2 In Recipes

Butter Tart Wars

Butter tarts are a well-loved and fiercely protected Canadian tradition, though there is some disagreement as to the inclusion or exclusion of corn syrup. I am a member of “Team no syrup” and nobody is going to convince me that corn syrup belongs in these babies. But to each their own. This isn’t the tale of a butter tart, it is the tale of two tarts and a friendly competition. I was at The Day Job when my co-worker, Chris and I came up with the idea for a competition featuring butter tarts as the star.

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We quickly went fell into the “to syrup or not to syrup” conversation and I must admit I looked at him with disgust when he asked if we would be putting raisins in them. With the ground rules set and date selected (and then moved twice) we were off. I must admit we didn’t end up with a clear winner as our co-workers didn’t want to pick favourites…sigh. So we have decided that for our next competition we will be using voting sheets!

Butter tarts

So let me walk you through my process, I have also included both recipes so feel free to have your own mini tart war at home and declare your own winner! Funny enough we made our dough exactly the same, but our filling was very different! There are some key components to amazing flaky dough….butter, lard and a wee bit of vinegar.

As with any important project, the base you lay as the foundation sets the tone for the entire project. In our case today that is the pastry…homemade, flaky, the perfect container for the gooey-gooey filling. So let’s begin…get a large bowl, as always I am partial to my red Kitchen Aid mixing bowls. Into the bowl goes the flour, salt, baking powder and finally the butter and lard. If you are lucky enough to have a pastry blender grab that, if not let’s do this old skool…in which case you are going to need two knives. Keep pulling the knives in opposite directions which will gradually chop up the lard and butter into itty bitty pieces.

Making homemade flaky pastry

After you work at it for a while you will (I promise) start to see the fruits of your labour (but your arms may not thank you). It is much easier if you use a pastry blender, but I like to keep it old skool in my kitchen, especially when making a Canadian classic. When the dough is all crumbly it is time to start mixing the liquids in.

But before we can do that, we need to get them ready. Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the vinegar, mix them together and pour them into a 1 cup measuring cup, then top it up with ice cold water. See those cute little fall themed cookie cutters? My master plan was to use them for presentation points in the competition. They e just so damn cute, I have future plans for them that involve a pumpkin pie…so stay tuned.

Making homemade flaky pastry

Slowly mix the liquids into the dough. It is usually at this point in the process that I hear my mother in the back of my mind. Reminding me not to over mix the dough or it will be tough. So don’t do that, ok? Once the liquids are just combined in the dough should look like this, and it is time to divide it into two discs. Wrap these in plastic wrap and chill them in the fridge for about 1 hour.

Making homemade flaky pastry

***Insert 1 hour of Netflix***

When the timer goes off (and you should set a timer, especially if you are watching Netflix), set the oven to preheat to 200F and get the dough discs out of the fridge. Grab your trusty rolling pin (I like a wooden one and this one has a handy depth meter on it) and roll out your dough to 1/8″ to 1/4″. This will depend on how thick you want the crust. I like the crust a bit thicker, so I opted for 1/4″. 

I didn’t have a 4″ cookie cutter so I just used one of my favourite Bouclair mugs and that did the trick! Pop the discs into a muffin tray and lets make that filling! I also gave the little leaf cookie cutters a whirl and OMG they are so cute!

Making pastry leaves for butter tarts

Now it’s time to make that gooey-gooey filing…first thing we need to do is melt the butter and then we can add in the packed brown sugar, pure vanilla (please none of that artificial stuff) and then. the eggs. Mix it all up and it is good to go!

Filling for classic butter tarts

Take all that lovely filling and fill up the shells, at this point before you start pouring you. have. a decision to make. Are you. a nervous Nelly or do you feel like rolling the dice? If you opt for nervous Nelly then fill them 2/3 full, if you feel like rolling the dice then fill them up…you’ll note that I felt like rolling the dice 🙂

Classic Canadian Butter Tarts

By this time the oven should be up to temperature, so you ca go ahead and pop those babies into the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, jack up the temperature to 350. If you went the Nervous Nelly route then give them 10 minutes. If you prefer to roll the dice then they will need 15 minutes.

Classic Canadian Butter Tarts

I proudly packed up my butter tarts and took them to the Day Job for their day of judgement. As I mentioned at the outset, the whole judging thing fell a bit flat…but here they are for your viewing pleasure.

On the left is Chris’ Bourbon Butter Tart and my classic Canadian version is on the right. Its up to you if you make one or both…but either way enjoy!

Classic Canadian Butter Tarts

Ingredients (Makes 24 tarts)


  • 6 cups all purpose flour + extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup lard
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 large egg
  • 2 tsps white vinegar
  • 2 cup cold water


  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 4 cups brown sugar (packed)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsps vanilla
  • 3 tbsps white vinegar

Instructions Make the Pastry

  1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl
  2. Add cold butter and lard in small chunks
  3. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, work the dough until it is a large crumbled texture
  4. In a bowl combine egg and vinegar and mix, pour the mixture into a 1 cup measuring cup and then fill to the top with ice cold water.
  5. Slowly work the liquid into the flour/butter-lard mixture until just combined. 
  6. Separate the dough into two balls and wrap them in plastic wrap
  7. Chill for at least 1 hour

Make the filing

  1. Melt the butter and add to a large mixing bowl (I love my red Kitchen Aid bowls)
  2. Add in the packed brown sugar, vanilla and white vinegar and mix

Putting it all together

  1. Preheat the oven to 200F
  2. Roll out the dough to about 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick, cut out 4″ circles and put into the muffin tins.
  3. Fill the shell 2/3 to almost full with the filling
  4. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes and then turn up the temperature to 350F and bake for another 10 minutes if 2/3 full or 15 minutes if full.
  5. Take out of the oven and let them cool

Chris’ Bourbon Butter Tarts

Ingredients (Makes 24 tarts)


  • 3 cups all purpose flour + extra for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup lard
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water


  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp whipping cream
  • 4 oz bourbon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions Make the Pastry

  1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  2. Add cold butter and lard in small chunks.
  3. Using pastry blender or knives, combine until it looks like large oatmeal.
  4. In a 1 cup measuring cup, add egg and vinegar, fill to the top with ice cold water and mix.
  5. Combine liquid into the flour/butter-lard mixture.
  6. When combined, separate into two balls and wrap them in plastic wrap.
  7. Chill for at least 1 hour.

Make the filing

  1. Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan.
  2. Add the bourbon and cook until bubbly.
  3. Remove from heat, add in cream and vanilla.
  4. Cool for 5 minutes, then stir in egg (tempering helps).

Putting it all together

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Roll out the dough and cut into 4″ circles
  3. Line the muffin tin with the dough
  4. Fill the shells with nuts (just a few nuts in each shell)
  5. Fill each shell 2/3 full with sugar filling
  6. Bake 15 minutes or until golden 
  7. Remove from heat and cool for 1 hour minimum.

What is your favourite type of butter tart? Corn syrup yes or no? Raisins yes or no?

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  • Reply
    June 30, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    I’m here for the Bourbon. They look so good! 😊

  • Reply
    Jenn Summers
    July 7, 2019 at 10:04 pm

    I love butter tarts. I have never made them with bourbon before. Your twist on them sounds amazing. thanks for the great Canadian recipe!

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