name of the game is 'over two, under one, over two'. Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest strand. Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the loaf. Try to make your braid as tight as possible. Once you reach the end, squeeze the ends of the ropes together & tuck them under the loaf.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top & sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a tea towel & allow to rise about 1 hour. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350 F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 Tbsp. of water & brush carefully over challah. Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Remove from oven & cool before cutting up for bread pudding.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking dish; toss bread & mango cubes together in it. In a medium bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients together & pour over the bread & mangoes; allow the mixture to soak for about 5 minutes. Bake about 1 1/4 hours, or until set.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Mix together sugar & cornstarch; stir into the melted butter. Slowly pour in milk, stirring frequently until mixture begins to lightly boil. Continue cooking until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in rum. Serve warm over bread pudding.
When cinnamon, sugar and butter are mixed together, the result is something many people all over the world find irresistible.
The first cinnamon roll was created in Sweden, around the 1920’s. After World War I, several goods such as sugar, eggs and butter, which had been heavily restricted, eventually returned to the grocery shelves. The spice trade from Southeast Asia also led to the invention of the roll. Cinnamon was not grown locally in the European countries, hence the spice trade from Sri Lanka led to the development of cinnamon use in the European countries. The influences of German baking techniques combine with Swedish and Danish ingredients can clearly be seen in the making of the cinnamon roll.
In Sweden, October 4th is ‘Kanelbulle’ day or national ‘Cinnamon Roll Day’. This holiday was originally created by the country’s Home Baking Council in 1999 to commemorate their 40th anniversary. Swedish cinnamon rolls are not as sweet and heavy as they are in North America. The dough contains a hint of cardamom spice and they are generally baked in muffin papers to make a more delicate treat.
Our family definitely enjoyed a lot of irresistible cinnamon rolls. As is everything that becomes the ‘norm’, you take it for granted until you no longer have it and it becomes a ‘taste of a memory’.
I recall my mother also making ‘potato’ doughnuts. The mashed potato seems to really add to the flavor of a yeast dough. In keeping with this Swedish ‘holiday’, I am making POTATO CINNAMON ROLLS or ‘Twists’.
Potato Cinnamon Rolls (Twists)
In a large mixing bowl, combine lukewarm milk with yeast; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Allow to stand about 3 minutes or until foamy. Add warm mashed potato, melted butter, eggs, sugar, cardamom & salt; mix well. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic.
Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning dough to completely coat it with grease. Cover with plastic wrap; allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size. Punch down, turn out on a lightly floured work surface & let rest for about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar & cinnamon; set aside.
Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 14 x 14-inch square. Brush with melted butter & evenly sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, then roll again into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle. Facing the long edge, cut dough into roughly 18 -8-inch strips. Twist each strip several times, slightly stretching it as you do so. Take one end of the twisted strip & coil the dough around your hand twice, then over the top. Coil dough again & tuck the loose end in at the bottom.
Arrange on baking sheets. Cover with plastic & allow to rise in a draft-free place, 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. Place oven rack in middle position & preheat oven to 350 F.
If you prefer, you can brush rolls with egg wash & sprinkle with pearl sugar or chopped almonds instead of using cream cheese glaze. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. While cinnamon rolls are baking, make glaze (if you are using it). With a mixer, beat together cream cheese & butter until light & fluffy. Blend in powdered sugar & vanilla. Add enough milk to achieve a drizzle-like consistency. Drizzle on rolls while still warm.
- Freezer Instructions: Form cinnamon rolls into twisted shape & place several inches apart on baking sheet to freeze rolls individually. Once frozen, transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag. When ready to bake, place on a lightly greased baking sheet & allow to come to room temperature before baking.
With Valentines Day almost here, I decided to do a prelude post with a few dessert ideas.
In the food industry, this day was always fun to prepare food for. Definitely a more intimate occasion, all revolving around chocolate, ‘hearts’ and roses. Strangely enough, every time Brion and I have tried to go out for supper on Valentines we usually come home wondering why we did that. The restaurants were packed, the wait is long, the music is loud, etc, etc. Nonetheless, I’m always happiest if I can prepare a ‘special meal’ for us to enjoy at home. That being said, my choice of dessert for this Valentines Day are Strawberry Yogurt Parfaits with Chocolate Cheesecake Squares.
