The butter tart
The butter tart is a typical Canadian dessert which is very popular in the province of Ontario. Its origin is rather difficult to determine but it seems to come from the region around the borderline between England and Scotland. When they immigrated to Canada, the English and the Scottish brought their “border tart” to Ontario, where it became the famous “butter tart”. Over the years the Canadians adapted the recipe to the local tastes. Nevertheless, some stories state that the butter tart originated from the American pecan pie. The first reference to this speciality was found in the cookbook ‘The Women’s Auxiliary of The Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook’ published in 1900.
The butter tart initially spread among the lower class and especially among farmers, who had the basic ingredients at their disposal. Little by little it became a traditional familiar dessert made up of butter, sugar, syrup, and eggs filled into a flaky pastry . The most dominant flavours of this pie are butter and raisin. However, you can still vary the taste by adding peanuts, other dried fruit, pecans, walnuts, chocolate chips and other things . It can either be served at room temperature or chilled. The pastry is not only savoured as a dessert but also as a tea time snack.
France and Scotland also have their own “butter tart”, namely the “tarte à la frangipane” and the Ecclefechan butter tart. The former differs from the Canadian recipe only by its almond filling and the latter only by its absence of syrup.
Many Canadian people are now used to eating the butter tart as a dessert on Sundays. But it has not always been the case. Formerly, the parents who were looking for a suitable husband for their daughter used to invite the suitor for tea time and to welcome him with a home-made butter tart. Nowadays no particular occasion is needed to serve it. You can buy it in any good bakery as well as at the supermarket. In fact, it is now mass- produced. Yet, you can cook it yourself; as for the taste, there will just be no comparison!
No matter where it is prepared - at home or not - it is advised not to overindulge in the butter tart as it could be harmful for your health. Indeed, such a dessert is high in calories, fat and sugar. Needless to say, people suffering from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or who are obese and on a diet should not consume it. Industrial as well as home-made butter tarts are actually both considered as junk food. However, if you cook this tart yourself, you can reduce its calorific intake by avoiding sugar or replacing it by a natural or an artificial substitute, and consequently make it fit to eat by diabetic patients.
The butter tart is so popular in the province of Ontario that some food lovers have created a blog where people can recommend the places where the best butter tarts are served. Moreover, in order to honour Canadian products, they organize each first Saturday of August the “Food Day Canada”, during which a meal has to be prepared from Canadian ingredients only.
Coralie Dubois & Elodie Keffer