My Grandma’s Butter Tarts (for 40 New Canadians)

I’ve been a bit of a total blubbering mess today. I was a wreck from the time the alarm went off at 6 (to make empanadas, dontcha know), having been up well after midnight watching Naheed Nenshi (whom I went to Junior High school with) win the mayoral race. Sniff.

Later in the morning I got to give him a big jumping-up-and-down hug – and then feed him a thick slice of cherpumple for breakfast, which I figured he’d need to power himself through today, but in fact more likely may have caused him to crash and burn before lunchtime. (Why was I in the position to feed Naheed pie-cake before 8 am? Because Tuesday mornings I’m on CBC radio, and today he was in the studio – after only 2 hours’ sleep – astoundingly coherent, unlike myself.)

But wait, it gets better. A couple hours later I got to bring afterparty treats for the citizenship ceremony at the CBC building, which welcomed 40 new Canadians of all ages from 16 different countries. There were mounties and families and kids dressed up with shiny patent shoes waving Canadian flags, but the bagpipes undid me. I think I was the cryingest person in the room.

So – what to make for such an occasion? I decided on maple walnut white chocolate chunk cookies, date squares, Nanaimo bars, maple syrup tarts and my Grandma’s butter tarts – you can’t get much more Canadian than that, can you?

Grandma Woodall’s Butter Tarts


October 19, 2010

  • Makes: Makes about 18 butter tarts.


1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup Roger's Golden syrup, corn syrup or maple syrup

1 egg

"dump in a lump of butter"

1 tsp. vanilla

a handful of currants, raisins, and/or chopped pecans (she always used currants)


1Preheat oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out 1/4" thick. Cut out circles using a 4" cookie cutter or empty can, and press into ungreased muffin cups.

2In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar, syrup, egg, butter and vanilla. Stir in the currants and pecans, if you're using them. Fill the tart shells about 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes, until bubbly and golden. Take them out of the pan using a thin knife to coax them out while they are still warm, otherwise any goo that has bubbled over will stick to the pan as it cools. If it does, pop them back in the oven for a minute to soften it again. Cool on a wire rack.


Grandma Woodall’s “Never-fail” Pastry


October 19, 2010

This will give you enough pastry to line a 9” pie plate; double it to make enough for two pies or a double crust. Some pie bakers swear by a teaspoon of vinegar added to their water to discourage the formation of gluten and make a tender crust, but it’s not necessary. Using all shortening instead of a combination of shortening and butter is OK too.


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces

1/4 cup shortening, chilled and cut into pieces

2-4 Tbsp. ice-cold water

1 tsp. vinegar (optional, stir it into the water)


1In a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and shortening and use a fork, pastry blender, wire whisk or the “pulse” motion of the food processor to blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal, with lumps of fat no bigger than a pea.

2Drizzle the minimum amount of water over the mixture and stir until the dough comes together, adding a little more a bit at a time if you need it. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disc, wrap it in plastic and chill it for at least half an hour. If you are making a double crust pie, divide the dough in half, making one half slightly larger than the other.

3 (Your pastry can be prepared up to this point and frozen for up to 4 months; let it thaw on the countertop when you need it.


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28 comments on “My Grandma’s Butter Tarts (for 40 New Canadians)

  1. Merry120
    October 19, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    That is so awesome that you took treats for the new Canadians. You never know…you might get to bring treats to my ceremony one day.

    I was so happy that Naheed Nenshi won. I can’t vote but I tried to influence anyone I knew that could. I watched the returns last night with way more interest than I ever thought possible.

  2. Manon from Ontario
    October 20, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Thank you so much for sharing the pastry and the recipe for butter tarts….hmmmm love butter tarts :p

    In your maple syrup tarts, can I replace the brown sugar by maple sugar…I ask since maple sugar is very moist, and I’m wondering if this will affect the recipe?

    I will be trying these out for Xmas for sure!

    By the way, you candy apples (recipe) were a hit at our open house on the weekend…I had 55 and at the end of the weekend I only had 10 left 🙂

  3. JulieVR
    October 20, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Manon – maple sugar should work just fine! I have some, but it’s dry and powdery – should it be moist, like brown sugar?

