My mother's recipe for the classic Canadian dessert, Butter Tarts, here in easy-to-make bars. Rich, easy, delicious and perfect for dainty trays.
"... they were wonderful!" ~ Beverly
"Your mom's recipe looks a lot like one my gran made often for Christmas care packages." ~ Jacqueline
When my mother was young, every little café in Canada served butter tarts, buttery pastry filled with a caramel syrup and, some say "Yes!", some say "No way!" raisins.
Last summer, I pulled into Sprague, the Minnesota-Manitoba border stop that from the road appears more like a dusty gas station than a small town.
The Grey Goose still pulls through Sprague twice a week, not twice a day as it did during the years when Mom pinned a note to my coat to put me on the bus at one end and Nana fetched me at the other.
I knew to sit at the front far from the smelly restroom and smokers. I knew to beg my dad for a quarter for a Macintosh Toffee at the midway coffee stop. I knew to answer strangers politely and to spot one who looked like a mother if I needed help. I knew to stay alert for deer, bear and even timber wolf emerging from the woods along the gravel road.
So last summer, there at the Sprague café were butter tarts fresh from the oven, encased in glass, glistening in the light. I felt suddenly nostalgic for a time when $6 bought a bus ticket and a grown-up sense of freedom. I bought a tart to go and nibbled on it for 100 miles.
A week later, I found my mother’s recipe for butter tart bars and was transported back onto the bus crossing through the piney woods and sunflower fields of southern Manitoba, looking into the future, a mystery still unfurling.
TRADITIONAL BUTTER TARTS I'll say it again: Butter Tart Bars are "bars". They are not traditional butter tarts, the famous Canadian treats, the miniature pies tucked into a traditional pie crust pastry. To my mind, bars may be less traditional but they taste just as good and are easier to make. Frankly, they're just wonderful but yes, they are also (repeat after me ...) bars. Care to chime in this conversation? See the comments, below!
BUTTER TART BARS
Baking time: 30 minutes plus cooling
Makes 54 small squares
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted or unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons (22g) powdered sugar
- 1-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 190g
- 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) salted or unsalted butter
- 2 cups (400g) brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 cup (118g) toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped (how to toast nuts)
- 1 cup (114g) currants (or slightly chopped raisins)
Heat oven to 350F/180C. Optional but useful: line the bottom and long sides of a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. The parchment makes it easy to lift out the entire panful of bars for easier and neater cutting.
CRUST Melt butter in saucepan, then stir in powdered sugar and flour. The mixture will be crumbly, so with the flat of your hand, press firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake for 5 minutes.
TOPPING Melt butter in the same saucepan. Add brown sugar, stir til smooth and bubbly. In a separate large bowl, whisk eggs very well. Stir in butter-sugar (just a bit at a time until the two mixtures have the same temperature), then vanilla, pecans and currants. Gently and evenly arrange over crust.
BAKE Bake for 30 minutes, watching carefully near the end to avoid burning. Remove from oven and cool. Cover and refrigerate to chill thoroughly.
SLICE The bars slice best when cold. Lift the parchment out of the pan in one piece and place on a cutting board (see photo below). With a long knife, carefully cut the bars in small pieces, these are rich enough that you want the pieces to be as small as possible. From a 9x13, I cut 10 pieces one way, 7 the other.
STORE Butter tart bars should be refrigerated until ready to serve. They also freeze very well. If freezing, you may want to slice the whole panful into two or three or four large sections, wrap well and freeze. When ready to serve, thaw and then cut into bars.
How to Cut Butter Tart Bars
Three tricks here. Butter Tart Bars are easiest to cut if the pan is lined with parchment before baking; if the entire pan is chilled until very cold; if a long knife is used to cut the whole panful into small bars.
More Canadian Recipes
Bars Are So Easy, Aren't They?
Shop Your Pantry First
© Copyright 2006, 2007, 2010 & 2015 Kitchen Parade