fontas food

eating my way through suburbia

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Taste of Home: Butter Tart Square

It wouldn't be Christmas in just about any Canadian home without butter tarts. Mince tarts can be a "take it or leave it" affair but butter tarts? They are the quintessential Canadian dessert and arguments have been fought over what makes the perfect butter tart.

Runny or firm, raisins or nuts...those questions fade into the background when asked the basic question of "Do you like butter tarts?" Everyone loves butter tarts.

Making butter tarts requires either far more patience than I possess or a source for frozen tart shells. Here in Sacramento, it can be a little difficult to find frozen tart shells. Over the past eight years, I've had intermittent success in finding tart shells at the Safeway on Greenback and San Juan and I've also seen some rather expensive ones at Corti Bros.

Faced with the scarcity of frozen tart shells, I was thrilled to see "butter tart squares" on the table at both of my sisters' homes during my recent trip home. Besides making the quest for frozen tart shells moot, the recipe for these dainties combines two of the best tastes of Christmas baking: butter tarts and shortbread.

Yesterday, they graced my table too.

Butter Tart Squares
(adapted from a recipe from Best of Bridge)

1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt


1 cup raisins
1 T. flour

3 eggs beaten
2 cups brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 T. vanilla

1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.

Using a pastry cutter, combine butter with dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly (it will look similar to pastry dough before the addition of any liquid). Press the mixture into an ungreased 9x13 pan. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine raisins and flour. Mix well so that no raisins are still clumped together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix eggs, brown sugar, baking powder, and vanilla. Slowly add melted butter. Add in raisins and stir well.

Pour topping mixture over shortbread base and bake for 35 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before cutting.

Bread Pudding...for breakfast!

This past weekend, we hosted an impromptu neighbourhood brunch to start off our Christmas season. The idea came from seeing a loaf of Dutch sugar bread (suikerbrood) in my freezer. I'd made the bread a couple of months ago and frozen one loaf. When I saw it sitting in the freezer, it just seemed to be crying out to me..."Make me into some breakfast bread pudding!"

And so I did!

Dutch Sugar Bread

This is adapted from a recipe from Klary Koopsman on eGullet. (Original recipe is here and adaptations thereof are here and here.) The batteries in my camera packed it in so the photo is of the bread I made a year ago.

Using the suikerbrood, I made French Toast Bread Pudding from Epicurious.

What a great way to start off the holiday season!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The True North (the best place to get real fish and chips!)

I'm back from my trip to the true north (strong and free) and I'm happy to report that I was able to fulfill both of my culinary checklist items. I picked up a bottle of HP sauce to bring back and I ate some "real" fish and chips.

"Real" is, of course, a relative term. Here in Sacramento, Fins serves a tasty "fish and chips" dish but, if "fish and chips" means battered fish to you, then breaded fish doesn't quite taste "real". I won't even mention the "chips" here.

When I was a teenager, I worked in a fish'n'chip shop as a waitress/kitchen help. Mercifully, we had a mechanical potato peeler so that task didn't need to be done by hand but chipping the potatoes was definitely done in the old-fashioned manner.

Once the potatoes had been peeled (in case anyone is wondering, think "rock tumbler for potatoes"), they went into large garbage cans along with water and "whitener". Whitener stopped the potatoes from discolouring; perhaps it involved phosphates or something. At any rate, when we were low on chips, the garbage can would be dragged over to the chipper, a wall-mounted, lever-operated machine-thingie. An empty container was positioned under the chipper and then the fun began!

Using a chef's knife, I'd stab a potato and hold it in place in the chipper. Pulling on the lever would bring the top blade down and hold the potato while I pulled out the knife. Then a lot of upper arm muscle action would force the blade through the potato. Chips would fall into the waiting bucket and I'd be reaching for another potato.

Needless to say, those types of chips are hard to find in Sacramento. When I planned my trip home, I also decided that it was time to remind myself what "real" fish and chips tasted like. My mum and sister met me at the airport in Victoria and we made our way directly to Haultain Fish and Chips. Willows Galley on Estavan has excellent fare but is limited in the way of seating; Haultain seemed to be the logical alternative.

I wasn't disappointed.

And there it idea of "real" fish and chips. Halibut fillet, battered (but not too heavily), and fried. Served along with chips and coleslaw.

Heh. The rest of Sacramento doesn't know what it's missing.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Onion Pie

The other day, the Spouse and I were watching the Food Network, a show on a pie competition. Amid all the apple pies and the cream pies, one contestant's pie really piqued our interest: onion pie.

The Spouse decided he would try to recreate the dish; although no recipe had been given, enough of the ingredients were discussed to give him a good idea of how to go about the task. It was an unqualified success:

This is definitely going to make an appearance on our table again and, now that the Spouse has the basics down, I'm sure he's going to want to start experimenting.

NB: If only I'd thought to check the Food Network site earlier! The recipe for the pie we saw on TV is available here: Vidalia Onion Pie. This is close to what I think W did but it's not exactly the same.