Around the world in 80 bakes, no.67: Canadian butter tarts

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.67: Canadian butter tarts

Obviously (this is the 21st century, after all), a lot of the choice of what to bake for a given country starts with Google. For Canada, the result really wasn’t in doubt: everything on the Internet seems to point at the butter tart as the iconic Canadian baked food.

There are lots of variations on the butter tart, but here are some givens that apply to the majority of the recipes:

  1. They are small single-portion tartlets
  2. The tart shell is fairly standard shortcrust, perhaps sweetened but not excessively so
  3. The basic filling is made of butter, eggs and sugar
  4. Although tastes vary as to how runny the filling should be, you never bake the filling such that it’s completely set: you want to end up somewhere on the scale between  runny and squidgy.

The basic filling, therefore, ends up not a million miles away from an English treacle tart. However, lots of people add various extras, as you can see from foodnetwork.ca: I’ve gone for walnut and maple syrup, starting from their maple pecan version. Clearly, Canadians have a serious sweet tooth, because all the recipes I’ve found have been big sugar hits. I’ve gone for slightly more nuts and slightly less sugar.

The quantities here make 12 small tarts: you’ll probably be using a 12 slot muffin tin.

The pastry

  • 300g plain flour (OO grade if you can)
  • 25g sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 200g butter
  • 90ml water
  • 15ml lemon juice (around half a lemon)
  1. Put the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer.
  2. Take the butter out of your fridge and cut into small cubes (perhaps 1cm).
  3. Add the butter to the flour mix and mix with the standard beater on the lowest setting until the largest lumps of butter are gone.
  4. Add the water and lemon juice and beat until well combined.
  5. Form the dough into two approximately equal portions, shape into discs, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour (I did 90 minutes).
  6. Grease your muffin tin.
  7. Roll out your pastry thinly and cut out a circle around 12cm in diameter – you’ll be trying to get six tartlets out of each of your two balls of dough. Use the cutting tool of your choice: mine was an inverted fluted tartlet tin which happened to be the right size.
  8. Press your circle of pastry into one of the muffin shapes, allowing the edges to sit above the level of the tin. The key here is to press the pastry down into the tin so that there isn’t any air trapped, and to try to stop the filling from leaking out over the sides.
  9. Repeat for the other eleven tarts.
  10. Put the tarts into the fridge until you’ve made the filling.

Filling and assembling the tarts

  • 100g walnuts or pecans
  • 2 eggs
  • 170g maple syrup
  • 15ml lemon juice (around half a lemon)
  • 2g salt
  • Vanilla essence to taste
  • 100g butter
  • 200g sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 200℃ fan.
  2. Place walnuts in a roasting tray and toast until fragrant but not burnt, around 5-10 minutes. Leave to cool.
  3. Put eggs, maple syrup, lemon juice, salt and vanilla into the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk briefly with a balloon whisk at top speed.
  4. Put butter and sugar into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the two elements have completely combined and the mixture has started frothing.
  5. Turn the mixer back up to full speed, and gradually drizzle the hot filling into the mixture, whisking continuously.
  6. Divide the chopped walnuts into your twelve tartlets.
  7. Pour the filling into the twelve tartlets.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, the reduce the temperature to 175℃ fan, then bake for another 15 minutes, then leave to cool.

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