The butter tart is quintessentially Canadian—so much so that across the country you can find festivals, competitions, and tours dedicated to the sugary treat. The criteria for a perfect specimen are as varied as Canadians are. Should the filling run when you bite into the tart? Should the pastry be made with butter or lard? Pecans or raisins? The debates rage on.
Personally, I look for a flaky all-butter pastry with a filling just on the firmer side of gooey. Raisins are an absolute no from me, and while I can tolerate pecans, I prefer my butter tarts to be unadulterated.
What follows is a recipe for small-batch butter tarts. These sugar-packed pastries are divine, but best enjoyed rarely and in small doses. I’ve been on a quest to perfect a “single-serve” butter tart recipe for quite some time; no one with as little self-control as I have needs to be pulling a dozen of the things out of the oven at home. The challenges in mixing up one single butter tart are prohibitive, and so I landed on this pair of ramekin-sized beauties. This recipe tends toward a firmer middle depending on how large your egg is, and has a slightly custardy flavour that is heavenly with the hint of maple syrup.
Ramekin Butter Tarts
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 tbsp cold butter
- 1-2 tbsp cold water
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- ¼ tsp vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a small mixing bowl, work the butter into the flour with your finger tips until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Using a butter knife, stir in the water, a little bit at a time just until the pastry starts to come together.
- Spray two ramekins with cooking spray. Divide the dough into 2 and form roughly into a ball. Roll out each ball into a circle roughly 10-12 cm across. Gently press the pastry into your ramekins, being careful not to puncture any holes. (If the filling leaks, they will be very difficult to remove from the ramekins.)
- Beat 1 egg, then beat in the brown sugar and maple syrup. Add melted butter, vanilla, and salt, and stir to combine.
- Pour the filling into the prepared tart cases and place on a baking tray.
- Bake until the pastry is golden at the edges and the middle of the filling has a slight wobble, approximately 18 minutes for a runnier filling and up to 22 minutes if you like a firmer filling.
- Set ramekins on a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before attempting to remove the tarts. You may have to run a knife around between the pastry and the ramekin to loosen the tart.
Makes 2 large butter tarts. Best enjoyed with a strong cup of coffee.