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Consider the butter tart, iconic Canadian sweet - buttertart's mom's butter tart recipe...

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all! We had a rousing discussion of butter tarts on the current what are you baking thread, and it was suggested that the subject was worthy of its own thread. Here we go -
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. Thanks for this! I've never actually made buttertarts and this looks like a good place to start.

    Also, Happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadian CHers! (And a special shoutout to all of us who are not celebrating properly this year and feeling just a touch homesick.)

    1. When I read this title, I was wondering what was Canadian and sweet?

      Buttertart's Mom? Or the butter tarts? Or both?

      2 Replies
      1. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, buttertart!

        I confess, I've only tasted store-bought and bakery-baked butter tarts. ;-)

        Look forward to trying your mom's recipe! Thanks for sharing it.

        1. Happy holiday, buttertart! ...It's hard to improve on Canadians.

          I've used this recipe for a few years now--we love it.


          And no, no chocolate chips in these please!

          1 Reply
          1. re: blue room

            Very similar, but no corn syrup. Interesting!

          2. This recipe actually looks quite similar to my grandmother's recipe for what she called "Nut Patties." Obviously there are no nuts in the butter tarts, but the rest of it (raisins, filling) is more or less the same, as is the pie crust/muffin tin method. My grandmother was from Ohio, but I don't think Nut Patties are an Ohio or Midwest thing - I've never known any other Ohioan to make them (or really anyone else, for that matter). I wonder if there was a Canadian somewhere along her line that thought adding nuts to a butter tart would be a good idea???

            1 Reply
            1. re: biondanonima

              I've never heard of a nut patty anywhere else - that is interesting! Quite possibly there was, part of my husband's family emigrated to Canada from Ireland and then went to the States - I think that was a fairly common settlement pattern.

            2. So, a butter tart is pretty much a larger version of a tassie?

              1 Reply
              1. re: greygarious

                Very similar, but in the classic version no pecans, and a looser filling.

                1. Thanks for posting this, I'm going to give it a try. Raisins are usually too sweet for me -- has anyone tried making butter tarts with dried or fresh cranberries?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TerriL

                    I just realized why the recipe looked so familiar -- there was a Butter Pie recipe in the NYT last November that actually called for fresh cranberries. Not identical, but similar. Anyone try it?

                    Here's a link:

                  2. I'm sure you've heard this a million times, BT (as you note): with nuts (pecans) instead of raisins, we in the South make pecan pie---and of course there are a lot of different recipes for it. I'm very intrigued by the vinegar, b/c vinegar in pie is a whole 'nother subject!

                    1. I have fond memories of eating butter tarts galore while spending summers at the cottage. I am 55 now and the sweet syrupy pleasure is still fresh in my mouth. Thanks for the recipe and Happy Thanksgiving to all of us ex pats.

                      1. R BUTTR TRTS really ICONIC CANUK? / Wha aboot NANAIMO BARS ?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: hetook

                          I'm from southwestern Ontario and the Nanaimo bar really only hit there around 1980. The butter tart has been around for years before that. Nanaimos are iconic in western Canada.

                          1. re: hetook

                            Nanaimo Bars are also iconic Canuk, but this thread is about butter tarts - we can have more than one icon :)

                            1. re: souschef

                              I'm not crazy about Nanaimo bars and I imagine you're even less so.

                          2. Reads very similar to a British treacle tart (actually made with golden syrup). Seeing as it's a Canadian Anglo dish, I guess that may be its origins? Although treacle tart isnt usually a individual dessert but one to be sliced.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Harters

                              I think it's attributed to Scots settlers. Definitely British Isles origin.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                Looks like pecan pie without the pecans.

                            2. I always make butter tarts from a very similar recipe to yours, mine does include white vinegar however, which makes them really foamy in the oven - always put a pan underneath or they'll go over for sure!!

                              Here's the funny thing about butter tarts for me - I always thought we had them as children from a bakery in Annapolis Royal Nova Scotia - but mine never tasted quite the same and I could never figure it out. Then my dad said "oh you mean egg tarts" - not quite sure about the difference but the egg tarts we had as kids tasted and looked very similar to a butter tart without the currants or raisins! I'd go back 30 years just to have one of those tarts!!

