I was recently in Wolfville, N.S. for Devour, the food-film festival. Every day I had lunch at the Slow Dough Bakery, which serves excellent homey sandwiches and the most mouth-wateringly perfect home baking. The owner, Elizabeth Charlton, a former opera singer with the Canadian Opera Company, moved to the charming, food-focused town outside Halifax several years ago. She worked as a pastry chef in restaurants before selling her goods at local markets, which she says “is just another form of performing.” Charlton finds other similarities between the two professions. “Both require lots of discipline,” she says. “It takes a very concentrated effort in order for the product to be good.” Charlton later opened her dream bakery, where her breads rise slowly over 24 hours (hence the name). Her Christmas dessert, a variation of a butter tart, incorporates both fresh and dried cranberries as well as chopped nuts. The easy pastry recipe, which is well worth making, is a traditional pâte sucrée, the French sweet tart pastry. You can drizzle the finished tart with melted white chocolate, but it’s also wonderful without it.
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1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp whipping cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup melted butter
Fruit and nuts
3/4 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
To make the dough, cream butter and sugar in a large bowl with hand mixer until light and fluffy. In a small bowl, mix together yolk and cream. Add to the butter mixture in 3 instalments, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in flour and salt until just incorporated. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a tart pan with removable sides with dough. Prick and freeze for 20 minutes. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until a light golden-brown colour. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Reduce oven to 350 F.
To make the filling, combine sugar, salt and corn syrup with a hand mixer until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl. In a separate bowl, gently combine the yolk and the vanilla and then add to the sugar mixture. Cool melted butter slightly and gradually beat into other ingredients.
Sprinkle fresh and dried cranberries and walnuts into bottom of tart shell, reserving 1 tbsp of each. Pour butter filling into shell and shake gently to disperse evenly. Scatter remaining cranberries and walnuts over top.
Bake for 15 to 25 minutes or until the mixture is set and the top is golden. Cool and remove from tart shell on to a serving plate. Serve at room temperature.