milk&honey cafe

Friday, October 29, 2010

Canada, eh?

butter tarts

I've been watching some funny videos on YouTube with this one comedian who goes around LA's Venice Beach asking them about different topics and issues. His topics range from Sex to Justin Bieber to political issues to different countries. His show is more to display how ignorant people can be and how entertaining it is to watch people say the most unintelligent things. Anyways, he had one episode on Canada. I mean, I've always known how ignorant some Americans can be about their neighbouring country, but I was again flabbergasted (yes, I used the word flabbergasted) at some of their answers. I passed it just as an entertaining video, but then I started to realize how sad it really is. With the new generation of globalization and information at our fingertips, we're still just as clueless about the world around us. If you asked me about any other nation, I'd probably look just as foolish.

butter tarts

So in light of that, I thought I'd just tell you a little bit about my country, Canada. And if you're Canadian, it doesn't mean you're off the hook too. I'm in a grade 7 geography class to volunteer, and trust me, I'm always thinking in my mind, "Wow. I had no clue!".

In another video I saw a long time ago, an interviewer ask an American man how large he thought Canada was. He lightly answered, "Mmm, maybe the size of Texas?". Not quite. Directly north of USA, Canada is the world's second largest country. By total area (including water), we are actually larger than USA and China combined!

butter tarts

The geography of Canada is vast and diverse. Some of you might think we're all just snow and ice caps, but contrary to that, most of Canada has four beautiful distinct seasons. Places like British Columbia have warm enough weather all year round to have palm trees! The geography ranges from prairies to mighty mountains, islands to snow covered forests. We have an abundance of natural resources like minerals, fossil fuels, trees and we also hold nearly 1/4 of the earth's fresh water!

butter tarts

But Canada's geography isn't the only impressive thing. Canada boasts its diversity and culture, and how it doesn't have to become a melting pot of a nation. We celebrate and embrace our diverse backgrounds and identities. We think "Harmonize" more than "Indoctrinate". Economically, Canada is becoming more and more of a leader and an example for the rest of the world. Socially, Canada is known for its great health care, welfare policies and education. We're recognized in the world as peacekeepers and I hear Canadians are liked by everyone. Ha!

butter tarts

More than anything, though, I like Canada because it's a humble country. I think that's why even with the wealth of resources and cultures we have, we're still relatively peaceful and stable. I'm proud to be, in a non-prideful way, Canadian! :)

So, can I introduce you to a delicious, strictly Canadian concoction? It's called the butter tart. It's somewhat similar to the pecan tart down South, and may be mistaken for England's butter pie, but this bite-sized treat is originated from Canada. It's one of the earliest known Canadian recipes from northern Ontario and dates back to 1915! There are many variants to the recipe, ranging from different kinds of pastry shells, and different toppings and flavours. But the general idea is a flaky crumbly pastry filled with buttery sweet and soft inside.

butter tarts

Every Canadian has their own favourite butter tart. And I'm a purist when it comes to butter tarts. I don't like nuts or raisins in mine, let alone chocolate pastry or peanut butter flavouring. The shell should be stiff enough to hold its shape, but flaky and crumbly enough to yield when bitten into. The filling should balance ooziness and firmness in perfect harmony, and be just sweet enough to be delightful and memorable.

butter tarts

I found this recipe a long time from the Toronto Star. It was an article about how this middle school grade 7 class decided to find the perfect butter tart. It was a cute and interesting story and it also gave you the two top recipes it ended up picking. I thought it would be a great recipe to try out, as it is a true "Test Kitchen" recipe. :)

Without a doubt in my mind, I think the filling for this tart is perfect. It's justly sweet and buttery, and has such a great amount of "runniness" and shape. My only dissatisfaction is the pastry. It's really flaky, which is great for a sweet pie dough, but it doesn't feel right for a butter tart. I think a shortbread type dough would be more suitable for this kind of tart. It must be the egg in the recipe that makes it this way. I think next time I'll find a crumbly dough for these tarts, but for sure for sure keep the filling just as is!

butter tarts

Well that was just a small glimpse of Canada and a small sweet taste of the great country too. As a leaving note, I'm just going to tell you a few tid bit facts that you might have not known about Canada. And please enjoy the recipe too!

