Brown Butter Tarts

These itty, bitty tarts are a simple reinvention of the highly regarded Canadian treat. Each pastry shell boasts golden, nutty flecks of toasty brown butter flavor. Biting in yields a gooey flood of syrupy walnut filling. Made in honor of my late grandmother, who lived on a raspberry field in Canada, and loved, loved, LOVED this recipe.

Brown Butter Tarts
Adapted from NYT Cooking

PASTRY:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup ice water
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp white vinegar

FILLING:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

PASTRY:
In a saucepan, heat butter on medium low. Butter will melt before beginning to bubble and foam. Afterward, it will start to pop. Gently scrape the browning bits from the bottom of the saucepan until the butter is golden brown, then pour into a bowl and refrigerate until cold again, about 1 hour. Slice the brown butter into cubes for the dough. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or your finger tips, rub the brown butter into the flour until mixture is in pea-size pieces. In a small bowl, mix water, egg yolk, and vinegar until well combined. Add liquid to the flour mixture, using a fork to combine. Add 1 tbsp more water if it looks dry. Knead dough several times by hand to bring it together and shape into a flat square. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Once chilled, roll out the dough into a 16×12-inch rectangle about 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Flour the work surface and rolling pin as you work with the dough. Use a circular 4-inch cookie cutter to cut 12 pieces. Reroll dough if needed to cut more circles, but try to cut as many pieces on the first pass. With your fingertips, press each circle into the cup of a standard muffin tin, so that the edge of the dough is flush with the pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

FILLING:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a bowl, mix brown sugar and salt, and then beat the butter into the sugar by hand until smooth. Add vanilla and egg and mix until combined. Do not use an electric mixer; it will add too much air to the filling. Place 6-7 walnuts in each chilled tart shell. Divide the filling evenly on top, filling each one about halfway. Sprinkle each with sea salt. Place muffin tin on a baking sheet. Bake 13-15 minutes. A few minutes after removing the tarts from the oven, run a knife or offset spatula around the edge of each tart to loosen. Let cool completely in the tin. To remove, run a butter knife or offset spatula around and under each tart to pop it out of the tin.

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