Butter tarts. A tart made of butter? Surely not. But it is exactly that, give or take the eggs and sugar and your choice of flavouring. Beyond that detail however, and more importantly, this is by far the best way to gain the love of a Canadian. Or, at the very least, their attention for a few minutes. And with Canadian Thanksgiving approaching it seems only right to showcase some of their culinary highlights. Yes, Canadian Thanksgiving. Earlier then the US but with similar feasting. We’re still unsure of what they’re giving thanks for though…if anyone knows, feel free to share.

Seemingly only known and loved by the poutine guzzling canoeists of the great north, these little tarts are sweet, sugary and delicious. Possibilities for flavourings are endless but the simple butter tart stands alone. Raisins and walnuts seem to be the most popular but I’ve also encountered coconut, toffee, caramel and peanut. All courtesy of The Sweet Oven – a bakery in a strip mall in Barrie, Ontario of all places – where they churn out butter tarts and only butter tarts by the dozen, each day of the week corresponding to a certain flavour. If you happen to live in this location or you’re a Torontonian taking regular trips to nearby cottage country, you should stop and grab a dozen.

IMG_2245

These little tarts do not require baking blind and thus the filling seeps into the crust making it a few bites of crumbly, buttery sugar kick..

Make the pastry in advance and chill for at least an hour before attacking. Once made these will keep for a few days and are good served chilled or at room temp.

Ingredients

Pastry:

175 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
(14 grams granulated white sugar
113 grams unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into pieces
30 – 60 ml ice water

Ingredients – for the filling:

70 grams unsalted butter
215 grams light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
60 ml light cream
1/2 cup raisins or 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (toasted and chopped) (optional)

IMG_2236
Making

Pre-heat the oven to 190°C and prepare 2 tart trays/muffin trays will do.

Pastry: I recently read an article on pastry making in an Australian wine magazine. Apparently one should not treat pastry as if it were bread dough. Wonderful advice. Over-kneading develops the gluten in the flour making for tough pastry. Barely touching your dough as it forms a ball is the best way to go allowing the butter to streak your pastry and ensures a moist flaky short crust pastry. Good tips..

Rub the chunks of butter into the pastry to form a loose crumb, using a little water bring it all together to form a ball of dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Handle as little as possible before placing the ball of dough into some cling film and refrigerating for at least an hour.
When ready, divide the dough in half and roll out onto a well-floured surface in order to cut into rounds. Use a small round bowl or a cutter to make your tarts – these will be placed in the trays and then filled so ensure they’re generous enough to accommodate the batter without being too big.

Once the rounds are in the baking trays place in the fridge while you make the batter.

Make the filling
Cream the butter and the sugar. Beat in the eggs and add the vanilla extract. Stir in the cream until you have a smooth batter.

If using nuts and/or raisin fillings place a spoonful in the base of each tart. Then pour a tablespoonful of batter into each one.

Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes at 190°C until golden brown and crunchy looking on top.

PS: This one goes out to Matt The (Great) Canadian without whom I would never have eaten a butter tart or indeed discovered the hidden delights of a Barrie strip mall.