The fresh strawberry compote has a nice lemony tang that pairs well with the creamy Greek vanilla yogurt. Brion isn’t much for cheesecake but just loves these chocolate cheesecake squares.
Strawberry Yogurt Parfaits / Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
Rinse, hull & slice strawberries. Zest & juice lemon. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, water, lemon juice, zest & cornstarch. Add strawberries, mixing gently while bringing to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool.
In parfait glasses, spoon layers of strawberry compote & Greek yogurt. Garnish with a strawberry leaf if desired. Refrigerate until serving time.
Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
Line a 9-inch square baking pan with 2 sheets of parchment paper so cheesecake can easily be lifted out later. In a small bowl, combine the graham crumbs, pecans & butter. Press into prepared pan; set aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar & sour cream until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in vanilla. Pour over crust.
Bake at 325 F. for 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate until chilled. Freeze overnight.
Melt chocolate & shortening; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Using parchment paper, lift cheesecake out of pan. Gently peel off paper; cut into 49 squares. Remove a few pieces at a time for dipping; keep remaining squares refrigerated until ready to dip.
Using a toothpick, completely dip squares, one at a time, in melted chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets; spoon about 1 tsp chocolate over each, reheating chocolate if needed to finish dipping. Let stand for 20 minutes or until set. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Yield 49 squares.
Now comes the time to use up all those remaining tidbits of holiday baking still in the freezer. For those who haven’t tried it, sweet bread pudding is perhaps the ultimate comfort food. It’s simple to make, requires no special equipment and uses basic ingredients. It’s not even particularly beautiful on the plate, but it sure tastes good.
Just about every culture that makes bread has it’s own version of bread pudding. An open textured loaf with lots of holes become little pockets of custard. If you choose a bread that is quite ‘airy’ but has good chewiness, your pudding will strike a satisfying balance between lightness and body. In contrast, a loaf with a tight crumb makes a compact pudding with a dense texture.
The custard is what binds the bread together and creates the pudding’s lusciousness. Milk, eggs, sugar and flavoring are the basic elements but of course, other variations can be layered in as well.
Bread pudding was definitely a dessert my mother made since she baked bread every week. At that time it was pretty basic but nevertheless homey and good.
Today, January 22, our family celebrates the birthday of my sister, Marilyn. Birthdays were always made to be special as we were growing up. Not so much as to gifts but in regards to the family acknowledgement of ‘your’ day. My mother loved having a reason to use her cake decorating skills, so your birthday cake was always very unique.
For something special to mark the occasion, I have prepared STOLLEN BREAD PUDDING with SPICED ORANGE SAUCE on my blog.
WE SEND BIRTHDAY WISHES TO YOU, MARILYN —
ENJOY YOUR DAY TO THE FULLEST!
Stollen Bread Pudding with Spiced Orange Sauce
A delicious variation on a classic made with heavenly German stollen bread.
Arrange stollen cubes to fit compactly into a buttered 9 x 9-inch baking dish. Do not compress to tightly; set aside any leftover cubes. Whisk together eggs & 1 cup powdered sugar until the sugar is dissolved & the mixture becomes light yellow in color. Add cream, vanilla & Grand Marnier; whisk to combine. Stir in a pinch of salt, nutmeg, lemon & orange zest.
Pour mixture over stollen cubes. Cover & refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove bread from refrigerator, uncover & dot the top of the pudding with butter & sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar.
Set baking dish into a shallow roasting pan, larger that baking dish. Set them onto the center rack of the oven. Pour hot water into larger pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the pudding dish. Bake until fully set & a knife inserted into center comes out clean, 60-75 minutes. Carefully remove the pudding from the water bath & cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Spiced Orange Sauce
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in sugar, Grand Marnier, water, cardamom & salt. Over medium heat, stir until sugar is fully dissolved & the liquid is heated through. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg until well beaten. While whisking egg, slowly pour 2 Tbsp. of the hot mixture into bowl with the egg. Then, while whisking the mixture vigorously, slowly pour the warmed egg mixture back into the sauce.
Place the saucepan back over low heat, gently stirring the sauce, raising the temperature slowly to medium. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 1-2 minutes. Spoon over pudding & serve immediately.