‘Tis the season for giving

The holiday season is here and you know what that means: lists.
I have lots of lists this time of year. My Christmas baking list is a good one, though it doesn’t always reach fruition. It’s a bit like buying a gym pass in January. It seems like a superb strategy but after day three . . . who was I kidding.
I am a hermit 50 weeks of the year. But for two weeks at Christmas, I come out from under my rock to deliver yummy baking to my neighbours for two reasons: to give them my best wishes at Christmas and to assure them I am not lying dead somewhere in my house.
It’s a bit like when my mother called my house 30 years ago and almost four-year-old Samantha answered the phone. Upon learning it was my mother, Samantha had a unique and hearty response.
“Hi, Grandma,” Samantha said. “I thought you were dead.”
I am not sure my mother ever recovered from Samantha’s greeting and my mother may have held a grudge for the next 25 years, although there’s no way of knowing now.
Back to the baking.
I made shortbread and chocolate chip oatmeal cookies for my daughters’ Christmas parcels and though I wanted to include butter tarts, I decided Canada Post couldn’t be trusted. But I thought I would be uber-organized this year–a hopeful though delusional view of my capabilities.
I toasted the pecans after I chopped them precisely. I made the pastry ahead of time and allowed it to chill, which I never do but the ancient recipe carved into the walls of the family cave said I should chill the pastry. So I did.
Then things went terribly wrong, as things are inclined to do when making food for others. I can bake the most beautiful apple pie for myself but the moment I decide to share it with a friend, the pastry self-destructs and the apples disintegrate into mush.
Back to the butter tarts (I seem to have habitual digression).
The pastry recipe was designed for 12 tarts. But what if? What if is never a good idea; not when it comes to hair dye or high heels or pastry. Alas, I wasn’t listening to my personal alert system.
What if I could get 18 butter tart shells out of one recipe. Fewer calories for my dear over-weight neighbours and more bang for my buck. Right? Wrong!
I rolled out the pastry thin enough it would have passed through an X-ray machine undetected. I filled the shells with the roasted pecans and then poured the filling made with my very own maple syrup made from my very own maple trees (a noble gesture to say the least).
Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F for an additional 10 minutes, which seems like over-kill to me but who am I to say. The instructions went on to say remove the tarts from the oven and allow to sit, rotating each tart intermittently in the pan until cool.
It was at this point I began to scream. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say if I want my neighbours to have these particular butter tarts, I will need to wrap the entire muffin tray and provide a chisel and hammer.
Heading into the New Year, I have two pieces of sage advice: 1. Do not scrimp on pastry thickness when making butter tarts. And 2. Do not behave in a smug manner when the power is off in the entire province except yours. Do not do a happy dance and gloat and turn all your lights on just because you can.
That’s because Nova Scotia Power will be listening and will hit the “off” switch for your power, for no other reason than because. I guarantee it.
Now I must go and eat butter tart crumbs out of a bowl. It could be a whole new tradition.
wendistewart@live.ca

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