Butter Tarts: Enjoy The Little Things

enjoy-the-little-thingsTo be perfectly honest, it’s all Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s fault.

It was just before New Year’s Eve last year when Gail tweeted out a query about New Year’s resolutions versus financial goals. Because I have a bit of a butter tart problem (admission is the first step), I tweeted back that my budget included a column just for butter tarts. She responded that this “behooved” me to learn how to bake my own tarts. Who uses the word behoove? Gail is the coolest! To which I responded:

Well, you should be careful what you say on Twitter because people will actually hold you to it. This seemingly Innocent piece of Twitter banter was the start of a five-month personal quest to teach myself how to make the perfect butter tart. I thought, “how hard could it be?”

This obviously begs the question, what is the perfect butter tart? According to a very scientific survey done by Kerry K. Taylor, most people agree that a true butter tart should not contain raisins or pecans. I concur most wholeheartedly.

So What’s the Perfect Recipe?

In my humble opinion, the perfect butter tart should be gooey, but not runny. It needs to have a nice balance between butter and brown sugar so that you don’t feel like you’re eating sweetened butter (gross!) but it also can’t contain any crunchy unmelted sugar. The pastry needs to be flaky, not hard, but still solid enough that it doesn’t completely fall apart when you take that first bite. A nice, light buttery-brown pastry is the goal. Lastly (and this is arguable the trickiest part) they should be cooked in a manner that doesn’t make the filling bubble up and all over the tart. And again…how hard could it be? Turns out, it’s pretty hard.

I went online and found an “award-winning” recipe, did a little shopping and proceeded to start baking (and live-tweeting the process). I should mention that this was my first attempt at baking anything, EVER. These are the before and after pictures of my first batch of butter tarts:

robert-brown-butter-tarts-rocky-startBut I am nothing if not perseverant. Every week, for sixteen consecutive weeks, I tried new variations of that original recipe. More sugar, less butter, less heat, more heat, longer baking times. How much butter vs. lard in the pastry? What’s the best way to “cut” it in? Do different brands of corn syrups make a difference? Secret ingredients.

Until finally in late-April, I had made what I considered to be a pretty decent butter tart.

Now, for reasons he can only explain, Doug Hoyes, LIT, had taken a keen interest in my butter tart progress. (Great minds think alike? Fools seldom differ? Whatever.) So, Doug invited Kerry, myself, and another personal finance expert, Barry Choi to record a “butter tart” episode of his podcast of Debt Free in 30.

So, what’s my point? After all this is supposed to be a money related blog, so why am I going on about butter tarts?

Here’s my point: it was fun, and it was inexpensive too.

Find Joy in The Little Things

So often when we’re looking for a source of entertainment, we opt for expensive diversions. An exotic vacation. A pricey hobby. Something shiny. When just as often there is much joy to be found in much simpler, less expensive things. I know peeps who plant gardens every year, not just to save money, but because they enjoy getting their hands dirty and watching things grow.

Another fellow I know makes his own beer in his basement. Yes, he saves a ton of money versus the beer store, but that’s not the only reason he does it. It’s fun and he gets a kick out of tasting each batch. I think anyone who takes their ride through an automatic car wash in the summer is missing out on the fun of a bucket of soapy water and the garden hose on a hot summer day. Simple pleasures rock.

Slow down, take a minute and smell the butter tarts. And save some money too.

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