I think there’s nothing more Canadian than a lush Butter Tart. Sure, there’s Tarte au Sucre, Maple Syrup Pie, and Nanaimo Bars, just to name a few…however, because this is my blog, I can be biased and declare Butter Tarts as the representative of Canadian dessert pride (tee-hee). Butter tarts are reminiscent of a pecan pie –sans the pecans.
As a veteran butter tart eater, I shall give you the lowdown on these addictive sweets. I’ve found that there are three camps people can fall into regarding filling preference: oozy and runny, custardy soft and quivery-set, or firm with a slight yield. Typically, I fall in the middle of the camp. I enjoy this soft filling because I find it the creamiest. I also like the middle of the road butter tart for tehnical reasons. When you crack it open, the filling will remain within the walls of the crust. For neater eating’s sake, it sure beats a runny, messy filling that, more often than not, lands on your clothing than in your tummy.
There is definitely a method involved to making butter tarts; in addition, one must be concerned about the proper crust to filling ratio. Since the gooey innards are so intensely buttery-sweet, to me, the crust must not have any sugar, be flaky and light, but sturdy enough to cradle the filling, once it is set.
Lastly, there is the contentious issue of whether a butter tart should contain dried fruits in it, namely currents or raisins. I’m a butter tart purist so I typically forgo these dried up grapes, but by all means, you can add some for textural variance (about 1/2 cup should be adequate. Just make sure they are plump and moist before you add them to the filling. If they are dry and crusty, add enough boiling water (in a bowl) to cover them and leave it for 15 minutes. Drain the liquid and then proceed with the recipe.
While the ingredients may be quite basic and it appears to be a straightforward recipe– be forewardned that looks are deceiving.
My eating strategy: I usually take the rim of the crust and use it as my spoon to pick up all the golden goodness.
When you serve these to guests, I recommend dolloping the tarts with some creme fraiche on top. The tang tempers the richness of this dessert perfectly.
This recipe was adapted from Anna Olson.
Eh? Butter Tarts!
2 1/4 cups pastry flour
1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening (lard is best but if you don’t have any on hand veg shortening will do)
1 tsp lemon juice (or white vinegar)
1 large egg
4-6 tbsp ice cold water
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp white vinegar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup golden corn syrup
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp pure maple syrup (I like to use a medium to dark amber grade over the light stuff… it gives the maple flavour more oomph)
Preheat oven to 375° F.
For pastry, combine flour and salt and cut in lard until coarse and crumbly. Whisk lemon juice and egg and mix into dough until it just comes together. If needed, add 4-6 tablespoons of cold water to help bind the pastry. Wrap and keep at room temperature while preparing filling.
For filling, cream together butter and sugar and stir in eggs. Mix in vanilla, vinegar, cinnamon, salt. Whisk in corn syrup and maple syrup.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to just shy of ¼-inch thick. Cut 6-inch rounds from pastry and line ungreased muffin tins, pressing in to ensure pastry gets into corners. Pour filling 1/2 way up. Bake tarts for 18 to 22 minutes, until filling is set. Allow to cool before removing from tin.
Butter tarts will keep up to a week in an airtight container (if they last that long).