Food for Architects

Butter Tarts for Canada Day

In Canada on Canada Day, July 1, Canadians celebrate with fireworks, outdoor music concerts, and by making special jpgs. This holiday is nowhere near as epic as the American Independence Day, where it is embedded in popular culture through films, TV shows, with special treats all over magazines and the internet a couple of weeks ahead. As a contrast Canada Day seems fittingly understated. In honour of Canada Day I made butter tarts a popular treat embedded in Canadian culture.

Butter tarts were largely made by grandmas and aunts at one point in time. Now homemade butter tarts seem to be hard to come by. I don’t know anyone who makes them themselves, and I haven’t seen a real homemade one in a cafe for years. They are the type of treat that you would expect to find in a coffee shop in a small town right next to the Nanaimo bars…(also a uniquely Canadian treat that used to be homemade, now hard to come by). These treats are however easily available in grocery stores everywhere. They taste industrial and present long ingredient lists. My theory is that they are manufactured in a central bakery somewhere in the middle of the country and are then shipped out to all corners.


I set out to create my own recipe based on an amalgam of recipes I found on the internet. There is a debate on raisins, no raisins, walnuts, pecans. Raisins are the most traditional and most commonly found in butter tarts. I suspect nuts came in as an Americanization. As I was creating the recipe I was thinking of what the original ingredients might be, replacing corn syrup with maple syrup, and lemon juice with apple cider vinegar. I will definitely make another version with cream in the filling to see how that changes things. For the pastry you can use your favorite recipe or the one that follows, just stay away from inferior ready-made tart cases.

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Butter Tarts*

1 1⁄2 cups flour
1⁄4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1⁄4 cup cold lard
1⁄4 cup cold butter
ice water as needed

2 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1⁄4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄8 tsp salt

1 small handful of raisins.

Make the pastry. Mix the dry ingredients together, cut in the cold fats quickly using your fingers or two butter knives, until the mixture looks crumbly with some pea sized bits of butter. Chill if necessary. Add in enough ice water so that the mixture comes together. Don’t add more water than necessary or the pastry will be tough. Gather into a flat disk and chill for 1 hour to allow the gluten to relax.
Roll out the dough to 2-3 mm thickness, dusting the counter top with flour so that the pastry doesn’t stick. Cut out circles that are larger than you tart tins. It is traditional to form butter tarts inside muffin tins, I went with smaller tins because I didn’t have a cutter large enough. Press the dough in the tins and chill for 20 – 30 minutes.


Make the filling. Whisk all of the ingredients together. Sprinkle a few raisins in the bottom of the pastry shells. Pour the filling into the unbaked tart shells. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until the filling  puffs up and is set. Cool in the shells for 5- 10 minutes, then take the tarts out of the tins and cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature.

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This entry was published on July 1, 2013 at 6:28 pm. It’s filed under Recipes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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