                              1. Mmmmmmm, buttertarts. I have never made them because my mom's are so yummy. I hope my citizenship doesn't get revoked, but i don't like the raisins! I pick them all out- so it is not really something I can eat around company :)

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: CanadaGirl

                                  To all the folks who dislike raisins - have you tried golden raisins (also called sultanas)? I have not had buttertarts but I love golden raisins as much as I loathe regular raisins, and sub them in any recipes calling for ordinary raisins. They are sweetly astringent, but without the tannic earthiness of regular raisins.

                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      It's not the taste of raisins I object to, but the texture they acquire in most baked goods. Not my cup o' tea :)

                                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                                        Is it the tough, chewy texture to which you are referring? To avoid that texture I soak them in sherry or rum, so that they get nice and plump. This solves the problem.

                                        1. re: souschef

                                          You are creating what I don't like! I perceive that plumped up texture to be slimy. I like raisins when they are left alone.

                                  1. Thanks for this! My Mom was from Wilberforce Ont and I was born in Guelph. We moved to the states when I was very young but Mom brought along her butter tart recipe and the whole family loved them. She's gone now but I will check through her recipes and post hers if I can find it. I never tried to make her pastry because I knew mine would never compare! Thinking it was the lard...

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Duster17

                                      I'd love to see the recipe and it was definitely the lard. (I'm from London.)

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        Ok got it! No recipe for the pastry -- I'm sure it was just in her head.
                                        1/2 cup raisins
                                        1/4 cup butter
                                        1/2 cup brown sugar
                                        1/4 tsp salt
                                        1/2 cup corn syrup (white)
                                        1 egg slightly beaten
                                        1/2 tsp vanilla
                                        Boil about 1 cup water and pour over raisins. Let sit about 5 min. Pour water off. Stir up butter with raisins to belt butter and then add rest of ingredients. Fill about half full. 450 deg about 15 min.

                                    2. What a walk down memory lane this post is. My grandmother was born in England (in 1903) and grew up in Canada (Saskatoon) and made these every year when I was a kid. She used currants. One of my cousins occasionally makes them but has not for awhile. I didn't ever like them all that much (no sweet tooth) but I loved my grandmother and I totally associate them with her. Thanks for sharing buttertart!

                                      3 Replies
                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          Dried currants in the US are actually raisins made from champagne grapes.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            They're the same in Canada. Currant currants aren't dried, to my knowledge. We only ever had black and red ones as jam (black) or jelly (red).

                                      1. Someone I know wanted to know what these look like -- these look exactly like my mom's.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          Are you teasing us, BT? That links to maybe a hundred photos of different butter tarts (with, curiously, one photo of a dish of creamed spinach right in the middle).

                                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                            Bad linking! Sorry. Thought it was just the one. Will see what I can do (in the immortal words of Jarvis Cocker).

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                OK, the ultimate buttertart, lovely indeed.

                                        2. Buttertart, are you planning to do a pouding chomeur thread at some point?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: souschef

                                            That's over to you, not a drop of French in me. Canadienne anglaise pure laine.

                                          2. Buttertart, you sure know how to get the chatting started. I enjoy your posts.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. I'm having such a hard time with these tarts!!
                                              I tried three times and it's a nightmare every time! the first time, they were too doughy, the second time, I made the crust thinner but the filling almost completely evaporated bu the time they were ready. I tried them again today, using a different recipe and store-bought crust and again, the filling overflowed like mad and there was hardly anything left at the end. At first I thought the oven was too hot so I baked a second batch and the same thing happened. I even put considerably less filling in it (less than 1/2!).
                                              The funny thing is that they're absolutely delicious!! But I would be ashamed to serve them to guests!

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Justwayne

                                                That is weird, what pan are you using?

                                                  1. re: Justwayne

                                                    There's the problem, they're not tassies - make them in a standard muffin pan.

