butter-tarts.jpgIt’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas over at my place. This year we opted for an artificial tree after the real tree we had last year died a week before Christmas. It didn’t look very good when all of the branches were collapsing, it definitely wasn’t fun pulling presents out from underneath and having the entire thing shake it’s needles down on us, and when the cat got stuck inside the dead branches on Boxing Day, the entire thing went out the door before we were ready to say goodbye to Christmas.

Although I’ve gone artificial in some areas, I’m sticking to my plan to make all of my Holiday treats from scratch, and this week I’ve been baking Christmas tarts. Tarts of any type don’t last long in my house, so this year I’ve branched out a bit and made all of the tart recipes I normally do.

Unfortunately I didn’t take photos before the family got to them, and well, let’s just say I’m going to have to make a few more batches. In the meantime, check out my favourite traditional Christmas tart recipes and make a few batches of your own:

Tarte Tartin

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Your entire house will smell amazing when you make this recipe. From epicurious.com, a Tarte Tartin is an upside-down tart with carmelized apples melting in butter and sugar. It’s an amazing treat anytime of the year, but we always serve it at open houses during the holidays.

Ingredients:

Frozen puff pastry sheet (from a 17 1/4-ounce package)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
7 to 9 Gala apples (3 to 4 pounds), peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored

 

Directions

You’ll need a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Roll pastry sheet into a 101/2-inch square on a floured work surface with a floured rolling pin. Brush off excess flour and cut out a 10-inch round with a sharp knife, using a plate as a guide. Transfer round to a baking sheet and chill.

Spread butter thickly on bottom and side of skillet and pour sugar evenly over bottom. Arrange as many apples as will fit vertically on sugar, packing them tightly in concentric circles. Apples will stick up above rim of skillet.

Cook apples over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until juices are deep golden and bubbling, 18 to 25 minutes. (Don’t worry if juices color unevenly.)

Put skillet in middle of oven over a piece of foil to catch any drips. Bake 20 minutes (apples will settle slightly), then remove from oven and lay pastry round over apples.

Bake tart until pastry is browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer skillet to a rack and cool at least 10 minutes.

Just before serving, invert a platter with lip over skillet and, using potholders to hold skillet and plate tightly together, invert tart onto platter. Replace any apples that stick to skillet. (Don’t worry if there are black spots; they won’t affect the flavor of the tart.) Brush any excess caramel from skillet over apples. Serve immediately.

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This recipe from nigella.com has to be followed to the letter, so I’ve copied it exactly below. I’ve used it several times to make bite sized mince pies at Christmas, and they’re so delicious they disappear from the table in an instant.

Ingredients

1 ⅔ cup mincemeat

Confectioners’ sugar (for dusting)

For the cranberry studded mincemeat

¼ cup ruby port

½ cup soft dark brown sugar

3 cups cranberries

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ cup currants

½ cup raisins

¼ cup dried cranberries

finely grated zest and juice of 1 clementine

2 tablespoons brandy

3 drops almond extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons honey


For the pastry

1 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons vegetable shortening

½ stick cold butter

Juice of 1 orange

1 pinch of salt

 

Directions

Make the mincemeat in advance.  In a large pan, dissolve the sugar in the ruby port over a gentle heat.  Add the cranberries and stir.  Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves, currants, raisins, dried cranberries and the zest and juice of the clementine.  Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down and has absorbed most of the liquid in the pan. (You may need to squish the cranberries a little with the back of a wooden spoon to incorporate them fully.)  Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.  Add the brandy, almond extract, vanilla extract and honey and stir well with a wooden spoon to mash the mixture down into a paste.  Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jars and, once cool, store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Then once you are ready to make your mince pies, get out a tray of miniature tart tins, each indent 4.5cm / 2 inches in diameter, along with a 5.5cm / 2¼ inch fluted, round biscuit cutter and a 4cm / 1¾ inch star cutter.

Measure the flour into a shallow bowl or dish and, with a teaspoon, dollop little mounds of vegetable shortening into the bowl, add the butter, diced small, shake to cover it, then put in the freezer for 20 minutes. This is what will make the pastry so tender and flaky later.Mix together the orange juice and salt in a separate, small bowl, cover and leave in the fridge to chill. 

After the 20 minutes, empty the flour and fat into the bowl of your food processor and blitz until you’ve got a pale pile of porridge-like crumbs.  Pour the salted juice down the funnel, pulsing until it looks as if the dough is about to cohere; you want to stop just before it does (even if some orange juice is left). If all your juice is used up and you need more liquid, add some iced water.

If you prefer to use a freestanding mixer to make the pastry, cut the fats into the flour with the flat paddle, leaving the bowl in the fridge to chill down for the 20-minute flour-and-fat-freezer session.  Add liquid as above. I often find the pastry uses more liquid in the mixer than the processor.

Turn the mixture out of the processor or mixing bowl onto a pastry board or work surface and, using your hands, combine to a dough. Then form into 3 discs (you’ll need to make these in 3 batches, unless you’ve got enough tart tins to make all 36 pies at once).

Wrap each disc in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7/425ºF.
Roll out the discs, one at a time, as thinly as you can without exaggerating; in other words, you want a light pastry case, but one sturdy enough to support the dense mincemeat. This is easy-going dough, so you don’t have to pander to it: just get rolling and patch up as you need.

Out of each rolled-out disc cut out circles a little wider than the indentations in the tart tins; I use a fluted cookie cutter for this.  Press these circles gently into the moulds and dollop in a scant teaspoon of mincemeat.
Then cut out your stars with your little star cutter – re-rolling the pastry as necessary – and place the tops lightly on the mincemeat.

Put in the oven and bake for 10–15 minutes: keep an eye on them as they really don’t take long and ovens do vary.
Remove from the oven, prising out the little pies straight away and letting the empty tin cool down before you start putting in the pastry for the next batch.  Carry on until they’re all done.

Dust over some confectioners’ sugar by pushing it through a tea strainer.

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I’m very fussy about my butter tarts, and over the years I’ve tried several recipes that people swear are tried and true. They don’t seem to taste exactly like my Grandma’s tart recipe, so I always go back to this one. Butter tarts are a must at Christmas time, and amazing at a New Year’s get together.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
2 cups raisins
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup chopped walnuts
30 (2 inch) unbaked tart shells (or your own pastry crust and use a
tart pan)

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).

Cream the butter, sugar and eggs well. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Pour batter into tart shells, no more than half full. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Watch carefully!!–they’ll burn quickly. Filling will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or so. Liquid coffee creamer can be used for cream. Use any good pie pastry for shell.

 
 

There is nothing that smells better than tarts in the oven, so don’t forget to add these tarts to your holiday treat lists. You can prepare for tart baking by picking up some versatile bakeware.

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Larger tarts are easy to make in a tart shell
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Press pastry into small mini muffin cups and create your own tart shells
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Beautify your Holiday table with a gold serving platter

Photos from epicurious.com, nigella.com, and allrecipes.com

 

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