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butter tarts (a delightful Canadian dessert)

As a youngster and even now, getting my hands on a butter tart is a culinary delight.  One bite and the filling is drip-off-your-chin runny or slightly set, ooey gooey sweet, and encased by a flaky crust that melts in your mouth.  A cute little hand pie that one could devour with 3 bites; maybe less if you wanted to show off how much you could stuff into your mouth!  Butter tarts are not difficult to make. Buy the pie dough from the grocery store if you are not comfortable making your own.  The printed recipe for butter tarts has been around since the 1900’s.  The recipe is as basic as they come and cooks of all levels will have these 5 ingredients on hand.

I knew our Canadian dessert was popular but I did not know there’s an actual butter tart festival in Ontario!  Yes, you read correctly.  This annual festival happens in Midland, Ontario where this year’s event attracted 50,000 people and sold 163,500 tarts!  Who knew?

Makes 12
Pastry:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup icy cold water

Filling:
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup half and half (10% milk fat)
dried cranberries, raisins or chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 375f (190c).

To make the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pour in some of the water and pulse until the dough holds together when pinched.  Add remaining water if dough feels dry.  Grab some plastic wrap and place on the counter.  Remove pastry from processor, dump onto plastic wrap and shape into a disk.  Wrap up with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 1-hour. Remove chilled dough and place on a lightly floured surface and roll out.  Cut pastry into a dozen 4-inch circles.  Gently place the circles into a 12-cup muffin tin.  Put back in the fridge for half an hour to firm the dough.  A cold dough produces a flaky crust.

To make the filling, in a medium bowl beat butter and sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beat and then add vanilla extract. Stir in the cream. Place a teaspoonful of cranberries, raisins or pecans in the bottom of each tart shell and cover with the filling. Bake 15 – 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is puffed and set. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Eat warm or at room temperature.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  The filling will puff up during the baking process and when removed from the oven it will settle down a bit – don’t fret, this is supposed to happen.  Enjoy!

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