When people steal your butter tarts off a party tray and hide them in napkins, you know you’ve got a great recipe. This is what happens when Peggy Nagle brings her tarts to a gathering, a recipe she learned from her mother-in-law, a local legend known as the “Queen of Tarts.”
Here is Nagle’s modernized method for perfect pastry—which met her mother-in-law’s approval.
cups (1.375 L) all-purpose flour
tsp (10 mL) salt
lb (450 g) chilled lard, cut in chunks
tbsp (15 mL) vinegar
In large bowl, combine flour and salt. Pour flour mixture into food processor; add lard. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pea-sized pieces.
In glass measure, using fork, beat egg with vinegar. Add enough very cold water to make 1 cup (250 mL). Drizzle into flour mixture, a bit at a time, mixing with fork until dough looks evenly moistened and holds together when gently pressed between fingers, as shown. (You might not need all of the liquid.)
Divide dough equally into 6 balls; wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 3 hours. Prepared dough can be stored for 2 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to scant 3 mm thickness. If dough cracks while rolling, allow it to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes, or until pliable enough to roll without breaking. The secret to flaky pastry is to handle the dough as little as possible. The more you handle it, the tougher it gets.
Using jar lid, cookie cutter or large glass, cut circles of right size for your muffin pans.
To avoid messy last-minute baking, make dough and fill muffin pans the night before, then add raisins and filling and bake right before serving. Butter tarts are best served fresh, and even better served warm.