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My mom's butter tart recipe

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all!
Even though butter tarts are not a traditional Tgiving dessert - pumpkin and apple pies were the standard in our family - I thought this would be a suitable occasion to post this and see what other versions are out there.
Most Americans are not familiar with this most English Canadian of sweets - a tart filled with a butterscotchy barely solid filling, with raisins or other things in it, similar to a mini pecan pie without the nuts. They are missing a treat!
The tarts are baked in standard 12 unit muffin pans lined with thickish pie pastry - make your standard (my mom's was the one on the Tenderflake lard box) and roll it out a bit thicker than you would for a pie crust; cut out circles using a saucer or other 5" round item as a guide; spray the muffin tin with vegetable spray and fit the circles into the muffin cups (OK if the pastry pleats a bit, this isn't patisserie school).
You can stick the prepared pan in the fridge while you make the filling - my mom didn't (pastry was made, rolled out, and baked - only chilled if the batch was too big for immediate use).
Filling: beat 2 eggs, 1 cup loosely packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup (either light or dark for US bakers, the standard one in Canada is golden in colour), a pinch to 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup soft butter (always salted in our house, some always kept at room temp for spreading and such recipes as this), 1/2 cup or so dark raisins or preferably currants, and 1 tsp vanilla. Mom also sometimes added a tsp of cider vinegar "to cut the sweetness".
Fill the tart shells with this - the amount makes 12 tarts - and bake at 400 deg F for 14 to 18 mins. We like them just barely set, some people prefer them firmer.
Cool in the pan on a rack and serve in twos with a good strong cup of tea (one is never enough).
Some people add chocolate chips to these - but really some things are not meant to be chocolate as far as I'm concerned.
These are ours - how do you make yours?

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  1. Oh, BT, you have one appreciative Yank here. I've been up to Toronto and Barrie for several Thanksgivings but could not make it this year. And butter tarts are truly elusive in the States. The only ones I've had up north are the super market variety but I'm sure home baked are an improvement. Many thanks and I raise a Crown Royal to all my Canadian buds.


    1 Reply
    1. re: Chefpaulo

      You are very welcome. My dad, were he here to do it, would happily join you in the Crown Royal . I'm a Wiser's 18-yr-old girl (when I can get it).

    2. I have never had this dessert! Pie crust, butterscotchy filling, it sounds delicious. Thank you for sharing your Mom's recipe and for spelling it out so well. I can't do it today but am saving your post and hope to bake some butter tarts soon. LOVE making things that are firsts for me, and the fact that it's something special to someone (you!) is a big part of the fun. Know what I mean?

      Happy Thanksgiving!

      1 Reply
      1. re: fern

        Very happy to hear this, I feel the same way bout new things - I hope you get a chance to make and enjoy them. Let me know!

      2. I use a recipe that ran in Saveur several years ago. I live in Michigan, and my best friend says they taste like the ones her Canadian grandmother made. As I recall, it has everything that you have listed plus some maple syrup. I like to add whole pecans to some of them, they cut the sweetness, but my friend feels that that it just wrong. The pastry is very plain, with a good bit of salt which contrasts delightfully with the filling.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dct

          You could add some maple syrup but we never did. Also used walnuts once in a while but never pecans (too American...). The salt/sweet aspect is what makes them.

        2. Yay! Can't wait to try this recipe!

          1 Reply
          1. That sounds about like my recipe that I got from one of those home produced church cookbooks from about 30 years ago. Although, I replace the corn syrup with Roger's Golden Syrup. Subtly better.

            And I like to plump my raisins, or else they suck the moisture out of the filling.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sooeygun

              Come to think of it, my mother always rinsed hers which has somewhat of a rehydrating effect.

            2. I'm glad to now know what a butter tart is!

              Two questions--can I make tiny (bite-sized) tartlets without losing the essence of a true butter tart?

              Also, I despise raisins and currants. Is there something else I might use? Or just leave them out?


              4 Replies
              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Yes, you could make tiny ones - and you can leave them plain, that's another style - or add whatever you prefer, some kind of nuts or dried cherries if you like those - I just wouldn't use pecans because you might as well make tassies then!

                1. re: buttertart

                  Canadians generally prefer either raisins or pecans in butter tarts, and there is a great divide between each camp!!!

                  1. re: Full tummy

                    Pecans were quite expensive when I was growing up - we didn't use them in butter tarts in our family. Interesting that they're more common now.

                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                  There is no Christmas at our house ewithout butter tarts. And there are some dried fruit haters in our group. We like the raisins unplumped because it makes for a chewier tart, so we also put in less of the liquid filling, and bake it a little longer. This works even without the raisins. If they are the traditionally gooey texture without the fruit, they are kind of overly sweet one-dimensional but the caramelized chewy ones are good wtihout. There are my two cents!