Cuisine Fiend

butter tarts



butter tarts

Of all the contradictory recipes out there, butter tarts, the traditional Canadian treat, are the most confusing. You’d think there’s nothing to it: little pastry cases filled with butter and sugar mixture. And yet, and yet – the variety of the filling making methods makes the mind boggle.

Just brown sugar. No – a mix of sugar and maple syrup. Butter must be melted. Only softened butter! Start with butter and sugar. Elsewhere – butter gets added at the end. Don’t use a mixer, all done by hand. No, no, no: beat the ingredients in a standing mixer! One egg. Two eggs. Four eggs for God’s sake!

And obviously each of those recipe authors claims theirs is the ONLY authentic and the very best one.

canadian butter tarts

That’s the problem with authentic, traditional dishes: there’s not just one template for them unless it’s kefir or Epoisses de Bourgogne AOC. Depending on the region, area or household there will be variants developed because those folk there like the dish done in the particular way and no other. The differences occur also in recipes that go back a long time, thanks to unavoidable distortions or betterments introduced along the lifetime of the dish. Just take scones: so many recipes that they only have flour in common.

maple syrup butter tarts

I’d like to try out another, slightly different recipe for these as I’m a huge fan of butter tarts. Or even better: go around Canada tasting butter tarts; how about that, eh?

  • Makes 12 tarts
  • For the pastry:
  • 190g (1 ½ cup) plain flour
  • a pinch of fine sea salt
  • 115g (½ cup) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 60-80ml (¼ cup) iced water
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • For the filling:
  • 160g (¾ cup) dark brown or muscovado sugar
  • 60g maple syrup
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 60g (¼ cup) butter, very soft
  • 1 large egg
  • 50g (¼ cup) raisins soaked in a little hot water


Place the flour and salt in a large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the diced butter and pulse or rub with your fingers until the butter is partly mixed into the flour and only pea sized blobs are visible. Beat the egg yolk with the water and vinegar and gradually add to the flour mixture, stirring the liquid in with a large fork or a spatula. Add a little more water if it looks dry. When it starts clumping together, give it a short knead with your hands and gather the pastry into a ball; wrap it in cling film and chill for half an hour.

Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a pound coin thickness and cut circles with a 10cm (4in) pastry cutter. Press each circle gently into a muffin hole without pressing it against the walls, so the edge looks ruffled. Chill while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. Mix the brown sugar with the maple syrup, salt and vanilla extract in a bowl with a spoon or a spatula. Beat in the butter by hand until it disappears into the sugar – no need to use an electric mixer for this. Beat in the egg.

filling butter tarts

Drop a few raisins into each tart case and fill about halfway up with the butter filling. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the pastry edges are golden and the filling is bubbling vigorously.

canadian tarts

Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin. Run a sharp knife gently around the tarts to release them before extracting them from the tin. Keep in an airtight container or freeze.

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