Butter Tarts are a Canadian treasure. As an American I don’t know much about them. But I was determined to “get the skinny” on these treats. (Hmm, perhaps “skinny” is not the best choice of words here…..)
First of all, let’s cover the basics. What is a Butter Tart? According to the editors from Food Network Canada, a Butter Tart is a Tart made of butter, sugar, eggs, and pastry. They believe a good Butter Tart is characterized by a creamy and dense filling, a smooth texture, and a flaky pastry.
Butter Tarts are so popular, they’re the focus of celebrations and culinary events in Canada. These are two interesting ones:
Among the many festivities held at the Canada Day celebration at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto — “The Great Canadian Butter Tart Bake-Off.” Six pastry chefs competed for the Best Butter Tart Award. (Thanks to Janet Schreiber, owner of Toronto-based Phipps Bakery Café, who told me about this competition. Phipps was invited to participate but was not able to.)
For dessert fans wishing to sample and compare different Butter Tarts, North Wellington in Ontario is your go-to destination. It’s the site of “The Butter Site Trail.” (I’d much rather go on a Butter Tart Crawl than a Beer Crawl, but I digress.)
Bakeries also attest to the popularity of Butter Tarts.
Orna Quinn, of Toronto-based Prairie Girl Bakery reported “Butter Tarts have definitely become more popular, especially for those who do not like things that are as sweet or filling as cupcakes.” She went on to explain that Mini Butter Tarts are especially popular now.
In Ottawa, Frank Spartico, owner of Frank’s Foods explained “Even though we sell a ton of Tarts the week before Christmas, we also sell a lot all year long.” And Butter Tarts have torpedoed many post-holiday diets in January.
Don’t think there are only “Plain Janes” in the Butter Tart world.
Prairie Girl Bakery also offers a Pecan Butter Tart.
While Phipps’ Janet Schrieber said the Bakery’s most popular Butter Tart is Plain, made with homemade caramel, the Pecan Butter Tart is a close second. And for those seeking variety, Phipps Bakery Cafe also offers a Chocolate Butter Tart, a Chocolate Pecan Butter Tart, and a seasonal Cranberry Pecan Butter Tart.
Janet also explained that there’s “a great debate….to raisin or not to raisin. We used to put raisins in our Tarts but found most preferred not to have them there, so we took them out.”
Frank’s Foods decided “to raisin.” In fact, Raisin Butter Tarts are Frank’s second most popular type of Butter Tart. Frank Spartico noted “Raisin Tarts are the most traditional and are extremely popular with the older crowd, the one Mom always made.” What other varieties of Butter Tarts can you find at Frank’s? Pecan (1st place), Plain (3rd place), Maple Walnut, Chocolate Chip, and Butterscotch.
Stay tuned for other postings about Canadian desserts.