If my kids were responsible for planning our summer road trips, I suspect the first three destinations would be Muskoka’s Butter Tart festival, the Butter Tart Trail in Wellington North, and the Kawartha’s Northumberland Butter Tart Tour. To say we love our butter tarts over here would be a huge understatement.
Most butter tart recipes tend to call for corn syrup, a processed-sugar, high-glucose product which I try to avoid using, partially because it takes our bodies longer to digest than natural (sucrose) sugars. It is important to note, however, that corn syrup is not nearly as nasty as its evil cousin, high-fructose corn syrup. My recipe uses just brown sugar to produce butter tarts that achieve that delightful balance of crispy and gooey.
You’ll notice a couple of tricks in the method below, including rolling out your pastry between two sheets of parchment paper, which keeps it from getting overhandled and tough; it also means you can successfully re-roll the scraps because they won’t be overfloured. Making sure the pastry shells are thoroughly chilled before adding the warm filling is also important, as is letting the cooked tarts rest in the pan until completely cooled.
I’m not here to referee your family’s "raisins, pecans, or walnuts" debate; you add in whatever you like and savour this quintessentially Canadian dessert.
If using your own pastry, roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper (this way you don’t have to add any extra flour to keep it from sticking to your rolling pin).
Slip the flattened pastry into the fridge for 5 minutes to chill, then lay on work surface. Remove top sheet of parchment and gently place it back on top of the pastry, then flip the whole thing over and remove the other sheet of parchment, setting it aside.
Using a 4.5 to 5 inch circle (a bowl, plastic container, large mug, etc.), trace rounds with the tip of a sharp knife on the rolled, chilled pastry. Gently lift the circles and press them into the compartments of a regular sized muffin tin, folding down the top edge to make a rim of crust.
Reroll the pastry scraps as needed to get 12 tart shells.
Chill the filled muffin tin in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 10 minutes. If using storebought frozen tart shells, do not thaw before filling.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Scatter toasted nuts and/or raisins in the bottom of the tart shells.
Make the filling by cracking the eggs into a medium sized saucepan then lightly whisking them.
Whisk in the butter, sugar, and cream.
Place on medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for one minute after it starts bubbling vigorously then remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Pour the hot filling into a heatproof jug (a 2 cup glass measure works well) and then carefully pour the filling into the tart shells to 1/4 inch below the top edge of the pastry. Do not overfill or the filling will bubble up and out of the pastry and make a big mess. Trust me on this.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 – 18 minutes or until the pastry has nicely browned and the filling is set.
Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack. Do not be tempted to pull the tarts out of the muffin pan right away; they need time to cool down and firm up.
Once pan is cool to the touch, remove butter tarts and let cool completely on wire rack before devouring.
Makes 12 irresistible butter tarts
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