Okay folks. We’re at 4 days until Canada Day. If you’re one of my Canadian readers, you’re probably excited for the first holiday of the summer. I mean REAL summer, not May long weekend when you try to go camping and you wake up in a tent under a foot of snow. If you’re one of my non-Canadian readers, you might not know the holiday exists. But it does, so why not have another excuse to celebrate?
I’ve been thinking about Canada day for months now. I knew I wanted to celebrate Canada day in the US by wearing my red Canada T-Shirt and sending some traditional Canadian food to work with Hubby to share with his co-workers. I thought about poutine, but it was too logistically difficult to make and bring to work without getting soggy. I came up with Butter Tarts. If you’re Canadian, you know what they are and you’ve probably eaten them. If you’re not Canadian, I’m guessing you don’t know what they are. A quick Google search for Butter Tarts did bring up some non-Canadian sites, but all of them stated that they are, indeed stereotypically Canadian.
The closest thing to a butter tart that I can think of is pecan pie. But without the pecans. And raisins instead. And instead of being a pie, it’s a tart. A mini-pie if you will. They’re sweet, and gooey and oh so good. So celebrate Canada day with butter tarts this year. Whether you’re Canadian or not.
Making butter tarts starts with making pie dough. Okay. I have a confession to make: this is the first time I have ever made pie dough. I’m serious. I’ve always been afraid to try making it, so whenever I’ve made pies (which is not often by the way) I’ve made only pies that can use a graham cracker crust, or I’ve picked up a pack of frozen pastry dough from the freezer. In the case of making butter tarts, I’ve only ever bought those frozen, pre-made tart shells in the little foil cups, which by the way, you can’t get down here. I’ve looked EVERYWHERE. I figured it was time to face my fear and make my own pie dough. Definitely not so bad. It actually turned out great – really flaky and delicious. But so not healthy. See that plate full of butter and lard?
You cut the butter and lard up into chunks, then freeze them and process them into the flour mixture. That’s what makes the crust nice and flaky. This crust has an unusual ingredient – vodka. Apparently the science behind it is that gluten (the protein in flour that can make pie crust tough) forms only in water, not in alcohol. So instead of using all water, the recipe uses part vodka to reduce the amount of gluten that’s formed. Don’t worry – you don’t taste it and any alcohol gets baked off, so you can go ahead and feed them to your kids. I did. The recipe was labeled as “Foolproof” in my favorite cookbook, so I went with it.
I knew that the crust needed to be rolled on a floured surface, but I decided to roll it out in graham crumbs instead. It gave the crust a little texture and flavor. It definitely worked out great. If you don’t have any on hand though, just use flour.
Now for the filling. The ingredients are pretty basic. You probably already have them all in your pantry right now. Butter (of course), brown sugar, corn syrup, salt, egg and vanilla. They all get mixed together to make the filling.
And raisins. I hate raisins in baked goods. The whole time I was growing up, my mom and grandma knew to make a few butter tarts for me without the raisins. But this recipe has a secret that makes it all okay. Soak the raisins in water before you add them to the tarts. It makes them plump and juicy and oh so tasty. I made a whole batch without a single plain tart. I like them that much. Definitely DON’T skip the soaking step.
Now this is important: fill the tart shells only so that the raisins are just barely covered. Any more than that and you won’t have enough to make 18 tarts and the filling will bubble up and overflow in the oven. Then you will be stuck with tarts that are superglued to the pan.
After your tarts cool, you’ll be left with super flaky and tender crust filled with sticky, gooey filling and plump juicy raisins. Pack them up and bring them on a Canada Day picnic or if you’re not from Canada, bring them to your co-workers and tell them that your favorite Canadian blogger gave you the recipe.
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 Tbsp butter cut into 1/4" pieces and chilled
- 6 Tbsp lard cut into 1/2" pieces and chilled
- 2 Tbsp vodka chilled
- 2 Tbsp ice cold water
- 3 graham wafers
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Process 3/4 cup of flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor to mix. Spread butter and lard pieces over the flour mixture and process until the fats are incorporated, about 10 seconds.
Scrape down bowl and add the remaining 1/2 cup flour. Pulse until evenly distributed, about 5 pulses.
Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Sprinkle vodka and water over the flour mixture. Stir with a spatula and press together until dough is one solid mass.
Turn dough onto a piece of plastic wrapte and form into a 4" disc. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days. Before rolling dough out, let sit on counter to soften, about 10 minutes.
While dough is softening, break graham wafers into pieces and grind in food processor or coffee grinder. Sprinkle crumbs over work surface (see note).
Place dough on graham wafer crumbs and roll to about 1/8" thick. Cut into 4" circles with a cookie cutter or drinking glass. Push into muffin cups. Form scraps into a ball and re-chill if needed before re-rolling. Cover muffin pans with plastic and refrigerate until ready to use.
Place raisins into a bowl and cover with warm water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes to soften.
Heat oven to 400°F.
Cream together butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup together until smooth. Stir in the egg and vanilla until uniform.
Drain raisins and spread raisins equally among tart shells. Pour butter mixture into tart shells until raisins are just barely covered. Do not overfill!
Bake for 15-20 minutes (see note). Cool in tins for 10 minutes, then carefully remove tarts from muffin cups and cool completely on a wire rack.
For runny tarts, bake only 15 minutes. For more solid tarts, bake for up to 20 minutes.