Apparently, I am not the only person in the world who loved to eat their Christmas baking directly from the freezer. I wrote about eating my shortbread that way and I received so many emails and messages telling me I wasn’t alone. I guess its a thing, here in Canada anyway.
One gal told me how her mom kept all their Christmas baking in a box on the porch. That’s the thing about Canada, you don’t have a shortage of freezer space at Christmas time. My family has stored food in the trunk of the car, in a cooler on the deck, in the unheated garage and believe it or not, an actual freezer.
When my dad and his four siblings lived on Evergreen Street, there was a bedroom in the basement. My dad shared it with his brother and when they moved out, my two aunts moved into that room. I remember that room because I had sleep-overs in there. Outside that room was a 1960’s style rec room complete with bar stools and a pool table. Behind the bar area by the stairs was a storage room with a freezer. This was easily accessible to the bedroom. Midnight trips to the freezer we common because that is where grandma stored her baking.
Fast forward to my childhood.
My brother and I lived in our basement on Georgian Way. We had a 1970’s style ‘rumpus room’. It was aptly named because a lot of rumpusing occurred in that room. We watched cable tv, played intelevision and atari, build forts and goofed around on the piano. We didn’t have a bar but we did have a fireplace. I never remember sitting on the sofa to watch tv, we would stack cushions on the floor so we could recline and snuggle under blankets as we watched Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Women, or Charlies Angels and sneak in a little Soap after everyone went to bed. It was as if we had our own apartment with mom, dad and our sister living upstairs.
At Christmas time our freezer would be stocked with Christmas baking for parties. Dad would often have his fellow teachers over for a Christmas party, we would invite Santa over for a family party and we always had Christmas brunch where everyone we knew would come for breakfast. After all the savoury food was consumed the baking would come ut on three-tiered cake plates for dessert service. Provided my brother and I had left any in the freezer.
Here’s the thing. Imagine a gripping game of Frogger, Donkey Kong or Galactica late on a Friday night when suddenly you are hungry. The ‘hangry’ kind of hunger that needs to be satisfied so you can beat your little weasel of a brother who will cheat as soon as the opportunity arises. Anger bubbles up with such intensity that food is the only thing that will sooth that beast. Its a thing, the Snicker’s commercial proves it.
Luckily, the deep freezer chest was located in the next room beside the laundry. It was deep. When we were small I would hold my brother’s legs so he could reach the bottom. As we grew taller, I could bend at the waist with my feet dangling so I could reach those Tupperware containers that were located on the bottom, hidden under roasts and loaves of bread in an effort to conceal the baking intended for guests.
I could always find the Butter Tart or Shortbread.
The secret to not getting in trouble immediately was to leave evidence that made the containers appear full. For example, the layers of wax paper that separated the cookies were never removed. That way when you opened the container to take a peek, it appeared as if the cookies were still on the bottom. With the butter tarts it was even easier, leave the foil tins in the container and none would be the wiser…until it was party day.
Mom would ask dad to bring the containers upstairs to the kitchen. He would leave stacks of containers on the counter. Mom had been busy all fall building up the reserves. Anything with coconut or cherries would still be there because … ew. The butter tarts and cookies were not. just empty packages. This is when mom would
My brother and I were always accused of the crime. He would deny it and she would believe him. I got the blame. To be fair, I was the mastermind behind the cookie caper, and likely did eat the majority of the baking but he often got away with things because he was an expert level liar. As soon as his back was turned and mom couldn’t see him, he would smile at me and stick his tongue out. A sure sign that he was lying to her and mocking me at the same time.
Until recently I assumed everyone ate butter tarts and no one ate frozen baking. I had no idea butter tarts were a Canadian thing. I did a little research on the confection and some regions put milk or cream in the recipe. All I can say is you are wrong. That is not the way to make them. My dad says a good butter tart must drip on your chin while eating it. I agree. That is the way to do it. I feel so strongly about this, I will share with you my family recipe. Do not put the following in your recipe and say it came from me. These ingredients are WRONG and belong in some other recipe I do not have to eat.
- Coconut – just don’t
- Raisins – my daughter says it’s like eating old people, save a senior and keep raisins out.
- Currents/cranberries/fruit in general
- Nuts – especially walnuts. WRONG
Butter Tarts are syrupy and gooey. The better the pastry the better the tart. Here you go:
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cold butter cubed
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- ice water
In a large bowl, whisk flour with salt. With pastry blender or your fingers, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.
In a separate bowl – I use my pyrex measuring cup – whisk egg yolk with vinegar; add enough ice water to make 1/3 cup (75 mL). Sprinkle over flour mixture, stirring briskly with a fork until pastry holds together. Press into disc; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Remove from fridge and let it come to room temperature. Roll very thin, like 1/8″ – this prevents pastry folds in your in and you can get more filling in the tart – and cut with a 4″ glass, can or cookie cutter. My grandma used an empty tomato tin, I have a cookie cutter. $1.25 and lasts forever. This makes 12, place in a muffin tin or tart tin.
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/4 cup currants
- 1/4 cup raisin
- 1/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut
In a bowl, whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt until blended. Pour the filling into a measuring cup with a spout or scoop with an ice cream scoop into the tart shells. Back at 450F for about 12 minutes. I always place my tarts on a cookie sheet that has been pre-heating in the oven. This ensures the pastry is fully cooked on the bottom because no one wants to eat raw pastry dough, ask Mary Berry or Martha Stewart.
Send one to my dad and you can eat the rest. I recommend freezing them because they will taste like my childhood. Or eat them they way my kids do, straight from the oven because it tastes like their childhood.