Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mini Canadian Maple Tarts, Elmo the Cat & a Special Gift from Santa

When living in the States, I frequently indulged in a stack of slathered-with-butter, American-style pancakes which were smothered in pure maple syrup. The only reason why maple syrup can be found here, though with difficulty, is the French Canadian connection.

As it is still pretty precious, I resisted buying enough for a full Canadian maple tart. As this traditional favourite is essentially a pudding in an already baked pie shell, the problems plaguing baking mini pies are avoided such as the filling getting done before the crust, but the advantages remain: greater proportion of pastry to filling and facility of scoffing them down.

makes 6 three-inch mini tarts

Pastry, short crust, enough for one crust 9-inch pie (recipe)
Maple syrup, pure, 6 fluid ounces
Cream, heavy, 4 fluid ounces
Cornstarch, 2 T
Water, cold, 2 T
Unsweetened whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg for topping

When making the pastry, I used half butter and half lard.  This mixture gives both buttery flavour and pronounced flakiness.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out dough into a roughly shaped rectangle about an one-eighth-inch thick. Using an appropriately sized cutter (bowls, glasses, lids, etc.), make six five-inch circles. If needed, gather scraps into a ball and roll out to make the required number of rounds.

Unused pastry can be pressed into a ball and then frozen.  Future bits and pieces can be added, and eventually there will be enough for a round of mini tarts or a pie!

Turn over a muffin pan and drape the circles over the inverted cups. Loosely pleat uniformly all around, gently remove, and reserve. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Turn the muffin tin right side up and carefully ease the formed dough into the individual pans. Try not to stretch the pastry or press too tightly as that will make them shrink and puff up too much while baking. However, they should be fitted snugly.

With a small fork, press the tines around the crust, neatening up the edge. Make sure the pastry is contained within each individual pan (for easier removal after baking). Also lightly perforate the bottoms.

Put them in the oven and after a few minutes check to see if they are puffing up. If so, press the bottoms down with a finger moistened in cold water. Check again in a few minutes and repeat if necessary.

Bake around fifteen minutes or until the top edges are tinged golden brown. Carefully remove the shells--loosen the top edges with a thin spatula and slide/ease them out. Let them cool on a rack.

While the pie shells are cooling, make the filling.  Gather your ingredients.

Stir the cornstarch into the cold water until dissolved. It will look like thin milk.

In a medium-sized saucepan, mix the cream and maple syrup until blended. Stir in the dissolved cornstarch.

Bring the syrup mixture to a low simmer. Decrease the heat to low and while stirring, cook the pudding for a couple of minutes.  It will become very thick. Be careful not to scorch it.

Let cool for a minute or so and then pour into the shells.

Refrigerate the pies for at least a couple of hours. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg.

I was bowled over with these. The smooth, thick maple pudding encased in its flaky tart shell was sublime.

Several cats belonging to the quartier like to check out our garden. One in particular is a real sweetheart. Thinking that it was a female, I named it Esme. When I found out that it is a male, The Calm One suggested Elmo. He is a fabulous, long-haired, black-and-white cat.

He likes to hang around the part of our garden reserved for small wild life to keep an eye out, well, for small wild life like mice and birds. We are becoming great friends and usually enjoy late-morning visits together.

+Lena Levin is one of my favourite artists at G+. She graciously partook in the Secret Santa event.  I got lucky and managed to reserve one of the five paintings she contributed.

Lena is a brilliant colourist and her style straddles the realistic and abstract. She regards herself as a painter of poems. If you enjoy her art, make sure you check out her website.

À la prochaine!