Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Apple Pies and Butter Tarts and Oh My!

Tarts filled with butter and sugar?
Yes, please!

In my epic quest to corrupt diets and adversely effect the health of my readers, I decided to follow Sallie's sugar based Shoo-fly pie with Ms. Meow's apple pie and butter tarts.

Of course, we are hosting a pie contest here and few pies--if any--would qualify as health food. I'm pretty sure that frozen, store-bought pot pies single-handedly kill thousands each year. In fact, I would go as far as to say 'healthy pie' is a total oxymoron.

So today's recipes come from Ms. Meow of Uncasual Pâtisserie. Her bio is particularly cute, so I had to re-post it:
"Part-time teacher sometimes with too much time on her hands, better to cook than to shop. Hubby is a finicky Frenchman who has been spoiled by his mother with ingredients made from scratch. Now, I have to live up to his palette's expectations. Baking also allows my obsessive compulsiveness to flourish."
She also blogs a great deal about baking macarons (the natural domain of OCD bakers), so that is an automatic gold star in my book.

As for myself, I'm off in search of some 'world famous' brownies in Greenwich today, take the little one to the park and see what sort of antiques I can scrounge up at the market. Mother Humble is insisting I hit the borough market to ogle the food. However, as I have a jet lagged two-year-old in tow, I'm playing it pretty conservative with my to-do list. We shall see...

Uncasual Pâtisserie: Apple Pies and Butter Tarts and Oh My!

I had apples in the fridge that would go bad if I procrastinate on eating them any longer, so apple pie it is. I'm not a fan of pies per se, but how else am I gonna make myself eat my fruits and veggies? Add sugar, and Meow will om nom nom.

Mr. Meow refuses to let me buy pre-made pie shells, tells me to make them myself since we have a chunk of lard at home. Bloody hell. I've always been intimidated by doughs - bread doughs, tart/pie doughs, puff pastry doughs...not sure why, I think doughs require some sort of magic to make it work I guess. But since there is no Tenderflake to help me, but a chunk of lard staring longingly at me, I will satisfy the lard.

Stupidest question I've ever asked Mr. Meow: "Do you want a lard pie shell or a butter pie shell?"
Mr. Meow being all things buttery good: "Butter shell!"
Mr. Meow not realizing that I'm just asking to obtain approval: "But then I'd have to defrost the butter! We're using lard!"
Mr. Meow pointing out my stupidity: "Then why did you give me a choice?"
Meow teaching Mr. Meow something about women: "Sometimes you just need to look around and then figure out all you have to do is tell me what I wanna hear."
I got a pat on the head. *sigh*


Fruit pies usually require a thickening agent to hold the filling together. Flour will give a cloudy filling, while cornstarch and tapioca flour will give a clear one. If using flour to thicken, it is usually double of the amount of cornstarch or tapioca flour.

Chilling the pie before baking is crucial because the fats in the shell will become solid and not cook as fast as the flour giving the flour a head start. Warm fats will make the pie a fail and not the flaky shell that you're hoping for. Though chilling the pie too long will allow the fruit juices and sugars to pool at the bottom soaking your pie crust, which is also a fail.

Chilling the pie before eating is a good thing too because it will allow the fruit to reabsorb some of the sugars in the filling.

On to pie making.

None of my recipe books have a recipe that uses lard and lard isn't one of those things that you can use instead of butter. So, I followed the recipe on the box of NoName Lard.

Basic Pie/Tart Shell

yields 1 double crust pie shell (9") with some leftovers

227 g of lard, chilled
343 g of all purpose flour
1 tsp of salt
1 egg
2 tsp of white vinegar

1. Cut chilled lard into 1 inch cubes.

2. Sift together flour and salt in a mixer bowl

3. Turn the mixer equipped with a flat-beater on the lowest setting and start dropping in the lard a chunk at a time.
You don't want to turn it high early on because you don't want flour dust on your face. If you have a pouring shield for your mixer, it would be a good idea to use it.

4. Beat the mixture until it is crumbly.

5. Beat the egg in a 1-cup measuring cup

6. Add the vinegar once the egg is beaten and then beat some more.

7. Add enough water to the vinegar-egg to make 1 cup of mixture.

8. Drizzle in a tablespoon at a time of the vinegar-egg mix to the crumbly dough until the dough is moist enough. To check, take a small bit of dough and press between fingers, if it holds together, then it's done.
You may not need to use all the vinegar-egg mixture but keep the remainder on hand for repairing and kneading later.

9. Divide the dough into 1/3 and 2/3 and wrap with plastic wrap and spank it to flatten.

10. Chill the dough for about 15 minutes before using.
If the dough cracks when using, let it warm up a bit. If it still cracks, roll it into a ball, dig a hole in the middle, drizzle in a tiny bit of vinegar-egg mixture into the hole and re-knead the dough to moisten it.

Apple Pie
Adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking
fills a 9" pie
2 1/2 lbs of apples of your choice
2 1/4 cups of brown sugar + some for sprinkling
1/8 tsp of all spice
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 cup of corn starch (or 1/2 cup of all purpose flour if you don't have cornstarch)

1. Peel and slice the apples to about 1/4" thick x 1" wide

2. Taste the apples, you may want to adjust the amount of sugar depending on its tartness

3. Toss the apples with the sugar and the spices in a large bowl

4. Add the cornstarch and toss some more


1. Dust your counter (or pastry mat if you're fancy) with flour

2. Take both doughs out of the fridge

3. Roll the 2/3 sized chunk of dough into a circle, about 1/4" thick.
Put your pie pan over top and if the dough extends 2 inches beyond the pan, you're good to go...unless your dough is still quite thick.

