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Date & maple butter tarts

In these tarts, chopped Medjool dates, my favorite for their soft, plump texture and sweetness, take the place of the raisins that occasionally make their way into butter tarts. I hear that whether to include raisins in traditional butter tarts can be a source of deep ideological divide, so for those on the no-raisin side, dates might not be much of an improvement. In which case, feel free to omit! Recipe inspired by Crepes of Wrath and Canadian Living.

Scale

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. To make the crust: Let the butter thaw briefly at room temperature, about 5-10 minutes. (Alternatively, if all you have is refrigerated butter, pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to making the crust.) In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar, and mix until well-combined. Using the coarsest holes on a box grater, grate the slightly-thawed (or slightly-frozen) butter into the flour, then mix gently with your fingers to incorporate it into the flour, just until the butter forms pea-sized clumps. Whisk the creme fraiche and two tablespoons of the ice water together in a small bowl. Drizzle the mixture over the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together into a pebbly, shaggy dough. If the mixture holds together when squeezed, it has enough moisture. If not, add more of the ice water, a tablespoon at a time, until it does. Gather the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the pie crust to about 1/8″ in thickness, the thinner the better. Use a 4-inch biscuit cutter to cut circles in the dough, then gently transfer them one-by-one to a standard-size muffin tin and press them into the wells. Re-roll the scraps as needed. You should be able to get about 10 to 12 dough circles. Once all the muffin wells are filled, place the tray in the freezer to chill the shells while you make the filling.
  3. To make the filling: It couldn’t be easier — just whisk together the brown sugar, maple syrup, egg, melted butter, salt, and vanilla (if using) until well-combined. Chop the dates if you haven’t already. Remove the shells from the freezer, place a few date pieces in each muffin well, then drop about two tablespoons of filling into each tart, leaving at least 1/4-inch of the crust visible to prevent overfilling.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until tops are bubbling vigorously and pale golden, and crusts are golden-brown on the edges. Allow to cool slightly, then run a paring knife around the edges to loosen the tarts if the filling has overflowed, remove and enjoy. Tarts freeze very well for at least a few months (and, like Sydney suggests, they’re even better out of the freezer).

Notes

These are butter tarts that err on the side of less-gooey — if you like a runnier tart, increase the maple syrup to 6 tbsp and bake the tarts for less time, about 12-13 minutes.

In rolling out the pie crust, I find it easiest to roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper dusted with plenty of flour. Although that runs the slight risk of over-flouring, I think it outweighs the hassle of trying to scrape the dough off a surface when I haven’t floured enough. If you find it’s still sticking, though, just throw the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes, and the parchment should peel away more easily. (The freezer is my go-to whenever pie dough gets too stressful — just cool the dough down, and it should be easier to handle.)

Also, on dates! If you’re having trouble finding good ones, Nuts.com offers ridiculous quantities that are consistently delicious — I really love their Medjool and Khadrawi dates.