  4. Theresa
    October 20, 2010 at 7:26 am

    you just make my day with your descriptions of events. 😀

  5. Fiona
    October 20, 2010 at 7:46 am

    I love that you gave Naheed Nenshi cherpumple to kick off his stint at mayor. Maybe it’ll make up for the fact that this particular supporter didn’t get to cast a vote in his favour – apparently if you become housebound the weekend before election day, that’s too late for them to come help you cast a ballot. Boo.

  6. Lana in South Mountain (ON)
    October 20, 2010 at 8:30 am

    I LOVE that you brought treats to new Canadians. I would love to be at one of those ceremonies. And I would be bawling the whole time, too.

  7. Anita
    October 20, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I love knowing that you fed Naheed some cherpumple, along with a big hug. Yay Calgary!

  8. Colleen
    October 20, 2010 at 9:54 am

    When my aunt died, the recipe for her absolutely wonderful butter tarts went with her. I think they had honey in them. I am so sorry I never learned how to make them – I’ll give these a try. Thanks Julie.

  9. Jan @ Family Bites
    October 20, 2010 at 10:33 am

    What a wonderful day you had! My kids go bananas for butter tarts and we never make them (the shame). I think we should give them a go this weekend. Thanks for sharing your Grandma’s recipe!

  10. Sharon
    October 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

    If you find lovely little tarts kind of time consuming and fiddly except for special occasions, like I do, I suggest look for recipes for butter tart squares. Maybe even here. They’re quick, one pan, and taste pretty much the same.

  11. JulieVR
    October 20, 2010 at 10:54 am

    I had pondered the square version, but figured this was as special an occasion as any! Although delicious, they just aren’t really butter tarts in square form. In this case, I wanted to make my grandma’s recipe for them.

  12. Sharon
    October 20, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I love that you made your grandmother’s. That’s what I like about your style: real, acknowledging the role of your foremothers and their kitchens.

    My Saskatchewan Co-op cookbook 1946 mentions the vinegar pastry, and has two recipes for butter tarts one using maple syrup.

    I’ve been to many citizenship courts. Everyone should go at least once even if they’re not serving butter tarts. You come out so proud to be Canadian. So filled with enthusiasm. All in all, it must have been a great day in Calgary yesterday.

  13. Damaris
    October 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    You had me at butter and then you had me again at tart.

    I want to make these now.

    Happy day to you!

  14. Cathy
    October 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Love butter tarts!!!
    Some news……I just got back from Homesense in Sunridge. They have a decent selection of Le Creuset pots!!! Different sizes and colours. Mine was $169.99 for a $325.00 one.
    Love a bargain too.

  15. Snarky Sister
    October 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I also bawled and my dad’s citizenship ceremony. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, but I know exactly how you feel. Something just comes over you!

    Naheed Nenshi, citizenship ceremonies, Oh Canada!!

    Thanks for the tart recipe – they look divine!

  16. Maggie Muggins
    October 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    I heard him speaking about the cherpumple on x929 that morning, that’s so cool that you were the one to make it. I’m so glad he won, I think Calgarians made the right choice.

  17. stacey snacks
    October 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    I always cry when I hear bagpipes! I have no idea why!

  18. Manon from Ontario
    October 20, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Julie, it depends, the batch I recently made of maple sugar is moist like brown sugar as we made it when it was humid out…but I have other batches that are dry and powdery…so all good 🙂

    You know I look forward in reading your blog every day, you are fun to read, thanks for sharing your time with us all, I know how time flies!


  19. Shobha
    October 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Is the recipe for the cookies on the website. They sound so yummy!

  20. Robyn
    October 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    julie how did you get the maple in your maple walnut white chocolate cookies? maple syrup or maple extract instead of vanilla extract?

  21. JulieVR
    October 21, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Robyn – a little bit of both. Unfortunately once baked, maple syrup doesn’t make for mapley-flavoured cookies! Maple extract adds more punch.
    Shobha – I haven’t added it yet – I think I will!

  22. Judy
    February 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Pass on my thanks to your grandma….I made my husband’s favorite dessert (butter tarts) for valentines day and it was a Big hit!!!
    They were beautiful and Just the right amount of soft and chewy!


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  27. Jo
    December 19, 2015 at 5:32 am

    Thanks so much for this recipe, my kids absolutely love them!

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