The Ultimate Canadian Food

Sunday, March 4, 2012


A few years ago, we visited our friends the Jay family at their cottage.  For dessert at one meal, they graciously provided butter tarts from the Sweet Oven in Barrie, Ontario.  We sat around the table, enjoying these wonderful tarts and a great conversation, then Garth said, “Hey, let’s go look at the pictures from our last trip.”  We wandered off, but soon realized Garth and Andrew were missing.  We crept back into the kitchen to find the two of them shamelessly finishing off the last two tarts.

I believe butter tarts are the ultimate Canadian food.  Maple syrup, poutine, and peameal bacon all have their supporters, but I defy any of them to compete with the joy of the first bite of a butter tart.  (And, if you’re Garth and Andrew, with the last bite of your second butter tart.)

For anyone who’s never eaten one, I offer my profound sympathies.  And an explanation.  Picture a miniature pecan pie, slightly runnier, with raisins and (perhaps) walnuts instead of pecans.  When I think of butter tarts, I think of my mother’s cookie plate at Christmas, where they’re always the star.  I think of dinners in my church basement when I was a kid, where I nibbled them as slowly as I could to make them last longer.  I’ve loved butter tarts my whole life. 

So why do I rarely eat them?

As you know, I love to bake, so it’s very unusual for me to buy desserts.  And butter tarts are a lot of work.  I consider it a major task to make a pie shell, so how much more work is it to make twelve (or more) little tart shells?  So as much as I loved them, butter tarts weren’t happening in this house. 

And then I found this recipe.  Instead of using tart shells, a very simple base holds the filling. Don’t tell the purists, but I think I like this even better than butter tarts, because you get as much filling in the last bite as the first.  To my Canadian readers, I present this easy version of a true classic.  To my international readers, I present the first bite of the rest of your life.

Butter Tart Squares
(adapted from Best Recipes Ever)

Base:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Filling:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional; I used them and loved the result.  If you don’t use walnuts, I’d add extra raisins)

For base:
In bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter with granulated sugar until smooth.  Add flour and mix until just combined.  Press into the bottom of a 9 inch square pan that has been covered with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

For filling:
In bowl, stir melted butter with eggs.  Mix in brown sugar, flour, baking powder, vanilla and salt and stir to combine.  Stir in raisins and walnuts; pour over base.

Bake at 350 degrees until top springs back when lightly touched, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool before cutting into squares.

54 comments:

Rosemary said...

I think I'm in love! These look absolutely scrumptious. A definite save. (I'll be driving through Barrie at the end of May. Maybe I should look for the Sweet Oven.)

LDH said...

Oh, how does one resist with a description like that! I am copying your recipe so I can make the first bite of the rest of my life! :) Yummy photo too!

Becki's Whole Life said...

Oh yum....love the crust and that filling sounds divine. I always think of those Nanaimo (sp?) bars as a Canadian specialty. I love to bake bars so I will have to remember these next time I have the chance to bake!

Claire Davis said...

My family has a cottage on Aylen Lake, Ontario. I grew up spending the summers there. I have never tried a butter tart, though! It looks delicious.

Beth said...

Rosemary, you should definitely look for the Sweet Oven! They specialize in butter tarts and have a huge number of variations. (But be sure to try this recipe, too!)

Becki, you're right. Nanaimo bars are such a Canadian dessert. My mom had a special recipe for Nanaimo bars too, so maybe I'll post that sometime!

Belinda said...

This sounds like it could be MY ultimate food...maple syrup....

Barbara Jean said...

My favourite!!! And for me, the runnier the better. There is a cafe in Parry Sound called Richards, and they serve their butter tarts with a spoon! Heaven. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

These look great. You'll have to pity me since I never ate them. Too bad we don't live in the same town so I could try out yours.

Kayte said...

Great post. I had a fear of pie crusts so last year I made a pie a day for a month (a small 7" one) to challenge myself and because pie is Mark's favorite and I knew he and Matt would have no trouble eating them all). You would not believe how easy pie crust is once you do that...I can whip a pie crust together in no time flat. I can roll it to within the perfect dimension for that pie pan, and I can judge filling like you would not believe. Pies and then I did the same thing with tarts for a month. Now I understand the phrase "easy as pie." All that said, I like making half or full-size pies and tarts but I don't like messing with those little tarts, no patience at all for even the 4" ones, and imho, there is too much crust for filling in those anyway. That's my pie/tart crust story. Your idea sounds wonderful, and I am going to give this a try as Mark and Matt love pecan pie, so I am certain they would love this recipe. They look really wonderful...and no chocolate involved!! Thanks for the recipe. Is it spring there yet? It is trying to get here where I live!

backroadjournal said...

I'm so happy that you posted this recipe. The tart sounds delicious and I can see why it would be considered the ultimate Canadian food.

Pacheco Patty said...

I have to admit I've never had a butter tart but now I have your wonderful recipe so thanks for sharing it! I don't think I can wait until Christmas to give this recipe a try;-)

Brenda said...

What an easy way to enjoy butter tarts. I'm not a fan of making pie crusts either. This is perfect!

Angie's Recipes said...

The tart looks droolworthy...raisins and walnuts are for sure great as a pie filling.

Valerie said...

That story is too funny! (I sometimes sneak away from guests, but it's usually during the holidays and involves an extra cocktail.)

Just the name "Butter Tart," makes me giddy. And I Love that they're similar to a pecan pie (yay!), but without the corn syrup (double yay!). Thanks for sharing an easier version of the recipe!

Beth said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Kayte! My mother feels the same way about pie crusts that you do, and tells me all I need is practice. But eating that many pies could be bad for my health! As for the weather, it's a beautiful day, sunny and just barely below freezing. I know spring isn't far off!

