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Canadian Butter Tarts

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Every week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.

Today: Sydney Kramer (a.k.a. CrepesofWrath) shares her grandmother's decadent recipe for butter tarts.

I didn't grow up anywhere near my grandmother, but she's always been a big part of my life. She'd visit often when I was a baby, and when she moved to Arizona, my family always looked forward to flying out to her (anything to get the hell out of frigid Chicago winters). I remember that her yard always smelled like flowers and was filled with beautiful lemon and orange trees. I think my grandmother loved Arizona because she is Canadian -- and after spending her entire life in Canada, then New Jersey, then Utah, she craved a serious dose of sunshine. Eventually, though, she returned to the Motherland and now resides in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, where the sun isn't quite as bright, but the grass is an unearthly green and the harbor is right outside her window. 

As you might expect, the way to my heart is through food, and my grandmother's got an icebox full of it. Sure there's the savory (meatballs, lasagna, and casseroles), but she specializes in the sweet. Butter tarts, in particular, are a favorite of mine. They are always in the icebox, waiting for me to bite into (a preferably frozen) one. The crust is always flaky and buttery, the insides gooey and rich, with golden caramel slowly oozing its way out of the center. I'm told that Canadians are very divided on the raisin/currant vs. no-raisin/no-currant butter tart, but my grandma always made them with raisins, so that's how I make them at home. And like I said, these freeze wonderfully, so there's no excuse to not have a container full of perfectly handheld butter tarts available at all times. My husband had never had one until I made a batch recently, and his reaction was the same that all first-timers have: their eyes pop, their jaw drops a bit, and the only sound that can be heard through the chewing is a muffled "mmmm". 


I'm visiting my grandmother soon and I know that I have a lot of butter tarts in store for me. Canadians never have an empty table, so I look forward to seeing a plate piled high with this national treat as soon as I step through the door.

Butter Tarts

Makes 30 to 36 tarts

For the Crust

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, cold (not room temperature), cut into pieces
2/3 cup shortening, cold (not room temperature)
2/3 cup ice water
4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar 

For the Butter Tarts

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins or currants
Sea salt, for sprinkling

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Sydney Kramer

Tags: Heirloom Recipes, Butter Tarts, dessert, butter

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Comments (17)


about 1 year ago witloof

I was on the west coast of Canada last summer and tore through every bakery and every Tim Horton's in Vancouver looking for butter tarts. Apparently they're an east coast thing, because no one had ever heard of them. When I traveled in Quebec and Ontario, I ate my weight in butter tarts! No raisins for me, though.


4 months ago Barb

They are a Christmas thing on the West Coast, not usually seen year round.


almost 2 years ago Deedledum

Another Canadian here. I recently lost my recipe for a really ooey-gooey runny, wipe your chin off butter tart. With raisins, not nuts. Would love to find another if anyone's got a good one.
As another commenter wrote, Red Rose is the Beverage of Choice. Maybe Butter Tarts would be a good contest...?


about 2 years ago Auntie Stacey

Another Canuck here. I recently went through a whole butter tart obsession. I'm over it - for now. My waistline thanks me. :-) I don't use raisins, but I do use dried cranberries. And instead of walnuts, I'll use either pecans or pistachios in mine.


about 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

These sound amazing! Thanks for sharing your story!


about 2 years ago Chesterfoxes

Another Canadian expat here...Jersey! My Grandmother made hers with Maple Leaf Lard (and therefore so do I) There is no other way to make pastry. If you want an easier alternative to the tart, try Bonnie Stearn's Butter Tart Squares... delicious!!!


about 2 years ago denise&food

Are they regular muffin pan or mini muffin pan?


about 2 years ago TasteFood

My grandmother used to make these at Christmas. Thanks for the memory!


about 2 years ago rynnybit

how could I modify this for a 9- or 10-inch tart pan?


about 2 years ago Leah

Expat Canadian/Quebecoise, so I miss both tarte au sucre AND the butter tarts I ate during a childhood stint in Toronto. This recipe looks perfect!


about 2 years ago witloof

No raisins for me, please, but these look wonderful. I discovered butter tarts on my first trip to Canada and have been a passionate convert ever since.


about 2 years ago Sugartoast

Another Canadian here, and these bring back the best memories of childhood. No raisins, but a cup of Red Rose tea is a MUST :) Making these tonight, thank you!


about 2 years ago middleT

Reporting in from North Windsor, Ontario here (OK, Detroit) and voting for no raisins, absolutely Red Rose.


about 2 years ago laurenlocally

Lauren is Food52's VP of Sales.

Love this as a Canadian who had a wonderful Grannie. No raisins for me, however I will try walnuts now.


about 2 years ago carswell

You realize, don't you, that this recipe invites the great Canadian controversy - raisins or no raisins in butter tarts? The walnut pieces brigade may even chime in. LOL.


about 2 years ago Samantha Angela

I like loaded butter tarts myself. Raisins? Good! Pecans? Good! Walnuts? Good! All of the above? Better!


about 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I like your style!