Butter tarts are one of those foods that are distinctly Canadian.  Whenever I mention them to my American friends they have never heard of them (kind of like with Poutine).  The easiest way for me to describe them are kind of like individual pecan pies without the pecans (usually) and runnier.  But that doesn’t even begin to capture the deliciousness of butter tarts.  For a while I would get butter tarts every Thursday from one of my fave bakeries here in Toronto called The Flaky Tart on Mount Pleasant.  This was usually followed up by a yoga class since they were very close to each other.  My yoga activity has slowed to a halt so my butter tart consumption has been reduced.

Last week I decided that I would make butter tarts this year. Who knew it would be so soon? I was looking for an activity the other evening and decided that I was up for the task since I had everything in my cupboard to make them.  The recipe I used comes from a cookbook I’ve had for YEARS, Canadian Living Cooks Step by Step. I’ve been eyeing this recipe forever and have never made it.

I was so gungho to make butter tarts that I forgot that I don’t make pie crust! Seriously.  But without any other option I made my own crust.  And it wasn’t even traumatic or that hard.  My only beef with the situation was that the recipe said to use shortening AND butter.  Shortening is filled with all sorts of hydrogenated oils which I prefer to avoid if I can.  Does anyone have any better shortening alternatives? Can I just use butter in place of shortening?  So many questions!  I’d even be down to use pure lard.  Making the crust made me question why I don’t make my own pie crust all the time.  It’s probably cheaper to make my own, it tastes better AND it took maybe 10 minutes to assemble and another 5-10 minutes to roll out.  Note to self: make my own crusts!

When it comes to butter tarts there are two camps on what the filling should be like: runny or stiff.  I don’t like my filling to drip down my arms but I like it to be a but gooey.  Apparently more corn syrup makes it runny and more brown sugar makes it stiffer.  Good to know.  Most recipes call for corn syrup.  I get that corn syrup is different from high fructose corn syrup but I try to avoid it where possible too.  In my cupboard I had a jar of Lyle’s Golden Syrup which is a cane sugar based syrup that I used in place of corn syrup.

The recipe makes 12 tarts but I only had a 6-cup muffin tin so I made it in two batches.  THANK GOODNESS! My first batch cooked very quickly and were a bit burned.  Something in my heart told that the Golden Syrup probably sped that up since it is kind of like adding more brown sugar.  For the next batch I turned down the oven, added some corn syrup to the mix and cooked the tarts for about 10 minutes. PERFECTION!  My first foray into butter tart making was successful.  I used pecans instead of raisins (obviously).  Next time I think I’ll do half maple syrup and half corn syrup/Golden Syrup… you know, to make it even more Canadian.

These made me so happy!

For more information about butter tarts and some additional recipes check out this article.

Canadian Living Butter Tarts

Makes 12 tarts

For the pastry:
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) salt
1/4 cup (50 mL) cold butter
1/4 cup (50 mL) shortening
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vinegar
Ice water

For the filling:
1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup (50 mL) corn syrup (or up to 1/2 cup/125 mL for more gooey filling)
1 egg
2 tablespoons (25 mL) butter, softened
1 teaspoon (5 mL) each, vanilla and vinegar
Pinch, salt
1/4 cup (50 mL) optional currants, raisins, chopped pecans

1. In a large bowl, whisk flour with salt. With a pastry blender or

2 knives, cut in butter and lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.

2. In a liquid measure, whisk egg yolk with vinegar; add enough ice water to make 1/3 cup (75 mL). Sprinkle over flour mixture, stirring briskly with fork until pastry holds together. Press into disc; wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. (Can make ahead to this point up to 3 days in advance.)

3. To make the filling, in a bowl whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt until blended; set aside.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 1/8-inch (3-mm) thickness. Using a 4-inch (10-cm) round cookie cutter (an empty 28-ounce/796-mL can works well) cut out pastry circles and fit into 2 3/4-inch (7-cm) muffin or tart tins that have been greased with butter. Divide currants (or raisins, or pecans) among shells. Spoon in filling to 3/4 full.

5. Bake in bottom third of oven preheated to 450 degreesF (230 degreesC) until filling is puffed and bubbly and pastry is golden, about 12 minutes. Let stand on rack for 1 minute, then run a metal spatula around tarts to loosen; carefully slide spatula under tarts and transfer to rack to let cool.

(Recipe from  Canadian Living Cooks Step by Step.)

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2 Responses to Canadian Living Butter Tarts

  1. [...] few years ago I made butter tarts using this Canadian Living recipe that turned out pretty good but I wanted to try something different.  A bit of googling turned up [...]

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