Aside from poutine, I don't think there are very many 'Canadian' foods that we are known for. The butter tart, however, is definitely not to be missed. And hard to miss, in fact. You can pretty much find a butter tart anywhere - bakeries, coffee shops, vending machines, and even gas stations (including those in the middle of nowhere!)
So what exactly is it? It's more or less a tart made from a flaky pie dough, traditionally with raisins, pecans, or walnuts, and a brown sugar filling. It's a bit like a tiny pecan pie.
There are tons of recipes online and I randomly chose one from the Joy of Baking website, which I've cut and pasted below. The recipe said to make muffin-tin sized tarts, but I decided to make cute little 2-inch tarts - not bad, but they lacked the gooeyness of a bigger tart. Next time I will make them bigger.
Butter Tart Recipe (from Joy of Baking)
Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry):
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water
Butter Tart Filling:
1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (215 grams) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) light cream (half-and-half) (10% butterfat)
1/2 cup raisins or 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (toasted and chopped) (optional)
Pate Brisee: In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds.
Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour.
After the dough has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and cut into 12 - 4 inch (10 cm) rounds. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards).) Gently place the rounds into a 12-cup muffin tin. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up the dough. Next, make the filling.
Butter Tart Filling: In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla extract. Stir in the cream. If using nuts and/or raisins, place a spoonful in the bottom of each tart shell and then fill the unbaked tart shells with the filling. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 15 - 20 minutes or until the pastry has nicely browned and the filling is set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Here are the empty shells, pre-filling. I cut them with a scalloped 3" cutter and stuffed them into the tins.
Next, putting in the goodies - I made half of them with raisins, and half with pecans.
Spooning in the sugar filling. Mm. It smells delicious. Don't forget though, that the raisins and pecans will float, and the sugary goo will melt, so it's really important not to over fill the shell (like I did...):
My tarts all overflowed and oozed everywhere, so badly that I had to take the whole tray out and spoon out excess filling. Luckily they still baked well and didn't cement themselves to the tin like I was afraid they would!
These keep well for a few days at room temperature, so that you have lots to enjoy on a daily basis. D and I made a bad habit of breakfasting on them during this time, which contributed to the speed of their disappearance...I'll have to make more, very very soon.