Pumpkin Seed Butter Tart Squares

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.

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Pumpkin Seed Butter Tart Squares
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Servings
SQUARES
Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Filling
Servings
SQUARES
Ingredients
Shortbread Crust
Filling
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Shortbread Crust
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Filling
  1. 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.
  2. 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).

Christmas Cookies

December has arrived and when I was growing up, it was officially ‘baking season’ for my mom. Many of the ingredients for the special things she would bake at this time of year were just too expensive to have on hand all the time. While we were at school, over the weeks prior to Christmas, she would bake many different kinds of cookies and squares. When we would arrive home in the late afternoon, there was no trace of what she had baked. Every cookie tin and various other containers were being filled with these glorious goodies. It all became part of the mystery and suspense of the season.

Like many traditions, the origin of the Christmas baking ‘bonanza‘ comes from medieval times. Winter solstice rituals were conducted long before Christmas became the huge commercial holiday it is today. Celebrations revolved around food. By the middle ages, the Christmas holiday had overtaken solstice rituals and the pastry world was experiencing some big changes. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper as well as dried exotic fruits were becoming available. Expensive delicacies like sugar, lard and butter all became treasured ingredients that could only be afforded on this most important holiday.

Unlike pies and cakes, cookies could easily be shared and given to friends and neighbors. Our modern day Christmas cookies are baked for similar reasons. They’re given as hostess gifts in festive tins, used on giant dessert trays and of course they make for wonderful family baking traditions.

Most homemade holiday cookies were simple rounds or squares until import laws changed in the 19th century introducing inexpensive cookie cutters made of tin and emphasized shapes.

I realize ‘mincemeat’ doesn’t appeal to everyone’s pallet. These days the ‘all-fruit’ varieties have made it much more appealing. In a previous blog, I had used a lemon curd filling in these tender little cheesecake cookies. Since Brion and I both enjoy the all-fruit mincemeat, I thought I’d do a Christmas version. Pairing the flavors of anise, mincemeat and lemon was real nice.

The Irish Cream cookies are an easy no-bake version. If you like this liqueur, I’m pretty sure these boozy little bites will work for you.

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Mincemeat Cheesecake Cookies / Irish Cream Cookies
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cookies
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Instructions
Mincemeat Filling
  1. Combine mincemeat filling ingredients & refrigerate until needed.
Cheesecake Cookies
  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese & butter until fluffy & smooth; 1-2 minutes. Add sugar; beat another 1-2 minutes then add eggs & anise extract & continue beating 1 more minute.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, anise seed & salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to the butter mixture & stir just until incorporated. Do NOT over mix. Divide dough in half.
  3. Between 2 sheets of parchment paper, roll each half of the dough to a 1/8"-1/4" thickness. Remove top sheet & using a 2 1/2" (6 cm) round cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Using top sheet of parchment, lay rounds about 2" apart. Slide a plastic cutting board under parchment paper & transfer to freezer for about 30 minutes. (I found this made it much easier to continue the procedure).
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove cookies from freezer. Spoon about a teaspoon of COLD mincemeat filling onto center of each circle. Wet edges a bit with water or beaten egg. Fold cookies in half & using a fork, press edges to seal. (If your mincemeat filling is well chilled, I found it didn't run out of the cookies while being baked).
  5. Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes. Cookies should be light in color, not browned & just starting to brown on bottom. * Length of baking time may vary from oven to oven. Cool cookies on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Lemon Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, combine glaze ingredients & beat to a drizzle consistency. When cookies are cooled, drizzle with glaze.
Irish Cream Cookies
  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine Irish cream, corn syrup, butter, white chocolate & salt. Heat while stirring until butter & chocolate have melted. Gently boil for about 2 minutes.
  2. Turn off heat & stir in puffed rice & oatmeal. Let stand for 2 minutes. If the mixture is a little runny, you may need to add a little more oatmeal ... about 1/4 - 1/3 cup).
  3. Using a spoon, you can either drop by spoonfuls on buttered parchment or press mixture into a buttered 1/4 cup measuring cup to form more precise cookie rounds. Let stand for at least an hour or until cookies are set. They will be soft but chewy. If you wish, decorate with holiday motifs.

Hazelnut & Dried Cranberry Bites with Orange Coulis

Creativity and imagination is part of the fun of baking from scratch. The pairing of flavors been going on ever since people put food to mouth, but the science of it has now become big business.

As a rule of thumb, desserts usually have one or two predominate flavors, but some may have small amounts of additional flavor elements to help support the main flavor combination.

I have always loved the sweet, nutty flavor of hazelnuts especially in baking. The other day I was thinking about a square my mother used to make at Christmas. It had a very simple ‘shortbread’ base that was neither too sweet or buttery. My next thought was to pair hazelnuts, dried cranberries and glazed citrus peel to form the top layer. To add a little pizzazz, I baked them individually in different shaped tartlet pans. 

I was real curious to see what Brion would think of these little ‘bites’. After tasting one, he felt they had good flavor but were a little dry. My solution to this was to make an orange coulis sauce to serve with them.

There’s something about the citrus notes of orange with the tarty sweetness of cranberries that makes for an aromatic amorous marriage of flavors. The end result produced a great tasting Christmas dessert!


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Hazelnut & Dried Cranberry Bites with Orange Coulis

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Servings


Ingredients
Shortbread Crust

Filling

Orange Coulis

Servings


Ingredients
Shortbread Crust

Filling

Orange Coulis

Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!


Instructions
Shortbread Crust
  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt & orange zest. Add butter, mix until well combined. Divide shortcrust among 24 tartlet pans. Evenly press pastry on bottom & up the sides of each. Set aside.

Filling
  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar, flour, extract, corn syrup & melted butter. Fold in chopped hazelnuts, cranberries & citrus peel.

  2. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place tartlet pan on a foil lined baking sheet. Carefully fill tartlet pans (should be enough for 24). Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.

Orange Coulis
  1. Peel orange in a circular fashion, being careful not to go to thick & getting the pith. Cut in slivers. Juice the orange, straining into a small saucepan. Heat water, orange juice & sugar, bring to a boil. Add slivers of orange peel; simmer about 15 minutes until peel is cooked.

  2. When ready to serve, make a design with some coulis on dessert plates, place tartlets on top. Decorate with a bit candied orange rind!


Recipe Notes
  • If you don't care for the orange coulis, try serving these little bites with a bit of Grand Marnier flavored whipped cream OR some white "Old English" cheddar.