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It’s time to summarize the last two weeks of my Art of Pies course at George Brown’s culinary school. The Week 5 menu featured Key Lime Pie and Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Quiche. Unfortunately, the Cream Puff was under the weather and had to miss that class.

So sad! But not to worry, we shall make quiche another day! In the meantime, Cream Puff recovered and made it to the sixth and final class.

On the menu for Week 6:  Pecan Pie and Butter Tarts.

We began class by preparing the dough that we would use for both our pecan pie and butter tarts. Unlike the other doughs we made in this class that always used bread flour, this particular pie dough also used pastry flour. In addition to the bread and pastry flours, we added butter, cold water, egg and salt.

The addition of the pastry flour made this a slightly more delicate pie dough than the others. It was tender and flaky and had an amazing flavour. I think I liked the pie dough even more than the filling and I will most definitely be trying this dough at home.

The filling for our pecan pie and butter tart was the same. The idea was to create a filling that we could use for many different purposes and we certainly came up with a very versatile filling. It consisted of brown sugar, corn syrup, pure maple syrup, cornstarch, vanilla extract, salt, butter, eggs, pecans and raisins. We made the filling by combining all the ingredients in a mixer except for the eggs. We added the eggs at the end, on low speed, being careful not to over whip. You want a mixture that’s dense and not too fluffy. Beating too much air into the mixture won’t give your baked product the same dense consistency that you expect in a pecan pie or butter tarts.

We baked our pies in standard 9-inch pans but for the butter tarts, we used individual foil tartlet pans, which I loved. I’ve always made butter tarts in muffin tins, but I found that using the tartlet pans allowed me to make larger butter tarts and also to play with the crust decoration. That’s not easy to do when your tarts are in a muffin tin.

While I felt the instructor over baked our pecan pies slightly (unfortunately I don’t have a picture), the butter tarts were incredible. I especially enjoyed the flavour imparted by the pure maple syrup. I’ve never used maple syrup in my butter tart filling and I think I’m definitely going to give it a try at home. The flavourful crust was the perfect compliment to the sweet, gooey filling.

At six weeks, this was a relatively short course compared to some of the others that I’ve taken. While I wasn’t impressed with every pie we made, I did enjoy the time we spent focusing on making dough. I picked up some great variations for pie dough recipes and I’m looking forward to trying them at home. And once again the work in class showed that good pie dough does not have to be an elusive accomplishment. It’s very easy to make excellent pie dough at home with your own two hands!

The course also helped to encourage our creativity when it comes to pie fillings. Don’t get me wrong, I love me my fruit pies. But there are so many things you can do to fill a pie that I’m looking forward to experimenting a bit.

My personal favourite was the Boston Cream Pie (which I don’t even think is a pie at all). I’d have to say the Butter Tarts came in a close second. Our instructor was fantastic and overall, the class environment was a calm one where everyone worked well together. As I’ve mentioned in past posts on baking class, I’ve been in some courses where I felt I was competing in Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen! It was a pleasure to go to class and be able to focus on baking, rather than staking my claim to the flour bin.

I have a month off before I begin my next course, but stay tuned. Cream Puff’s school adventures will continue!

Ciao!