Topline Trends Tuesday: The upward spiral of the butter tart

Buttertart guyRegular readers of this blog will know that since last summer, I’ve been on a quest to unlock the secrets of the perfect butter tart. It’s been a winding road.

After presenting my preferred recipe for butter tarts I heard mostly accolades but a rebuff, too. One enraged woman recently wrote me an email claiming that my butter tarts were the very worst she had ever tried. Needless to say, she and I are not destined to be friends.

While butter tarts have always been a Canadian favourite, I’ve noticed them being debated and discussed more often during the last few months. Was it the proximity of Canada Day on the calendar that led food sleuth Marion Kane and CBC personality Jian Ghomeshi to discuss butter tart origins and lore on June 29th?  Regardless, their informative chat  can be enjoyed as a podcast.

Likewise, a new Toronto-based blog called Beer & Butter Tarts recently launched. Although it’s a bit shy on butter tart news so far, I’m holding out hope for full-on butter tart coverage on their cyber pages.

Another result of devoting so much time to the discussion of butter tarts is that many people have reached out to share their butter tart love with me. One of these people is Jules Kay, a retired mathematics teacher and the owner of Aftermath Pies. He visited our test kitchen a couple of weeks ago and brought us his very delicious butter tarts. Unlike my tarts, which have a very rich, flaky, lard-based crust, Jules’ perfectly gooey tarts have a firmer, compact crust that features vegetable shortening.

Jules was kind enough to share his pastry recipe with me so you can try it if you prefer a leaner, less fragile crust.

Jules “The Pieman”‘s Original Dough Recipe

Ingredients – flour, salt, sugar, shortening, vinegar, and water.
Utensils – large mixing bowl, measuring cups for dry and liquid ingredients, measuring spoons, fork, plastic wrap, and a pastry blender (ONLY FOR THE UNADVENTUROUS).

Ingredients
Flour – white, all purpose – 5 1/2 cups
Salt – 1 teaspoon
White Sugar – 1 tablespoon
Shortening – 1 package (454 grams)
Vinegar (plus water) – 1 tablespoon
Cold Tap Water 1 1/3 cups when added to vinegar

• In a large mixing bowl, blend flour, salt, and sugar.
• In a measuring cup, add the vinegar and enough water to make 1 1/3 cups of liquid.
Cut the shortening into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles small peas. For those afraid to get dirty hands, use a pastry blender.
Make a well in the centre of the flour/shortening and add all the water.
Stir (DO NOT MASH) with a fork until the flour has absorbed all the water and the ball of dough sticks together.
• If the dough is still crumbly, keep stirring with the fork.
Gather up the dough in a ball and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, do not add more flour. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight. You will discover that the amount of water needed varies depending on the temperature and the humidity.
• Your dough is now ready for great tasting pies and tarts. If you intend to use the large (3-pound) tub then multiply the above quantities by 3. You might need a larger bowl.

16 Responses to Topline Trends Tuesday: The upward spiral of the butter tart

  1. Your butter tarts are the worst?! Them’s fightin’ words!

    I’ve learned that what constitutes the perfect butter tart is a very, very personal choice. If you grow up eating them you will gravitate towards the kind your family ate. My preference is for a non-runny, corn-syrup-free tart with a crust that shatters when you bite into it. Love them with walnuts, no raisins. Andrew wants raisins.

    Because I am horrid at making pastry, I make a no-fail crust that calls for an egg and vinegar. I like the sounds of this version and might work up the nerve to try it. When I do, I’ll fill it with my mom’s butter tart recipe since, to me, it’s the ultimate butter tart. Wonder if your “friend” would agree?

  2. Sue says:

    Jules makes the worlds BEST buttertarts hands down!

  3. Jeanne says:

    Wow……Sounds delicious…….1 1/3 cup water……sounds a bit high……guess that is what makes the crust firmer than mine..Good to know!
    I’ll give it a try

    • Jules the Pieman says:

      Let me know how your pastry turns out. Hopefully you will not be disappointed. I have developed many dough recipes. This one has not let me down.

  4. Sharon Haslam says:

    Dana, we must have gone to the same school (oh, that’s right we did!) cause I prefer a lard based crust as well..nothing is flakier! As well I like raisins in mine–never nuts-the chewiness of the raisins goes well with the chewiness of the corn syrupy gooey goodness that never runs out of the tart. I like mine somewhere between runny and semi-firm. I think any place that calls itself a ‘coffee shop’ still sells butter tarts! BTW…Happy Birthday!

  5. Diva says:

    Happy, happy birthday, dear Dana! May your day be filled with sweetness and light … and maybe even a few butter tarts to boot! 🙂

  6. danamccauley says:

    Charmian, if you can make a pastry swan, you can make tart pastry! Do it!

    Sharon, there’s a reason we bonded in highschool! I’m a currant fan. I find raisins bet a bit too big when they swell up in the tart but I’ll eat them if currants aren’t available.

  7. MEL says:

    I HAVE TRIED ALL KINDS OF BUTTER TARTS AND JULES TARTS ARE THE BEST YET. NO ONE COMES CLOSE TO HIS.

  8. Leslie says:

    Best butter tarts ever! i’ve been a customer for years and i wouldn’t try any other kind! good job Jules!

  9. Jules the Pieman says:

    Leslie you and your family have been customers for years. Thank you for all your support.

  10. Sharon says:

    I thought I made great tarts till I tried the Pieman’s, his tart blew mine away.

    I have never had a butter tart to this day that outranked the PIEMANS

    I rate it a **********

    Sharon

  11. Magnificent website. Plenty of helpful information here. I am sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks on your sweat!

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