One thing I learned last week is that if you want to see some Canadians get all opinionated, just try to muscle in on their butter tarts! And to think that diplomatic relations between our two countries hinged not on trade or other mutually beneficial economic factors, but on the enforcement of clear pastry boundaries. Sure, we can filch all of the Canadian comic talent and then fake a vacation in order to burden their generous healthcare system, but hands. off. the butter tarts.
Just kidding, Elisabeth et al! But I have to warn you that I did revisit the butter tarts. I couldn’t help it. I was sooooo close, and I had extra pie dough plus a couple of egg yolks I needed to use up. So I tinkered further with the recipe for what I think we can all agree wasn’t really a butter tart at all, aside from the butter. What I came up with will hopefully restore faith between the two nations and narrowly avert a third World War.
First item of business: lose the butter. Well, not all of the butter. I haven’t gone mad. Just half of it. I wanted the predominant flavor of the filling to be honey, not butter, and only enough to bind the nuts together. The answer: egg yolks. Next step: change the name. We like to do that over here. Change something nominally, then call it our own. It’s the American way.
Behold: American Honey Tarts. Wait, now I’m pissing off the Mexicans. North American Honey Tarts. Well, North American (But Not Canadian) Honey Tarts And Now The Nuts Are Mad. I’m still working on the name. But these homely little tarts made me insanely happy. I loved them. The next time I throw a wine and cheese party (in 2018, by my estimation), I’m breaking them out. Only maybe I’ll try them with maple syrup next time!
Honey Walnut Tartlets
If you have a favorite pie dough, feel free to use that instead. Or you could use store-bought, though I’ll deny I ever said that. One of these days I’ll make a video on how to make an awesome pie crust. That day is not today.
1 cup flour
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4-6 Tbsp. ice water
1½ cups walnuts, whole or pieces, but not diced
2 Tbsp. softened, unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
2 egg yolks (remaining whites can be put towards this recipe)
¼ cup wildflower honey (stronger, more complex flavor than clover honey)
Fleur de sel
To make the dough, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Cut cold butter into flour mixture by hand or in a food processor (pulse about 10 seconds or until butter pieces are pea-sized, then dump into bowl). Add ice water and fluff until starting to clump together in a raggedy mass. Gently squeeze a bit in your hand and see if it holds together at all. If not, add more water. Tear off a large swath of plastic wrap and dump the dough mixture into the middle. Gather up the sides of the plastic wrap, and press the dough into a flat disk, wrapping tightly. Refrigerate at least a half hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease mini-muffin tins. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough to ¼-inch thickness. Better to have too much flour on the counter than not enough. You can always brush off any excess—you don’t want the dough to stick to the counter at all. A word on rolling: Don’t crush the dough into the countertop. This will make the finished crust tough. Basically, you want to push the pin across the dough to smear the butter between the layers of flour as you go. Imagine buttering a piece of bread. Like that, only rolling. This will result in a light, flaky texture.
Using a biscuit cutter, a sharp paring knife, or, I suppose, a glass, cut circles out of the dough that are a bit larger than the diameter or the muffin cups. Cut a Pac Man mouth out of the side, then fit dough into muffin cup, pressing the cut sides gently to seal. You’ll have to experiment to get the perfect size. Repeat until you run out of dough. You can reroll the dough once more, but the more you work it, the tougher it becomes. I usually end up gently pressing the scraps into the cups in a free-form way towards the end. When you finish a pan, put it in the refrigerator so the gluten in the dough can relax while you do the rest.
In a medium bowl, cream the soft butter with the sugar with the back of a spoon. Stir in yolks and honey. Fill pastry cups with walnuts, breaking up pieces that are too large. Spoon filling over walnuts to cover, but don’t overflow the tops of the crusts. Add a few more walnuts. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel. Bake 12 minutes or so until walnuts are toasty brown and filling is bubbly. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 20.