-Canada has two official languages: French & English
-Basketball was invented in Canada in 1891, as well as the baseball glove in 1883. (What else you ask? Insulin, the lightbulb, the zipper, the ear piercer, computer programming language JAVA, lacrosse, the game Pictionary, acrylics – like plexiglass, gingerale, newsprint paper, paint roller, rollerskates, snowmobile and the snowblower (rightly so), washing machine, the electric wheelchair, Yachtzee! and a whole lot of other things!)
-Some famous Canadian celebrities: Jim Carrey, Sandra Oh, Rachel McAdams, Ryan Reynolds, Kim Cattrall, Ellen Page, Keanu Reeves, Steve Nash, William Shatner, Pamela Anderson and yes, Justin Bieber.
-Toronto's famous theatre district is second in size only, to New York city, in North America.
-There's chip flavour called Ketchup Chips. When I first came here, I thought it sounded gross, but to think of it, it made perfect sense! It's SO delicious and probably one of the most popular chip flavours here.
-Canadians are in love with Hockey and will always be in the fabric of this country.

butter tarts

Canadian Butter Tart

adapted from Toronto Star
makes 16 regular tarts


3 cups cake & pastry flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut in pieces
2 tbsp cocoa powder
5 to 6 tbsp ice water
2 tsp white vinegar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup each: granulated sugar, packed brown sugar
1 cup table syrup with 15% maple syrup (I actually used 1/2 cup real maple syrup and 1/2 cup of plain table syrup)
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs


1. For pastry, stir together flour, sugar and salt in medium bowl. Blend in butter using pastry blender or large fork until pieces are the size of small peas.
2. In large measuring cup, whisk together 1/4 cup water, vinegar and eggs. Add to flour mixture. Blend mixture with fork, adding remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons water as needed to just moisten.
3. Finish blending mixture with fingers as you gather it into two balls. Press into disks. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate disks 30 to 60 minutes. Lightly grease 16 cups in muffin tins. You can also use mini muffin tins for smaller tarts.
4. On floured surface, press and pat or roll each piece into 4-inch circle. Put circles in muffin cups, ruffling edges to fit. Refrigerate while you make filling.
5. For filling, blend butter and sugars with wooden spoon. Blend in syrup, vanilla and salt. Blend in eggs. (Small lumps of butter will remain.)
6. Ladle filling into pastry shells, putting 2 to 3 tablespoons in each to fill about three-quarters.
7. Bake in preheated 375F oven until pastry is golden and filling is browned and puffy, about 30 minutes. Let sit on rack until cool before removing from muffin tins. Keep in covered container.


  1. hey sarah, i thoroughly enjoyed this entry as i sit in my office on this gloomy saturday morning.

    will there be any of these scrumptious tarts left when we visit later? sorry, i luuuuv tarts =)

  2. LOVED LOVED LOVED this post :) When I moved south it amazed me how much Americans took Canada for granted not knowing too much. Butter tarts- oh how I love them!!! :)

  3. i just wikipedia'd it and.. is from California, not Canada!

  4. adorable! I like the fact that ti has no nuts or anything..pure and simple...lovely recipe and story! thanks!


  5. @Kevin G.: Brother, it is waiting for you riiiiiight in the kitchen. :)

    @INGRID: You're right!! That's so bizarre. I was doing some research when I wrote this and it was named as one of Canadian's celebrities. Hmm. Wrong information. Sorry about that!

    @Jennifer & @Amalia: I'm glad you like it! These butter tarts are proud Canadians.

  6. mmm, i miss butter tarts (and canada!), i'm going to make these for all my English friends...

  7. Little tarts like these are perfect! I made buttery pecan tarts a few weeks ago but the maple syrup in these makes me want to make them so badly!

  8. KassemG I"m guessing hahah I came upon this and your blog is amazing! I'm going to have to try this someday, thanks : )

  9. HI Sarah,
    I dicovered your blog when i googled "green tean pound cake" and found a recipe you tried in 2009. I'm looking forward to trying that recipe.

    I decided to read some of your more recent posts and discovred the butter tarts. I made some over the holidays. I use corn syrup and raisins in my filling. I'm also still looking for the perfect crust for it. Sometimes i get lazy and use tenderflake cups.

    Anyway, keep up the great work!


  10. Hi, I am not Canadian, but my husband is and he was talking about these butter tarts the other day. I figured I would make them for him since we are in the States now and he hasn't had them in years! When you say table syrup, do you mean maple syrup that is not 100% pure maple syrup, or do you mean something like corn syrup (which I have seen in a lot of other butter tart recipes)?

    1. Hiya Chelsea,

      The table syrup is just sugary syrup you see on the grocery store aisles. Like the Aunt Jemima version? Here is a photo of a generic table syrup (

      Maple syrup is made out of real maple and it has a pretty strong taste, so I like to add sweetness without all that maple flavor with a generic sugary syrup.

      Hope taht helps!

    2. Thanks that does help!! I wasn't sure because so many butter tart recipes call for corn syrup, so I wasn't 100% sure! Can these also be easily adapted to add in some raisins?