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      Oh. I was hoping to make mini- tarts!

                                                      1. re: Justwayne

                                                        The butter tart isn't supposed to be mini.

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          I got the idea from Starbucks, though I've never tried them. They're very cute and are no more that 1-1/2" in diameter. Sorry about the tiny photo!

                                                          1. re: Justwayne

                                                            They are very cute (I love little food). The pan they come out of seems to be deeper than the mini-muffin pans I have, maybe that's why they work for them. If you try the regular size it may help you to understand how to miniaturize them better.

                                              2. ... pretty sure buttertarts are more from Britian than Canada.

                                                8 Replies
                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                    Of course, like everything else!
                                                    Actually, now that I think about it, for just about every single thing in life, there's always someone who claims that the Chinese invented them!!! So yes, butter tarts were made in China over 2000 years ago!


                                                    1. re: Justwayne

                                                      Well, there was this dim sum we had in Taiwan that was really rather like them, but enclosed in pastry rather than open. So maybe yes. ;-)

                                                    2. re: buttertart

                                                      )... think th Scot's hav made a wee bunch too.

                                                      1. re: hetook

                                                        They're attributed to British Isles settlers, whether Scots or not isn't clear. But they don't exist as a specialty in this form in the UK, as far as I know.

                                                    3. re: hetook

                                                      "More British than Canadian"?

                                                      I suppose in so far as food in pastry was imported to Canada by the British and French colonisers.

                                                      Much as I'm happy to proclaim the wonders of British cuisine, this appears to be sufficiently distinctly foreign to me to think of it as a Canadian development. There's not really anything sufficiently similar in our cuisine to make me think there's a direct link to a British dish. By the by, the BBC's food pages give a recipe for *Canadian* buttertarts. http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/18...

                                                      Perhaps someone will export them to the UK and I can get to try them - sound delicious.

                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                        exellent finding! The BBC must have included all of *Canada* in they're recipe's origin. Buttertart's must be more popular in Eastern Canada? Where I'm from, North West,It's easier to find pecan pie.(and that's not iconic for us).

                                                        1. re: hetook

                                                          Yes, Ontario. That's interesting, not in AB, eh? Don't know about the prairies or the west, but BC can keep its Nanaimo bar to itself ;-)

                                                    4. Was thinking of making these with dates. Anyone ever try that?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. Happy Canada Day, buttertart!

                                                        3 Replies
                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                            Hope you had a great day. I have no seen you around. I posted a question to you wanting to know if you still wanted the Abby Mandel Brownie recipe, is so let me know. I got the book from the library.

                                                            1. re: angelsmom

                                                              I do, please! Family party for my MIL's bday today.

                                                        1. buttertarts not out west? I beg to differ. I grew up on these being made by every relative I know. They are still a favorite, and I am a purist, don't give me any nuts or coconut, raisins only please!!

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: cleopatra999

                                                            The best butter tarts that I have ever tasted were my stepmother's.. and she grew up in a small town in southern Manitoba to German immigrant parents!
                                                            Lucy Waverman has a variation in this week's G & M.. looks yummy to me!

                                                            1. re: cleopatra999

                                                              I grew up in Saskatchewan and these were probably amongst the most common things at baby showers, potlucks and so on. But I unfortunately dislike raisins and sultanas so I add toasted pecans. Not traditional, I know...

                                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                                Hi! You just made me do some googling. I have periodically heard the term "sultanas" in my life and knew vaguely what it was, but never thought much more about it. Then comes your post and now I have a mission. Unfortunately, the interwebs isn't terribly clear here. It appears that "raisin" is the dark one and "sultana" is the golden raisin (at least these days) - is this your meaning? Thanks

                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                  Precisely. For some reason I like the flavour of them in tagines and sauces, for example, but do not like them in buttertarts! It's a textural thing I suppose.

                                                            2. For a little twist, and for some it's complete insanty, blend in a little ripe banana into the filling before cooking. Makes for an amazing flavor combo

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: evansp60

                                                                Oh, my. This is something I had not thought of before but love the idea.