Last winter I had a conversation with Lindy Jurado and Lissa Fraser Kerr, two television producer friends, about what qualities define the best buttertarts. Our chat was long and impassioned and made me realize that a perfect buttertart recipe would be a wonderful thing to author.
(For my non-Canadian readers who are feeling confused right now, butter tarts are a quintessential single serve Canadian pastry. They feature a gooey, sweet, rich filling cradled in flaky pastry. Unlike pecan pie, they are never set with starch or another thickener.)
My own butter tarts have often been praised. I’ve used an adapted version of the butter tart filling recipe in the classic Five Roses Cookbook with the Tenderflake Lard Pastry recipe to make my tarts for over 20 years. There’s no doubt that these butter tarts are good but are they the best? I pondered.
When a review copy of Marty’s World Famous Cookbook (Whitecap 2008 ) arrived on my desk, an idea was born. Marty Curtis is, according to the press materials, the maker of the world’s best buttertarts and the recipe for his buttertart accomplishment is in this new book.
I cooked up a taste test featuring my tarts, Marty’s tarts and the famous tarts from a Newmarket café called the Maid’s Cottage. I assembled the test kitchen crew as well as my two TV friends and a group of lay tasters (actually my dad, my brother and their mates) to come to a blind taste test.
We were 12 tasters and each person filled out a form that divided his or her impression of the tarts into four categories:
1. Most appetizing appearance
2. Best crust
3. Best filling
4. Best overall
• Marty’s tarts were very rich with a filling that bubbled and boiled a lot in the oven (interestingly when I tried them later in a different pastry, the filling didn’t overflow and set much more satisfactorily).
• My tarts were set enough to be gooey but not runny and the pastry was pale golden.
• Maid’s Cottage tarts featured crimped, even textured pastry, a set, caramelized beach of filling and a very fluid, butterscotch textured lake in the middle.
Here’s a summary of the taste test results:
1. Most appetizing appearance: A 6:6 tie between my tarts and the Maid’s Cottage tarts.
2. Best Crust: Maid’s Cottage got 2 votes, I got 6.5 votes and Marty got 3.5 votes. (I’m dying to know who the wishy-washy voter was!).
3. Best Filling: a 6:6 tie between Marty and I (sorry Maid’s Cottage!).
4. Best Overall: I won with 7 votes, Marty was second with 4 votes and the Maid’s Cottage got 1 vote.
Although these results were gratifying, they revealed that there is still work to be done! In fact, more than one person mentioned that although all 3 tarts were good quality, ‘THE BEST TART EVER’ was not among the roster.
So, stay tuned. I’m going to head back into the kitchen in the coming weeks and, once I think I’ve got my tart tackled, I’ll be holding another taste test to evaluate the results.
Once I get approval from my tasters, I’ll post the quintessential buttertart recipe here for you to try at home.