Canada – Butter Tarts

I wanted to do some more baking at the weekend, but hadn’t planned what I was going to do, so I asked my hubby to name a country that I should cook from.  Amazingly the first two he suggested were countries I’d already ticked off the list (which shows I’m getting somewhere) and the third place he picked was Canada!  Having travelled round Canada before university for three months I thought that I’d have a few ideas of what to make, but the only things that popped into my head were muffins and anything to do with maple syrup!  When I was over there I became a bit obsessed with muffins and even bought a little A-Z of muffin recipes and some Canadian cup measures so I could make them all when I got home!

However, rather than make more muffins  I decided to make something different and one of the first recipes that popped up on my google search was for these little tarts.  They sounded quite interesting and followed on nicely from the Pasteis de nata I made last week.  I am still not quite sure why they’re known as butter tarts, as it seems the filling is mainly made of sugar, but never mind!  They were really tasty though – we tried them both warm and cold and definitely thought they had more flavour when cold.

The hubby said they reminded him of something you’d eat at Christmas – particularly with the raisins in, and I’m inclined to agree, however I’d happily eat them at any time of year.  You can use nuts (which some butter tart purists would disapprove of) or just keep them plain.  I think they’d be delicious with pecan nuts, but I’d probably get told off as they’re supposed to be butter tarts not pecan pie.

This was a bit of a hotch potch of recipes as I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to leave the house, so was determined to make do with the ingredients I had at home.  I love it when you decide you want to make something, open the cupboards and find you can do it without having to go shopping – it’s the little things that make me happy!!  Amazingly I was only missing the cream, so I just left it out, but a number of recipes I found didn’t even include cream, so I’m not sure it’s a key ingredient anyway.


Butter Tarts

This makes between 12-18 tarts, depending on size of pastry cutter used

For the pastry

Makes about 340g pastry

  • 250g plain flour
  • 110g butter, straight from fridge and cut into cubes
  • 4-6 tbsp cold water
  • generous pinch salt

For the filling

This part of the recipe came from a website called Instructables – it’s a Canadian recipe so was measured in cups.  I’ve converted it using this helpful tool, but if you have cup measures, best to use those.

  • 75g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 85g (1/2 cup) soft light brown sugar
  • 115ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup OR corn syrup OR maple syrup OR soft light brown sugar (I used maple syrup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp double cream

Optional:  85g (1/2 cup) raisins OR pecans, toasted and chopped OR walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the pastry:

Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and add the cubes of butter.  Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips, until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Using a knife, stir in just enough of the cold water to bind the dough together.  Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for at least 10-15 minutes before using.

Roll out on to a floured work surface and using a 10cm round cutter (I only had an 8cm one, so just had more smaller tarts), cut out at least 12 pieces of pastry and transfer each to a deep muffin tin.  Re-roll out the pastry if needed and put muffin tin in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling:

Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the brown sugar and butter.  (If you’re just using sugar and not syrup, I guess you cream together all the sugar with the butter, and then just whisk the egg, vanilla and cream together).

In a separate medium-sized bowl, add the syrup and place in a hot water bath by putting the bowl inside a larger bowl with a shallow pool of hot tap water.  (I’m not sure exactly what the point of this was to be honest!).  Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the syrup and whisk together, and then stir in the cream.  Add the liquid mixture to the creamed butter and brown sugar and stir to combine (the mixture looked really lumpy at this point and however much I stirred it, it didn’t combine properly – but it turned out fine when cooked!).  Stir in raisins or nuts.

Other recipes suggested putting the raisins into the bottom of each tin and then covering with the mixture, which is what I did.

Remove muffin tin from the fridge and fill about 2/3 – 3/4 full with the filling.  Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes.  Centre should be inflated and bubbling, but will deflate once cooled.

TOP TIP:  Carefully remove the tarts from the muffin tin pretty much as soon as you take them out of the oven.  If you let them cool down, the sugary filling can set and make it very difficult to get them out of the tins.  Just be careful not to burn yourself as the filling will be very hot.

Serve warm or cold, and enjoy!


Did you know?

  • Butter Tarts are considered one of only a few dishes that are genuinely of Canadian origin – so I picked the right thing to make then!
  • Due to the popularity of the pastry, there are a number of Butter Tart festivals in Canada including Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival and Contest, an annual event attracting bakers from across Ontario.  According to Wikipedia over 50,000 tarts were sold in the festival market in 2014.



4 thoughts on “Canada – Butter Tarts

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