September 11, 2013
Sweets/Baked Goods

Mrs. A’s Butter Tarts

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I won’t get into the runny vs. firm controversy here, except to say that I want to eat my butter tart, not wear it. Debates aside, these tarts are very fine indeed. The filling is silky, yet covered by a thin, slightly chewy sugar crust.  The recipe, however, can satisfy both camps: For a runnier, silkier filling, stick to the lower end of the baking time and enjoy the tarts slightly warm. For a slightly firmer, chewier filling, go to the higher end and/or eat them the tarts the next day. These are my best butter tarts, inspired by Kate Aitken, Canada’s cooking maven of yesteryear. However, I do make butter tarts several ways, according to my whims. (Try: Maple Butter Tarts, Go South Butter Tarts.)

     Do you like your butter tart runny or firm? Credit: Susan Sampson

1 cup (250 mL) corn syrup (11-1/2 oz/325 g)2/3 cup (150 mL) dark brown sugar (4-3/8 oz/120 g)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla extract
1/4 tsp (1 mL) table salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) cold, unsalted butter (2 oz/60 g), cut in tiny pieces
15 cold, uncooked, 3-inch (7.5 cm) tart shells

In medium pan, stir together syrup and sugar. Cook, stirring twice, on medium heat until mixture bubbles up and top is covered with foam. Immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat. Cool 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, in heatproof bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla and salt just until combined. While whisking constantly, slowly and gradually pour in hot syrup mixture. Stir in butter until melted. Cool 30 minutes, or until room temperature.

Preheat oven to 450F (230C).

Fill each tart shell two-thirds full. Bake in preheated oven 5 minutes, or until starting to set. Reduce heat to 350F (180C). Bake until pastry is golden and filling is puffy but not too dark, 10 minutes (for runnier tarts) to 15 minutes (for firmer tarts).

Makes 15.

  • You could cheat for speed with store-bought tart shells. However, I put my tarts over the top by making rich, tender, crumbly shells with pâte brisée. Prepare the dough, roll and cut the rounds, place them in muffin tins, then stash the lot in the fridge to firm up while you prep the filling.
  • Aitken bucked the crowd by adding 2/3 cup (150 mL) of nuts instead of raisins, but I am a fan of neither in butter tarts. (And that is the second controversy among butter tart fans: nuts vs. raisins.)

Kitchen Secrets: The easiest way to obtain tiny pieces of cold butter is to shred the butter using the large holes of a box grater.