Friday, October 20, 2017

Butter Tarts from Canada

This past weekend I attended the Bouchercon mystery writers conference in Toronto, Canada. I was told that this year the conference attracted 1,700-plus writers, readers and fans, and we were all kept very busy with panels and parties and meetings and just plain talking.

View from my hotel window
I had never been to Canada before, and I confess I did no research about Toronto, other than figuring out where it was in the country. I had no idea what the city had to offer (and not a lot of time to explore it). But one thing I hadn’t expected was to find so much great food!

Yes, I had to try poutine (I had a variety with lobster, but I’m not a convert to poutine yet), and I had an amazing dish with octopus (unexpected!), but most important, I found a new dessert: butter tarts. Apparently this is one of Canada’s favorites desserts, but I’d never heard of it. Still, how can you go wrong with a dessert that has butter in its name?

I looked up recipes. Lots of recipes. They’re all different. But it boils down to a small pie crust shell filled with gooey sweet stuff, both made with lots of butter. Apparently there is some controversy over whether the gooey middle should be firm or runny. My version came out runny, but you can dunk the crust into it. If you’re pie-crust challenged (as I am), I give you permission to buy frozen mini-tart shells if you can find them—making the filling is easy.

Canadian Butter Tarts


2-1/2 cups pastry flour
1 Tblsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening (cold and cut in cubes)
1/2 cup butter (cold and cut in cubes)
ice water as needed to hold dough together

In a food processor pulse the butter and shortening with the flour, sugar and salt, until pieces are pea-sized.

Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time and pulse between, until the dough just holds together. (Do not overmix).

Shape into two rounds, about 1" thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Roll out the dough and cut into 4-inch rounds. Fit into 3-inch muffin cups (no greasing necessary), and put the muffin tins back in the refrigerator to chill while you make the filling. 

This amount of dough should make enough to fill 12 standard muffin cups. The crust will be about 1/4-inch thick and rise just a bit over the top edge.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F while you make the filling.


1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
optional: 1/2 cup raisins or currants, nuts, or chocolate chips

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. 

Fill the lined cups about 2/3 full.

Ready to bake

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, or until the edges of the crust begin to brown and the filling has puffed up a bit (it will sink back again as it cools).


Cool on a wire rack before removing from the muffin tins.

Gooey! (And delicious)
Oh, that's right--there's another book of mine coming out in a few weeks (November 7th, to be precise): A Late Frost, the eleventh in the Orchard Mystery series. Maybe Meg and Seth thought winter would be peaceful--nothing that needed doing in Meg's orchard, and most people don't want to start house renovation project in the middle of winter, so Seth's business was quiet. 

But of course that didn't last: town newcomer Monica Whitman is found dead the evening after Granford's new winter festival that she helped to plan, and nobody knew her well enough to guess why. It should be no surprise that Meg ends up involved in trying to figure out what happened--she remembers what it was like to be the new kid in Granford.

Available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


  1. If any of you readers are Canadian, feel free to tell me what I might have done wrong with these--this was my first try (but not my last!).

    1. You need raisins in butter tarts. My two cents. That's because my mother made them that way. Yes, a favorite Canadian dessert. Glad you like them.

    2. I'll be happy to try them that way! Note to self: find a 4" round cutter so they don't look quit so raggedy.

  2. Dang, missed these. Must go back to Canada!

  3. If you don't want them runny like that, then use a recipe without the corn syrup. They are super good either way.

    1. What would the amount of sweetener be in that case?

  4. Guess I had forgotten these are unique to us Canadians. I like them gooey, but not runny. The best recipe I have discovered for this has no corn syrup, and you do NOT melt the butter. Just beat together the softened butter with the other ingredients. Also, in my opinion, raisins in them are a must! I also add some unsweetened flaked coconut, and I think it helps absorb extra liquid.

    1. Interesting! The ones I tried had currants in them, rather than raisins, and they tasted good. One recipe I saw go by used maple syrup rather than corn syrup; another suggested adding another egg yolk to thicken the filling. Lots of variations!

  5. Thanks for exploring yet another temptation for us!
    So, it's the ingredients, not the time baking that makes the difference in the amount of run-iness?

    1. I think so? As I say, I've never tried them before, but they don't mind if you mess with the balance of ingredients--they still taste good.

  6. Yes, lots of fabulous food up here, Sheila! Glad you found butter tarts. I never make them or I'd wade in. They are really a Canadian favorite. Great to see you in TO.

  7. These tarts remind me of my pecan pie recipes and I will do a little investigating to find a recipe that would have a nice soft by not liquid filling. I would probably use pecans but not sure. Thank you for something different to check into.

    I absolutely love this series and will go preorder A Late Frost right now!!!
    I got behind on reading due to my cataracts and retina problems so I was buying a lot of cozies in MP3 if they were available so I ended up backed up on some favorite series that didn't have the CD's available.

    Congratulations on the upcoming release. Sheila.
    Cynthia B.

  8. Thanks. They look yummy. I think I’d like them gooey, but not runny. If you’re going gluten-free, you could purchase a frozen gluten-free pie crust and cut it smaller. I just started An Early Wake. I know nothing about Ireland, so it’s interesting to read about it. So much history. Looking forward to the read. Thanks.

  9. Yummy! Trying these at Thanksgiving! Thank you for sharing.