Butter Tarts are a quintessential Canadian treat that are a decadent, delicious and surprisingly easy addition to anyone’s holiday dessert tray. They’re so easy that I’ve made two batches already this year. Learn how to make this classic decadent tart.
Butter tarts are always a staple on our holiday dessert trays, probably because I’m Canadian and they are a quintessential Canadian treat. Despite my general lack of a sweet tooth, I just plain love them. I am Canadian, after all!
I only decided to make them myself for the first time last year though. They’re so gooey and decadent that I thought they were probably going to be a pain. I was wrong! I made them that one time last year and I’ve already made two batches this year.
The basic recipe we use in from my Baba’s old Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League cookbook. My mom, and now I, know exactly which page number to go to: 91.
I was pretty surprised when I found out that the recipe only has 6 ingredients (not including the pastry). You don’t pre-cook the filling or anything either. So simple. You just mix together an egg, brown sugar, cream or milk, vanilla, melted butter, a pinch of salt and raisins. Then you spoon that into your tart shells and bake it for 25 minutes. So easy.
My mom always makes a homemade lard-based pastry crust for her tart shells. If you’re handy with pastry, go for it. There’s a basic lard pastry recipe here that is similar to my mom’s.
I’m lazier though, and my homemade pastry doesn’t typically turn out well. I blame it on having warm hands and living in ever-humid Florida (but I wasn’t great at making pastry when I lived in Toronto either so you know I’m just making excuses). What I do is to buy pre-rolled refrigerated pie crusts. They’re sold near the refrigerated crescent rolls in a long, flat cardboard box. Here’s what you’re looking for. I’ve used the branded version and the store-brand and both turn out the same. You get two big circles of rolled-out dough in each box. Each circle can be cut into eleven 3-inch diameter rounds so you need the whole box for today’s recipe, which makes 22 tarts.
What you’re going to do is preheat the oven. Make the super-simple filling. Line the cups of a muffin tin (I like this one) with foil-lined cupcake liners (like these) or foil baking cups (like these) and then line those with your pastry rounds. Spoon in the filling to halfway in each cup and bake them. As the filling heats it will bubble up and fill the pastry to the top, don’t worry about that. Let them cool a bit and then remove the foil. Done! Enjoy :)
- 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1 egg
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. heavy cream, half and half or milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- a pinch of salt
- pastry dough for two pie crusts, rolled out to 1/4-inch thick
- Cut the butter into pieces, put it into a microwave-safe dish and heat it for 20 seconds at time until melted. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine the raising and boiling water. Set aside.
- Crack the egg into a medium bowl and whisk it a bit. Add the brown sugar, cream, vanilla and salt. Stir.
- Drain the raisins, discarding the water. Add the raisins and the melted butter to the brown sugar mixture. Stir until incorporated. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Use a 3 to 3 and 1/2 inch diameter round cookie cutter or glass to cut the pastry dough into 22-24 circles. You will likely need to gather up some scraps of dough and roll them out again to get enough rounds. Push the rounds of dough gently into foil baking cups or foil-lined paper cupcake cups. Insert them into the cups of 2 standard-size 12 cup muffin tins.
- Fill each cup about halfway full of filling. Bake until pastry is beginning to turn golden, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Gently remove liners and tarts from muffin tins and then remove the liners. These can be served immediately or put into an airtight container and refrigerated for 4 days or into an airtight container and frozen for 2 months.
Adapted from the Ukrainian Catholic Women's League Cookbook: Ukrainian Traditional and Favorite Recipes, 1970. Printed in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, recipe by Isabel Lys. I have changed the ingredients somewhat and the method quite a bit but the general amounts are the same as her version.