4. With the a long spatula, slide it under the sheet of dough to release it from the counter.
This is to make sure no parts is stuck to the counter and hence rip your dough.

5. Using the long spatula, gently fold the dough in half, then half again forming a quarter of a circle.

6. Gently lift that quarter circle of folded dough and place the point at the center of the pie pan.

7. Gently unfold the dough and if it is not where you want it to be, shake and tilt the pan so it will move, do not pull the dough to shift it.

8. Smooth out any cracks at the bottom and sides by patting the dough.

9. Trim the pie shell so that you have 1/2"-1"overhang.

10. Pour the filling into the pan.

11. Roll out the other chunk of dough to about a 9"x9" square.

12. Using a pizza cutter, cut 1" wide strips and lay the strips on top of the pie to make a lattice.

To make a lattice, start from the top, lay 1 strip across, then start from the left, lay 1 strip down, then 1 across, then 1 down, work your way to the bottom and to the right. If you're really anal about getting the perfect weave, you will have to pull back some strips as you lay new ones down.

13. Trim excess lattice strips leaving about 1/2" overhang.

14. Roll the overhanging dough towards the pie to make a ropey edge.

15. Put pie in the fridge and chill for exactly 30 minutes before baking.

16. Preheat oven to 400F


1 egg
1 tbsp whole milk

1. Beat the egg with the milk

2. Brush the egg milk mixture on the pie

3. Bake pie on lower 1/3 rack in 400F oven for 50-60 minutes.

4. Cool before serving.

Butter Tarts...A Canadian Thing
adapted from're cooking!
1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
1/4 cup of corn syrup
30 g of butter
1 large egg
pinch of salt
8 mL of vanilla
50 g of raisins (optional)
Tart/Pie shell

1. With the leftover pie shell dough for the apple pie, knead it into a ball again. You may need to add some vinegar-egg mix to moisten it.
Just wet your hand with the mix and knead instead of "roll ball, dig hole, drizzle mix", that would be too much.

2. In a mini muffin pan (1" wide), tear out a chunk of pie dough about the size of a pop bottle cap, place it in the pan and tamp it with the end of the rolling pin until the sides come up flush with the pan.

3. Repeat until all dough is used

4. Chill the pan of dough in the fridge for about 15 minutes

5. Mix the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and eggs with a hand mixer until smooth.

6. Add the salt and vanilla and mix some more.

7. If using raisins, drop about 2-3 raisins in each shell.

8. Ladle the syrup mixture until about 3/4 full/

9. Bake in a 400F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the shells are golden brown.

10. Remove from pan and cool before eating.
Hot molten sugar on tongue is not pleasant. Refer to my Not Nougat sugar burns for unpleasantness.

I got 5 mini tarts from the leftover dough

Mr. Meow's analysis: my best pie yet! I was too full yesterday to have some of that pie, but the butter tarts, I can you go wrong with butter and sugar??


  1. As a born and bred Londoner I think you really should go to Borough Market either today or tomorrow - you will love it. There's lots of food to taste on the stalls so maybe even your two year old will have fun.

  2. Oh, I love love love that this person used lard in the pastry crust!!! I bet it was so flaky and yummy.

  3. Us Canadians often debate whether butter tarts should be runny or firm...personally I like the firm you have me craving these...

  4. i enjoy baking petite pies & tarts & have not used lard a i am anxious to test these out!

    ms.h...excited for your market day...
    & i *heart* antiquing (especially in london) i hope you will share where your travels take you...

  5. Natalie,

    I'm most certainly going to do the Borough Market. I'll probably visit next week though, since I just finished my afternoon of exploring Greenwich and it is now 5am my time (feels like it too). By then I hope to have conquered my jet lag.


    Despite being a couple hours drive from Canada I'm totally unfamiliar with butter tarts (both firm and runny). After seeing these and the deadly yet delicious list of ingredients, I'm bent on baking a couple. I'll be sure to give the firm butter tarts a spin in the humble oven too.

  6. As a vegetarian I read with interested detachment this New York Times article about lard crusts. There's a whole world there to explore!

  7. I have never heard of these Butter Tarts but I have to say that they sound wonderful, and a "mini" version of anything is definitely adorable. :)

  8. Thank you Ms. Humble for plugging my blog. I'm super thrilled! I must admit I've lagged behind on updating as teaching has gotten busy. But this has given me just enough push to do another post :) Thanks again.

  9. Butter sugar is the probably the best thing ever created by mankind. Love the idea of butter tarts. More what I was thinking of when I saw the shoo fly pie. Will definitely try this out! Sounds amazing!

  10. Thanks to Meow for the technique for making tart crusts in muffin tins. I have to make some little tarts, and I had no idea how I was going to accomplish the crusts.

  11. My mother has sworn by the No Name Lard Box pastry recipe for as long as I can remember, and even has a greasy nasty hunk of an old carton clipped and stapled to loose leaf and filed in her recipe binder.

    Nice one.

  12. I love the idea of a butter tart! In the North of England, where I am sure you won't be going (pity), we have butter pies. They are basically soft boiled and well-seasoned, buttered potatoes, in a pastry shell. I can't believe I never made one for the contest actually, and now it's too late. The shame!

    I am in London on Wednesday, and your travels are inspiring me to do a little exploration myself. I never go to any of the places you mentioned!

  13. I missed this post when it first appeared.
    I love butter tarts so I am glad to see them make an appearance here. Spread our Canadian goodness around the world.

    I would love to see a sugar or sugar cream pie someday. Or Rappie pie. Mmmmm.


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