Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Butter Tart Squares

Butter tarts are a bit of a Canadian classic. Sort of like the Nanaimo bar, they are considered to be a quintessential Canadian dessert. According to Wikipedia they originate from Quebec in the 1600s. Who knew? I've never been too clear on what sets the butter tart apart from pecan pie. All I know is that I love me a good butter tart. Pastry or shortbread crust, gooey sugar filling, and, sometimes, pecans/raisins/chocolate chips/dried cranberries mixed in with the filling.

Gooey deliciousness
While I was in Australia for a semester abroad during university, I made these squares for my roommates on numerous occasions. It was my way of sharing some Canadian culture with my new Aussie mates. They were a huge hit. Appropriately, the recipe is from Canadian Living magazine.

Pastry has never been my forte. My few attempts have been fantastic failures. That's why I like this particular recipe so much. Instead of the traditional tart form, the butter tart filling is baked on top of a shortbread crust in a 9x9 pan. The result is a delicious square. The edges are nice and chewy and caramelized and the middle stays gooey.

Today's attempt at the recipe involved a couple of improvisations. I don't own a pastry blender so, while trying to cut the butter into the flour for the crust with two butter knives, I saw my whisk out of the corner of my eye and thought it might be more efficient. Low and behold, it worked perfectly! I also realized I had no brown sugar in the house. This is sort of a crucial ingredient. Luckily I learned a substitution awhile ago...one cup of white sugar + one tablespoon of molasses = one cup of brown sugar.

When in doubt, use a whisk

Molasses + sugar = success

Double batch - pecans and pecans & cranberries

The squares turned out really well. I doubled the recipe but used two slightly different sized pans so the pecan and cranberry squares came out a bit softer than the plain pecan ones. The softer texture is what I prefer. My own fault for trying to cook dinner while they were in the oven : )

My fellow Canadians - are there any recipes that you consider to be truly Canadian? Everyone else - same question for you. Are there any recipes you really connect to your native land?


  1. wow - i've never been much of a fan of butter tarts for some weird reason (i love pecan pie, pastry, and everything involved..who knows!) - this looks so good! i think i like the square form more than the tart form!

    strawberry shortcake, to me, seems like a pretty Canadian (if not truly Islander) dessert, but who knows!

  2. I've never put butter tarts and pecan pie together in my mind because the butter tarts I've always had have raisins, not nuts in them...

    Since I'm in Quebec- I'll say sugar pie as a Canadian classic...


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