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Canada


696 Queen West, Toronto

Quirky setting, comfy couches, mismatched china.  An elegant take on High Tea. Not to mention the spicy lunch time bento boxes, seriously fancy cakes (not always as delicious as they look though…) and delicious chai latte. Floating star anise to boot.

Tis the season…autumn meets winter, the appearance of parsnips to confound French people, it’s that period of in-between-the-Thanksgiving(s) plus the Halloween call for pumpkin head carving that will create a lot of pumpkin gut spilling. What to do with it?

pumpkin pie

Pie! This is a weeks worth of breakfast right there so that alone will make it worth your while.

Pumpkin Pie, nothing revolutionary for some people but I had never made one. No idea what it actually tasted like either.  Minor details. I somehow unintentionally avoided it up to now.  Turns out it’s an acquired taste, a good one, a great breakfast food and it begs to made in savoury form (as most of these pies do). Unsweetened canned pumpkin puree is mostly used for this kind of recipe but canned was not to be found and secretly I didn’t want to go down that road. (The slippery slope of canned goods and all…) Smaller pumpkins or the natural “slices” of the large ones made good candidates for the filling. Carve it up into hunks and roast it for about an hour with a little olive oil until you can put it in the food processor.

A little spice in the filling adds a necessary bit of flavour and the nuts on top give a little toasted crunch to an otherwise rather mushy affair…

Happy Halloween!

Ingredients

Filling
- about 3 good chunks of a large pumpkin (the big slices) chopped and slowly roasted until you can puree it and set it aside to cool (maybe do it in advance)
- 3 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 150gr brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crust
- one pate brisée – make a pastry of short choice and prepare your crust in a wide pie tin
Use half wholemeal flour if you feel like it – this is not a delicate dessert so the crust can take a sturdier flour.
- 1/2 cup finely crushed hazelnuts (the other half you can sprinkle on top)
- 1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Optional (but so important!)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon of freshly grated cloves

- 1 inch of fresh ginger (grated)

Making

You can roast the pumpkin flesh well in advance. An issue may be that the pumpkin puree becomes a little too liquid. The cornstarch will offset that so it’s not a problem. Even if it seems a little “wet” once out of the oven, time in the fridge or time to cool will sort that.

Make the crust in advance, prick the base with a fork and brush the edges with the maple syrup. Instead of baking blind, scatter a layer of the nuts over the base in order to prevent the pumpkin filling from making it soggy. You could experiment here – crushed biscuits, toasted almonds…this will help to create a barrier between the filling and the base. Adds a little something to the taste too. The rest of these crushed nuts or cookies can be your topping.

Once the pumpkin flesh is blended and cooled beat in the eggs, the vanilla extract and the sugar along with any spices you want to add for flavour.  Pour the filling into the base and sprinkle with the rest of the hazelnuts creating a topping.
Bake for about 50 minutes at 190°C.

Serve chilled or a room temp with vanilla ice cream or fresh cream.

Butter tarts. A tart made of butter? Surely not. But it is exactly that, give or take the eggs and sugar and your choice of flavouring. Beyond that detail however, and more importantly, this is by far the best way to gain the love of a Canadian. Or, at the very least, their attention for a few minutes. And with Canadian Thanksgiving approaching it seems only right to showcase some of their culinary highlights. Yes, Canadian Thanksgiving. Earlier then the US but with similar feasting. We’re still unsure of what they’re giving thanks for though…if anyone knows, feel free to share.

Seemingly only known and loved by the poutine guzzling canoeists of the great north, these little tarts are sweet, sugary and delicious. Possibilities for flavourings are endless but the simple butter tart stands alone. Raisins and walnuts seem to be the most popular but I’ve also encountered coconut, toffee, caramel and peanut. All courtesy of The Sweet Oven – a bakery in a strip mall in Barrie, Ontario of all places – where they churn out butter tarts and only butter tarts by the dozen, each day of the week corresponding to a certain flavour. If you happen to live in this location or you’re a Torontonian taking regular trips to nearby cottage country, you should stop and grab a dozen.

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These little tarts do not require baking blind and thus the filling seeps into the crust making it a few bites of crumbly, buttery sugar kick..

Make the pastry in advance and chill for at least an hour before attacking. Once made these will keep for a few days and are good served chilled or at room temp.

Ingredients

Pastry:

175 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
(14 grams granulated white sugar
113 grams unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into pieces
30 – 60 ml ice water

Ingredients – for the filling:

70 grams unsalted butter
215 grams light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
60 ml light cream
1/2 cup raisins or 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (toasted and chopped) (optional)

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Making

Pre-heat the oven to 190°C and prepare 2 tart trays/muffin trays will do.

Pastry: I recently read an article on pastry making in an Australian wine magazine. Apparently one should not treat pastry as if it were bread dough. Wonderful advice. Over-kneading develops the gluten in the flour making for tough pastry. Barely touching your dough as it forms a ball is the best way to go allowing the butter to streak your pastry and ensures a moist flaky short crust pastry. Good tips..

Rub the chunks of butter into the pastry to form a loose crumb, using a little water bring it all together to form a ball of dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Handle as little as possible before placing the ball of dough into some cling film and refrigerating for at least an hour.
When ready, divide the dough in half and roll out onto a well-floured surface in order to cut into rounds. Use a small round bowl or a cutter to make your tarts – these will be placed in the trays and then filled so ensure they’re generous enough to accommodate the batter without being too big.

Once the rounds are in the baking trays place in the fridge while you make the batter.

Make the filling
Cream the butter and the sugar. Beat in the eggs and add the vanilla extract. Stir in the cream until you have a smooth batter.

If using nuts and/or raisin fillings place a spoonful in the base of each tart. Then pour a tablespoonful of batter into each one.

Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes at 190°C until golden brown and crunchy looking on top.

PS: This one goes out to Matt The (Great) Canadian without whom I would never have eaten a butter tart or indeed discovered the hidden delights of a Barrie strip mall.