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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

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Tags: Dessert, Food History, Heirloom Recipes, Comfort Food