Butter Tarts and I are making a 12-hour Midwest road trip, and only one of us is going to survive Iowa.
Hint: It’s probably not the personally-sized mini pies loaded with an ooey-gooey, buttery brown sugar filling.
Butter tarts are an old fashioned Canadian dessert that I can compare most directly to a pecan pie. Like pecan pie, the crust is flakey and tender, and the filling is buttery and sweet. Unlike a pecan pie, the tarts are always prepared in miniature, never in larger pie form, which allows them to be picked up and delicately (or not so delicately) devoured.
The Perfect Butter Tart Recipe
From here, butter tarts become controversial. Some sources argue that the butter filling should be nicely set; others advocate for a runnier texture. Some recipes include nuts (most commonly walnuts—pecans were less popular); others raisins or currants. I found some recipes with corn syrup, others with maple syrup, and a few with heavy cream.
I consider today’s butter tart recipe to be the peacemaker. I kept the essentials—miniature size, decadent filling, and an irresistible crackly top—streamlined the ingredients, and left the mix-ins as optional.
No special equipment is needed to make miniature pies—I baked these butter tarts in my old, beat-up muffin tin. Simply roll out your favorite pie crust recipe (you’ll need a double-crust amount) and use a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass to stamp four-inch rounds. For the filling, grab a single bowl and wooden spoon, and you are set. Easy as pie! Er, tarts.
Of all of the versions of butter tarts I tried, my favorite was the simple filling with no mix-ins at all. The brown sugar filling is flavorful enough to stand on its own and, while I do love nuts, I preferred the dessert without them. The lovely crunch provided by the crackly topping, which first rises, then crisps and falls back onto the creamy interior, provided to be just the right amount of texture.
Whether you’re looking for an extra treat for a Christmas party or sweet to sustain you during a long day of travel, butter tarts are a simple, uniquely homey, and satisfying dessert.
How to Store Butter Tarts
- To Store. Leftover tarts can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Freeze. Freeze tarts in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
More Mini-Sized Treats
- Mini Fig Goat Cheese Bacon Phyllo Bites
- Mini Lemon Cheesecakes with Gingersnap Crust
- Mini French Silk Cookie Pies
- Mini Quiches Caramelized Pears and Gorgonzola
hoping praying that, when combined with every available podcast episode of Serial, the Pandora 90s station, and a book of trivia, butter tarts will make our 12-hour drive a bit more pleasant (and Ben a little less critical of my driving). Bring it on, Highway 80. We’re ready.
Wishing you all safe travels and a wonderful holiday week!
- Pastry dough - for 2 standard-sized pie crusts, double crust
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, - melted and cooled to room temperature
- 1 cup Imperial Sugar Light Brown Sugar
- 3 large eggs - at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Up to 2/3 cup mix-ins: - raisins, toasted chopped pecans, toasted chopped walnuts, and/or currants
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