Why do butter tart recipes call for vinegar? What does it do?

I found a recipe for butter tarts that DOESN'T call for vinegar, does it make that much of a difference?



Gay C. February 16, 2018
I’ve had them both ways. Def always go with the vinegar when I make them. I use part Apple cider and part white but doesn’t matter. It just gives a wonderful bite that balances the sweet. They’re wonderful.
HalfPint February 14, 2018
Vinegar tartness is a nice counterpoint to sweet and buttery flavor. It would make that tart taste even better. More buttery, if that's even possible.
Smaug February 14, 2018
What IS a butter tart? Never heard of it, myself, and poking around a few web sites produced nothing but some peanut butter tarts, brown butter apple tarts, and things of that sort. I would think that an actual butter tart would involve cutting a good deal of grease, for which vinegar might help, but I'm curious what sort of a filling you're referring to.
AntoniaJames February 14, 2018
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butter_tart I've never had one but it seems a bit like a pecan pie without the pecans, and often includes raisins. The filling seems quite sweet, so I would guess that the vinegar is supposed to tone that down. Just guessing, though. ;o)
Nancy February 14, 2018
Prized Canadian dessert...small sweet pastries, shaped liked pies, about 2-3" in diameter, filling is mostly butter and sugar. Here's a selection of recipes:
Miss_Karen February 14, 2018
Well..... These mini desserts ARE Canadian in origin. WHY they are called 'Butter Tarts' is beyond me, since that is NOT the main ingredient. In any case they are best described as pecan pies w/o pecans- substitute raisins. One is supposed to allow them to cool before hoarking them down like popcorn, but nobody I know can do that. My son and I both seem to be mandated to ingest them post haste :)
Ted February 14, 2018
Yes, like pecan pie without the pecans. It is common to find them with raisins or walnut pieces, but there are only a few of those in each tartlette. The emphasis is on the filling, not the nuts or raisins. (Some people use currants instead of raisins.) In supermarkets, you can find plain versions, as well as ones with raisins or walnut pieces or pecan halves.

Some people like the filling extra gooey, so they add a bit of corn syrup to the pastry shell before adding the mixed filling.

You occasionally find "updated" versions including chocolate chips and so on. (Traditionalists consider these aberrations.)

There is an entire butter tart tour in Ontario Canada. http://buttertarttour.ca/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrtWezoen2QIVGLjACh0CIwPyEAAYASAAEgL_x_D_BwE

(As a related note, the estimable John Thorne wrote a chapter on pecan pie in his book "Outlaw Cook" which is worth reading. His advice to use maple syrup in walnut pie --rather than corn syrup-- encouraged me to use some maple syrup with the walnuts in my butter tarts.)
Smaug February 15, 2018
Okey dokey, thanks to all- sounds a bit much to me; I have tried maple syrup in pecan pie, and liked it quite a bit- I always like maple syrup.
nancy E. February 15, 2018
It is a Canadian classic. Flaky pastry shell with a filling of egg, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and currants (or raisins) They are delish.
Happyme December 3, 2022
Why would you answer this question
Nancy February 14, 2018
Since the filling for butter tarts is almost all sugar, some suggest it's to balance that sweetness.
But not all recipes have the vinegar.
And those that do have only small amounts, so there's not much taste of it.
I wonder if there's a chemical reaction?
Or were there larger amounts of vinegar in earlier recipes?
Interested to see what others say.
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