The butter tart is not just any dessert. Within its fragile pastry shell, it holds a country’s memories of long weekends, country bakeries, recipes handed down through generations, and an eternal debate over raisins.
Here’s the family butter tart recipe from my mother, the food writer and author of many cookbooks Lucy Waverman. It’s as classic as it gets.
Perfect Flaky Pastry
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
¾ cup butter, diced
¼ cup shortening, diced
½ cup very cold water
1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
1.In a large bowl, sift together flour and salt. Cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.
2. Combine water and vinegar in another bowl. Sprinkle liquid over flour mixture. With your fingers, work in liquid and gather dough into a ball and divide into two equal pieces. Wrap in plastic, and let chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Lightly flour work surface and roll out dough to ¼-inch thick. Use 4-inch rounds to cut, re-rolling bits to use all dough.
Butter Tart Filling
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup corn syrup
½ cup raisins (optional, obviously)
1. Cream together butter, brown sugar, and salt with a whisk or a wooden spoon. Stir in vinegar, vanilla, eggs, and corn syrup just until combined. Don’t over mix. Let chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Fit pastry rounds into tart tins or muffin cups. It’s okay to have a slight overhang, or fold back in a little bit of pastry.
3. Place 1 tsp raisins (if using) in each shell.
4. Stir filling mixture. Spoon filling into shells until about three-quarters full.
5. Bake tarts for 25–30 minutes or until filling is set. Cool slightly in pan on a rack. Remove while still warm. Tarts will take about 2 hours to firm up.
6. Loosen tarts with a small, sharp knife and ease carefully out of pan. Eat any broken ones.
Tips for butter tart success
- You can make the pastry by hand or in a food processor.
- Make sure you don’t over mix and create a frothy filling; the bubbles will create uneven texture.
- If you want a runny centre, the filling needs some white vinegar or lemon juice, but no more than a tablespoon. You can also try apple cider vinegar.
- Corn syrup gives a sweet taste and firmer texture, but feel free to try different ratios of corn syrup and maple syrup. Adding in maple syrup will give a more distinctive maple taste and make the filling a bit runnier.
- Soak the raisins (if using) in hot water or even whisky or bourbon to plump them up.
- Don’t worry about the filling looking goopy around the edges of the tart. (Some people love when the filling caramelizes on the pastry.)
- Bake tarts in a silicone baking tray that has a wired rim. Even the tarts that ooze over the top during baking will come out every time.
- Use a thin paring knife to remove tarts from the tin while they are still warm, no more than 30 minutes after they come out of the oven. If you wait too long, the tarts won’t come out of the tin without breaking.
This recipe was originally published in the May ’20 issue of Cottage Life.