A butter tart recipe adapted from Grandma Cook’s classic
Nothing says Christmas, like the buttery, gooey, crunch of butter tarts or pecan pie. You take that first bite and feel the initial resistance against your teeth give way to smooth, honey sweetness and the crunch of pecans. The golden caramel slides across your tongue. It’s toothsome, with a slight tartness from the fruity filling, followed by the tender crumb and crunch of the pastry shell.
Remember Grandma Cook? She’s the lady that I learned my cookie baking secrets from. She was so meticulous in her cookie baking that she tested each batter by baking one cookie at a time until she got the recipe perfect. This very giftable cookie is an adaptation of Grandma Cook’s Butter Tart squares, updated with some healthier ingredients like whole pecans, freshly ground flax, Bob’s Redmill Organic Whole Wheat Flour, and dried cranberries.
It has the sweet mouth-feel of butter tarts with their gooey filling, crunch, and the tender flaky pastry crust. But this is cheaper, healthier, and easier than making pastry shells from scratch. You can have it ready in less than an hour from start to finish and most of that time is baking. It has a quick to make short bread crust, with a honey-like filling. The crusty top forms itself during the baking.
While you can switch out raisins for the pecans and brown sugar for the maple sugar, do use real butter for this recipe. Margarine or coconut oil just won’t give it the same rich taste, and toothsomeness. Oh, and the filling part of the recipe is a little different than butter tart filling, so if you want to just make the filling and use it for filling tart shells, just omit the flour and baking powder, and add 1 tbsp of cider vinegar to cut the cloying sweetness, that will result.
How to slice a square
First of all, squares are usually made in a rectangular pan. For this size recipe you can use a square 9 x 9 pan, or a rectangular 7 x 11 pan. I like to use the glass pans made by pyrex because they have rounded corners and it’s easier to lift the square cleanly out of the pan. The metal pans have sharp corners that tend to retain the crusty bottom portion of your square. In an 7 x 11 pan I usually cut 3 squares across the short side and 6 squares across the long side – 18 squares. With a 9 x 9 cut 4 x 5 – you’ll end up with 20 squares.
Let it cool for 30 minutes before you slice it so that the filling doesn’t ooze out and drip over the pan bottom. That is if you can wait that long. I confess, I only waited 10 minutes, then grabbed a tiny corner and topped it with freshly whipped cream. One has to test these things before publishing. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make for you. Perfection! Oh, and I had one with my breakfast coffee, too. How could I resist. Oh, I mean, it was in the interest of scholarship, yes, that’s my excuse for eating cookies for breakfast.
How to package this for gifts?
These would be awesome to send to the office during the Christmas season. While there are nuts in this recipe, feel free to substitute raisins cup for cup for the pecans, if you are concerned about nut allergies, and leave the cranberries in. I think substituting chocolate chips for the pecans would make them too sweet, but that’s just my taste buds.
I plan to package them in a decorative cookie tin from the local dollar store. You could also put them in a mason jar with a decorative lid. And if you are giving them to a neighbor, it’s always nice to include the recipe. You can print this one out using the button in the recipe window and enclose it.
Check out my partners in the National Cookie Month 2014 and see their creative packaging ideas, too, for more inspiration. This week’s theme is “Cookies for Gift Giving” and you’ll find both recipes and gift ideas on their sites.
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 ½ cups Bob’s Redmill Organic Whole Wheat flour
- ¼ cup freshly ground flax seed
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup of organic maple sugar, or brown sugar
- ¼ cup of Bob’s Redmill Organic Whole Wheat flour
- ¾ tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¾ cup pecans, whole
- 1 cup of dried cranberries
- Cream together butter and brown sugar.
- Blend in flour and flax seed until well blended.
- Press into the bottom of a greased 8 x 10 baking pan.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 350F.
- Meanwhile prepare your filling.
- Cream together melted butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Add vanilla and salt and beat until smooth.
- Stir in baking powder and flour.
- Fold in pecans and cranberries.
- Once the pan has come out of the oven, pour the filling over the top of the baked crust.
- Smooth out the filling to cover the crust evenly.
- Bake for at 360*F for 20 minutes.
- Squares will look fully baked on top and golden brown, but the filling remains liquid under the top crust. When you jiggle the pan, you should see a slight movement under the top crustiness.
- You can increase the baking time but check every 5 minutes and once the top is fully golden brown, remove from the oven.
- Do not over-bake.
- Allow this to cool for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Divide into 18 squares. See my note above for further explanation.
- Slice each square with a sharp knife, being sure to cut through the bottom crust.
- Remove to a plate and cool thoroughly before packaging for gift giving.
- This square is awesome to bring to a cookie exchange or a potluck, too. Makes 1 1/2 dozen.