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Nov 4, 2006 02:52 AM

Butter tarts - only in Canada?

There was a hot post about the best butter tart in Toronto.

I've never heard of these and I've worked and vacationed in Canada. Are they ever made in the US and why not? This doesn't seem to have anything in it that is Canadian-specific. Have they crossed the border and if not, I wonder why not. Is it just pecan pie without the pecans?

Wikipedia on butter tarts with a picture.

CBC on What makes a great butter tart?

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  1. After reading the wiki article, I compared the ingredients with some of Marion Cunningham's "Old American Pie" recipes in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book- a butter tart sounds very similar to a chess pie or an "osgood" pie. She says that many of these recipes were created by early American rural families and went by the wayside over the past century as fresh fruits became more widely available in supermarkets.
    That said, your guess that it sounds like a pecan pie without the pecans may be a good start- I had a similar first impression upon making my first chess pie- however, it was "buttery-er", and not as cloyingly sweet as pecan pie filling can be.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sweet ginger

      More buttery and less cloyingly sweet -- that'd describe the diffence pretty well. Throw in that many pecan pies are made on a crumbly tart base and many buttertarts on a firmer shortbread-style base. Buttertarts tend to have a less 'browned' flavour to their crusts as well (which goes along with the tart dough/shortbread difference).

    2. A butter tart without raisins is just lame. Sadly, due to my diabetes, I can't enjoy these treats anymore.

      3 Replies
        1. re: Davwud

          Davwud, for once I vehemently diagree with you. A buttertart without raisins isn't a buttertart. It may be an 'something'-buttertart (e.g. walnut-buttertart), but it isn't a buttertart. If you go to a bakery and buy a buttertart, and don't specify anything, you expect raisins. If you want soemthing else, including no-raisins, you usually need to say so.

          1. re: Davwud

            I agree. Who needs the raisins getting in the way of all of that buttery goodness.

        2. I grew up in Montreal, moving to Toronto about 10 years ago. I'd never heard of butter tarts before the move to Toronto. I think they might be an Ontario thing.

          I've had some good ones, usually while stopping at little bakeries while antiquing in the countryside. I love them with pecans or walnuts. There is one place I've been in Toronto, on Yonge St. just south of Eglinton - Hannah's Kitchen - that has yummy ones. Here's a little blurb from Toronto Life Magazine (copied from Hannah's Kitchen's website).

          "Butter Tarts"-Toronto Life

          "Before all else, and pre-empting indignant letters, we acknowledge that nobody makes butter tarts like the ones you had at Grandma's cottage on Manitoulin Island. That said, it's remarkable how many unassuming places bake their own-and how few do bad ones. Saying as much, though, reveals our relationship to them: most buttertarts taste like someone's grandmother made them (and how could you say anything bad about Granny?). Even so, some grans have the genius. The stickiest, yummiest butter tarts ($1.65) come from Hannah's Kitchen (2221 Yonge St., 481-2828). The top third is a chewy caramel layer that'll loosen dental work. A bare touch of runny sweetness fills the center, and the base is a buttery pastry that beats anything else in town. Still not sold? Two words might help convince some of you: no raisins."

          1 Reply
          1. re: FlavoursGal

            'I think they might be an Ontario thing.'

            I don't think so. Some of the best butter tarts I've ever had were in the maritimes. Down east they're everywhere -- including some really good ones I had while crossing from St. John to Digby!

            I think they are absent from Quebec due to the presence of tarte au sucre as mentioned below.

          2. I did my HS years on the NY state border of Quebec. Whilst waiting table at the Ho Jo's near the city beach I was constantly asked for Sugar Pie never butter. All I could offer was pecan which was eaten very happily.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Candy

              Tarte au sucre, as sugar pie is called in Quebec, has an intensely sugary filling, but no buttery flavour.

              1. re: FlavoursGal

                I know. Just on our side of the border when asked for sugar pie all we coudl offer that came close was pecan.

                1. re: Candy

                  Were you in the Plattsburg area?

              2. re: Candy

                Sugar pie (tarte au sucre) is very Quebec and distinct from butter tarts, although they are similar enough that I can see why they don't really co-exist - except maybe in Ottawa? Sugar pie generally has a more solid, opaque filling.

                1. re: julesrules

                  They do co-exist in Ottawa, but individual bakeries usually carry one or the other, not both.

              3. To all non Ontarians.

                I would get a good recipe (Google it) and try making some. They are absolutely great.

                They're not like a pecan pie without pecans. They are similar though.


                1 Reply
                1. re: Davwud

                  Butter tarts are all over the country- well, maybe not Quebec but I assure you that Alberta has ample butter tarts.