The Best Classic Canadian Butter Tarts. There’s a reason why we have a national obsession with these sweet, buttery, caramel-y tarts. I’ve sampled them in many places across the country and this thick pastry version is my favourite. Don’t do the raisin debate, just leave them out if they are not your thing. Everyone should be able to enjoy them as they like them.
Butter tarts are one of my all time favorite sweet treats and have been for many years. I don’t often make them because, to be absolutely frank, I would not rest until I had eaten all of them!
Canadians love their butter tarts and I have had some fine examples in other parts of the country. I think the nod goes to Quebec for the best I’ve had though. I can’t tell you the numbers of these I’ve eaten over the years, driving along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River and stopping into little bakeries along the way to sample the local versions of this perfect little pastry. Here is my favorite version.
There is a great deal of debate about whether the filling should be firm or slightly runny. Most butter tart aficionados I know across Canada comedown on the runny side of the debate but if you prefer the filling firmer, add an additional egg to the mix, and modify the corn syrup and brown sugar amounts as found in the NOTE added to this recipe. You may also want to bake them for just a few minutes longer.
For another Canadian tart treat check out my copycat version of Tim Horton’s classic Strawberry TimTart.
UPDATE May22, 2016: There is a considerable debate and sometimes geographical differences in what the preferred consistency of the centre of a butter tart should be. In a recent poll 60% of people said they preferred a runny centre as opposed to a firmer set one.
The argument for a firmer set centre is that it’s less messy and easier to eat on the go. As with any recipe, I believe you should have them however you like them so I’ve updated the NOTE in this recipe to include instructions to tweak the recipe for a set but still soft and delicious centre. I wouldn’t turn down either one to be honest.
Please note that the photos of the set butter tarts below are made without raisins by request of my son…but lets not start another debate about that! Just get on with making them how you like.
NEW! Loaded Butter Tarts Recipe here. Classic butter tarts loaded with nuts, raisins, chocolate and coconut. Ultimately decadent!
Like this Classic Canadian Butter Tarts recipe?
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- 2 ¼ cups flour pastry flour is best to use but all-purpose will do
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1/2 cup shortening Very cold and cut in cubes
- 1/2 cup butter Very cold and cut in cubes
- 6 tbsp ice water approximately, enough to bring the dough together
- 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- ½ cup raisins substituting, pecans, walnuts or chocolate chips also make good variations
Pulse the cold butter and shortening into the flour sugar and salt using a food processor until the shortening or butter is reduced to pea sized pieces.
Sprinkle the water over the surface and toss with a fork until the water is just incorporated into the dough. Do not over work the dough; handle it only enough so that the dough stays together.
Form the dough into two rounds about an inch thick.
Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for about a half hour.
Roll out on lightly floured surface. Cut into rounds with 4 inch cutter. Fit into muffin cups. Chill in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the filling. Cold pastry heading into a hot oven will always be flakier.
Combine all filling ingredients except raisins.
Sprinkle raisins in a single layer in the bottom of the pastry lined muffin cups.
Fill 2/3 full with syrup mixture.
Bake on bottom shelf of oven at 425 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes.
Cool completely on a wire rack and remove tarts from from pans.
There is considerable debate about whether the filling in a butter tart should be runny or firm. Preferences vary, especially geographically but if you want a firmer, less runny filling simply add an additional egg, increase the brown sugar to 3/4 cup and decrease the corn syrup to 1/4 cup.
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