Some Tarts, of Sorts

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There was a day a couple weeks ago where it was absolutely pouring out and it was a super-depressing, totally un-summery day.

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So I went grocery shopping and found that fresh figs were on sale, as well as some reasonably local strawberries. So of course I bought a whole bunch.

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And then I had to figure out what to do with all this gorgeous fruit.

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But I had some puff pastry and some good ol’ custard-in-a-can. So let’s make a tart — or two!

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So I sliced up all the figs and strawberries, nice and thin, about 1/4″ thick.

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And then I drooled a little bit, because look at all that awesomeness.

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I’ve never baked with canned custard before, so I wasn’t sure if it would solidify after cooking. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to beat one whole egg into the custard for insurance.

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I also spilled a few drops of Grand Marnier orange liqueur in there and it tasted amazing already.

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I created a quick glaze by mixing some honey with some egg white I had sitting in the fridge.

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Then I preheated the oven to 375°F and rolled out my two sheets of pastry onto parchment paper.

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I added a few spoonfuls of my custard mix and smoothed it out with the back of a spoon. Not too much – you don’t want it spilling everywhere once it heats up.

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Then I laid out the fruit. This one was all fig.

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This one I alternated fig and strawberry.

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Then I took a silicone brush and smoothed the egg white glaze over the fruit. I shoved those in the oven, one at a time, for about 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure the glaze and the custard aren’t burning.

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Let those puppies cool almost completely before cutting them up.

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I still had some glaze and strawberries and custard left, and there was a cup of that delightful rhubarb curd I made earlier. What should I do?

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I decided to whip together a wee bit of shortbread (butter, sugar, flour), which I pressed into a pan and baked at 375°F for 15 minutes.

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Then I mixed that gorgeous curd into the custard I had left over.

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Poured it into the pan on top of the shortbread.

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Then lined it with the strawberry slices.

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Glazed it with what was leftover.

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And then I baked it for about half an hour. It’s kind of like a rudimentary flan. It was so tasty!

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And so was the tart!

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Scottish Shortbread

The New Year was always more of a big deal to the Celtic grownups in our household than Christmas was, and to this day I still hold the door open at midnight to let out the old year and beckon in the new.  If you do this at midnight in one of the coastal cities, it is likely you’ll hear all the ships in the harbour in a chorus of horns.  It’s always been a very private moment for me, a wee superstition I have continued regardless of what is going on.

No matter what happens in our chaotic lives over the holidays, especially now that we are several families stretched out over thousands of kilometres, it’s a guarantee that at least one of us at some point will whip up our family recipe for traditional Scottish shortbread.  It makes a meaningful hostess gift when you’re wandering about over the holidays, and there are very few people who won’t be able to immediately offer a traditional shortbread recipe of their own.

This particular version is incredibly simple, with just three humble ingredients: 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 cups flour.  That’s really it.  That’s what makes this recipe extremely easy and almost impossible to screw up.

Preheat your oven to 325°F.

Make sure your butter is softened, but under no circumstances should you let it melt in any way.  It absolutely has to be solid.  Cream that sucker with the sugar in a bowl.

Add in about half your flour and mix well, then add in the rest of the flour and stir until all you have is a million flour-covered butter/sugar crumbs.

Stick your hands in and knead and squish those crumbs until they’re all stuck together.

Pound and flatten that lovely buttery dough ball into a rough oval on an ungreased baking sheet.

Flute the edges by pinching it between your fingers and prick the whole thing thoroughly with a fork.  Make sure the fork goes all the way to the bottom when you’re poking around.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the dough is a lovely golden brown.  It will be darker brown on the edges.  Remove from the oven and cut it into squares while it’s still hot (this will be impossible to do when it cools as it will be much harder and you’ll end up with shattered shortbread everywhere).

Take it to all your friends as host/ess gifts, still warm in a paper bag.  Mmm!

Have a safe and happy New Year everybody!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !
and surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
and gie’s a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS
Robert Burns