Butter Tarts- An Ontario Original

butter tarts Canadian recipe

Butter tarts are delicious. If you haven't tried one you need to. I've been eating them my whole life, and have just assumed everyone knew what they were. A mixture of butter, brown sugar, corn syrup,  maple syrup, and egg are poured into a flaky pastry and baked. There very sweet and addictive. Butter tarts are considered one of the few recipes that originates in Ontario. They are similar to the American pecan pie, the French tarte au sucre, and the Scottish Ecclefechan tart. So much so, that I find it hard to see what makes the butter tart a unique Canadian recipe, except that they are incredibly popular here, and are found everywhere. Some families even put butter tarts out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve in place of cookies.
Even in Ontario there doesn't appear to be any specific recipe that people can agree on as authentic. Some tarts have a firm filling, while others are runny. Many people add raisins, others add nuts, and some add both. The crusts vary from family to family and some recipes use a crumbly shortbread style crust, while others use a more firm and flaky pâte brisée. Here is a CBC Radio show that has a panel of guests discuss what a butter tart is. http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/lifestyle/food/my-canada-includes-tourtiere/what-makes-a-great-butter-tart.html

butter tart Canadian recipeWellington County in Southwestern Ontario has a Butter Tart Trail where you can travel on a self guided tour of the area's most popular places to try butter tarts. Personally I like my butter tarts to have a translucent softness that barely holds it's shape,with some nuts on top. The toasted nuts help cut some of the sweetness. The recipe I use is from Canadian Living Magazine with the addition of maple syrup and pecans in place of raisins.

Butter Tart Recipe

  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) cold butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) lard or butter, cubed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vinegar
  • Ice water
 1/2 cup (125 mL) packed  brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt
 In large bowl, whisk flour with salt. With pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter and lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.

In 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 wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

In bowl, whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt until blended; set aside.

On lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 1/8-inch (3 mm) thickness. Using 4-inch (10 cm) round cookie cutter (or empty 28 oz/796 mL can), cut out 12 circles, re-rolling scraps once if necessary. Fit into 2-3/4- x 1-1/4-inch (7 x 3 cm) muffin cups. Spoon in filling until three-quarters full. Top each tart with 2 or 3 pecans

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

butter tarts Canadian recipe

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One of Ottawa's Real Foodies said...

Butter tarts are religion in this country. When I make my butter tarts I actually count the number of raisins I put in each tart. I love a flaky crust and I like it 'just' firm. So still a wee, slight, barely runnyness to it. (Technical culinary description!) Great pictures Steve.

Steve said...

One of Ottawa's Real Foodies: I agree. A translucent softness is a better description of how I like them than "fairly runny"

Thibeault's Table said...

Great photo Steve.
Butter Tarts - definitely a Canadian treat. I like mine just "set". Not really firm but yet not runny. I'm more of a purist and like them plain. Although I wouldn't turn down one with pecans or toasted walnuts.


Anonymous said...

Plain and with raisins is the way I grew up eating them.

Gary Gillman said...

Excellent article which I found when looking for recipes and thoughts on Ontario's butter tart. I too feel it is doubtful it was invented here, although our particular form, particularly the pastry shell (thickness, irregular edges) seems distinctive. There is nothing wrong certainly with pecan, but my own preference is walnuts alone, currants alone, or raisins alone. I do actually like them runny, too. I've set some thoughts down in a currant posting in case of any interest. Thanks.


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