Patty, I won't be waiting until Christmas to make these again either.

Valerie, you would love these squares. Maybe even as much as that extra cocktail!

Pam said...

They look and sound amazing... I love buttery desserts.

yummychunklet said...

Wow. These sound and look amazing. I think these might be addictive!

Elaine said...

I have never had a butter tart, but you photos and description of how it tastes make this a must make!

Bonnie said...

These look absolutely sinful! My favorite!!! Hugs! Bonnie

Carol said...

They look fantastic, can see why they'd be your favorite. LOL, I'd have sneaked back for a second as well :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I didn't realize butter tarts were a Canadian thing (yes, I'm Canadian & yes, I love butter tarts!). I gave up on making pastry years back because of the time issue, even though I love to bake too. The store bought shells are okay, but nothing like the real stuff. I have a butter tart bar recipe I love too - and from my memory, it's very similar to this. Delicious!

Miriam said...

They look awesome!!! Never had them before, looking forward to them :), Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

Joanne said...

omg, these are one of the most divine pastries I've seen thus far on your blog!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I should know by now NOT to check out your blog, Beth, before dinner. *stomach grumbles in agreement* :)

Lannie said...

these look SO decadent and delicious, and such pretty pictures!

bakewithjill.com said...

I've never had a butter tart, but I know I'd love it. I'm a huge raisin fan. I think it's going to be dangerous now that you have a shortcut version!

Cindy said...

These look delicious. I need to visit Canada. Soon.

Neesie said...

I have to confess Beth, that I've never tried them before but don't worry I'm going to set that right! ;D

Rita said...

Yes I agree with you; these are good; I used to make these often; so easy and so good! Thanks for the reminder Beth. I haven't made them in Years and my husband loves them. I will be making them for sure when I get back home.
Rita

Joanne said...

Alright so...my life will obviously not be complete until I try one of these. They look amazing!

Azlin Bloor said...

This is definitely new to me, I love the look of it and on reading the recipe, most certainly, the sound of it! One to make! Your latest follower!
www.LinsFood.com

Bizzy B. Bakes said...

I am sitting here saying, "I want some." They look delicious. Job well done.

Barbara said...

I've eaten them, but never made them, Beth. I love this recipe...you've simplified everything. Have already copied the recipe!
(I always think of butter tarts as British...but I guess that makes sense, right?)

cookingmisadventures.com said...

Sad to admit this, but I haven't even ever heard of a butter tart! Gotta put this on my to-do list...

Michele | Cooking At Home said...

I guess I never knew what I was missing. But now I will be sure to put your delicious-sounding recipe on the top of my to-be-tried list. Thanks for the introduction.

Monet said...

This is my kind of dessert. I would take this over brownies any day of the week. Thank you for sharing...my stomach is grumbling and my mind is inspired. I hope you are having a blessed start to your week, my friend!

Kitchen Riffs said...

"To my international readers, I present the first bite of the rest of your life." That's me! I've never had - or heard of - Butter Tarts. Shocking, isn't it? Pretty easy recipe, and sounds wonderful. Nice post - thanks.

Lizzy said...

Mmmmmm....these sound fantastic, Beth! And I hear ya on not making individual tart crusts...such torture!!

Jeanne said...

Oooooh, I want to try one! Since I took it upon myself to make poutine a couple of years ago, it shall now be my duty to try these butter tarts. I'll get back to you with my verdict on the ultimate Canadian food! Oh, and as a New England girl, pure maple syrup is always at the top of the list for me. It's a tough contest. ;)

Cucina49 said...

Those look wicked good--I like the idea of abandoning the tart shell in favor of the crust. Much simpler and easy to eat as a finger food, too!

Raina said...

I have never heard of these, but I am thinking where have they been all my life. They sound wonderful. I am looking forward to making them and very happy that you have shared a simpler version:)

Julie said...

Oh my do these look good! I love finding recipes for things from other countries!

Lynne said...

I can relate to these delicious treats as I grew up on Southern pecan pie. I like the idea of the raisins and walnuts. Yummy!!

Helene Dsouza said...

Hi Beth!

I had forgotten about butter tart. We do have this in france too, my grandma would make it once in a while. Love the addition of walnuts, I can literally taste your tart squares. I wish I could have a real bite! thank you for sharing!

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never heard of butter tarts before, much less eaten one, but they sound delicious. :)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

OMGoodness! How did we manage a trip to Canada and not eat those? Once I hit my fitness goals, I'll have to make some. (drooling)

comfortablydomestic.com said...

I would most definitely be the one hiding in the kitchen eating the last of the dessert. I've never eaten a butter tart, but I love that I can make them with more raisins instead of the nuts! I really miss pecan pie in my nut-free home, so I look forward to trying the "tarts."

Medeia Sharif said...

I have never had these, but you've made me curious. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

sweetandcrumby.com said...

I like that this is adapted from Best Recipes Ever. It seems quite apropos. These do look like the best bar cookies EVER.

grace said...

oh canada. you should certainly be proud that this is a creation for which your country is known--it's marvelous!

Sue said...

Ooey, gooey goodness! I have never had a butter tart, but I'd sure love one (or two)! I think I like this crust better than a pie crust. Good job, Beth!

Needful Things said...

I have never before heard of butter tarts, but after that irresistible description and that gooey image I just *know* I have to try this recipe soon.

Mary said...

The first bite of the rest of my life? I have now pinned this and will be trying it very VERY soon. How could I resist with a statement like that?

C&C Cakery said...

I grew up in Ontario, so I know the butter tart well. The ones we had sometimes had raisins in them, but never nuts (that bordered to far over on the pecan pie side, I guess). Now that I'm in BC, it's all about the Nanaimo Bar - sightings of my beloved butter tart are few and far between. Can't wait to bake your treat up and relive my childhood!

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