Like my first Big Summer Potluck, my first butter tart was nothing like I expected it to be. I had imagined something much more intense, artificial and much too sweet. Instead, I got a buttery, comforting bite with notes of bourbon, the crunch of nuts and a well-balanced sweetness. It was NOT pecan pie hiding behind a Canadian name, as I thought it would be, just as BSP was not merely a food blogging conference.
Last year when I attended BSP, a gathering for food bloggers in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, I was a recently broken-hearted, anxiety-ridden wreck. I had been overworking myself and held severe doubts about a lot of things, including whether I should even go to BSP at all. But that weekend surprised me. I was expecting people to be unfriendly or having 'holier than thou' attitudes towards smaller bloggers, but instead was met by some of the warmest folks I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. They were authentic and vulnerable and real. They had me tearing up over messages that hit close to home, laughing about bad dating stories and bonding over the magic of Canadian ketchup chips. I didn't quite grasp how amazing the weekend would be at the time, or imagine that the folks who I spent two days in a barn with would go from being acquaintances and strangers to some of my dearest friends.
And like last summer, after this year's event I was completely surprised at the disparity between what I thought I would experience and what actually happened. The theme this year was "invest in yourself." I was expecting to relate to every speaker, to frantically scribble notes about how to live a more present life, not take things for granted, wake up and make time for writing, savor my food, take better pictures and realize my ultimate potential through food. Instead, the speakers left me hanging on their words, marveling at their persistence and, surprisingly, not trying to to relate my situation to everything they said. They took the "ME" out of the equation. It may have been my own change in perspective, calmer demeanor and slight boost in self-confidence, but I took away less for myself from each talk and instead heard a resounding messages of hope and possibility in times of despair.
Joe Yonan talked about personal difficulties and how he found peace, purpose and a happy ending unlike one he'd initially imagined after spending a year on his sister's homestead. He sought out to write a memoir and a book on vegetarian eating. He didn't quite get the former, but found understanding instead.
Jeni Britton Bauer talked about failure--how her first ice cream venture failed due to a a self-serving focus. But once she shifted her perspective towards a consumer-first approach, she was able to create the thriving business she has in Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream.
Jessamyn of Hot Bread Kitchen faced incredible challenges with her bread baking non-profit, but through persistence is able to give numerous women career potential and hope for their futures.
Robyn from Shore Soup was perhaps the most moving of all--she was a tiny flicker of light to her community after Hurricane Sandy, bringing food to those afraid to leave their homes. But with each meal she served, her light spread to others who joined in and gave selflessly to bring hope and relief in a community in dire need of both.
The beauty of BSP lies with the people who make up the weekend. Maggy, Pam & Erika do such a phenomenal job of hosting and organizing. And, in doing so, manage to organize a team of outstanding folks like Chris & Karen and Rod & Debra to help the event run smoothly. It's no surprise then, that having so many great folks at the helm of the event would so many attract amazing, caring, witty, wonderful people to it.
So, in a funny way, BSP reminds me a lot of the butter tarts my pals Kris & Isabelle brought me all the way from Toronto. Pam, Maggy & Erika's idea of a warm and inviting community of food-minded folks is like the comforting shell that gives a whole lot of really sweet people a place to meet and gel together. Throw in some booze and a few nuts (not naming names, but let's be real--that's where I come in) and it's a perfect combination!
Maple Bourbon Butter Tarts
(adapted from BBC Good Food)
- one pie or tart crust (I used a patee sucree recipe from Pastry)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 4 T cream
- 2 T maple syrup (preferably grade B)
- 1 T bourbon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons), softened
- 1/4 cup pecans
Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out prepared pie or tart dough. Using a 3" circle cutter, cut 12 circles from the dough. Press each circle into the wells of a cupcake pan, making sure the dough is pressed against the bottom of the pan. Press the dough about 3/4" up the sides of each cupcake well to create a miniature pie shell out of the dough. Once all 12 shells have been made, set the pan aside.
In a medium saucepan, mix together brown sugar, cream, maple syrup, bourbon, salt and eggs. Stir to combine. Add the softened butter and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Once the mixture begins to bubble and thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn the heat off. Carefully spoon the hot liquid into the prepared shells until the liquid is almost to the top of the dough. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown and the centers have set. Allow to cool 5 minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm or cold.
A HUGE thank you to Maggy, Pam, Erika, Chris, Karen, Rod, Debra, Brian and Tom for all their hard work organizing, leading, hosting, taking pictures, answering questions, cleaning, cooking and tending bar throughout the weekend. And a very special thank you to the sponsors, OXO, KitchenAid, Gourmet Garden, Sabra, Attune Foods, Kerrygold and all the amazing sponsors!
**Note: this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the Amazon links and buy something on Amazon, I get a small percentage of the purchase price...which I put towards things like webhosting and buying stuff to bake with.