As part of my Christmas baking I made butter tarts. My tarts are vegan, so they contained no butter, but if I do say so, they were fantastic. Again, I was using my mother's recipe, but I omitted the butter and the eggs.
Butter tarts are a uniquely Canadian pastry - this is something that I did not know until recently. It is also something that I find a bit surprising, considering that Americans have pecan pie, which to me always seemed like a gigantic butter tart.
I was reading an article in a Toronto newspaper this summer that mentioned that bus tour companies have started offering butter tart tours though small towns in Ontario, each town claiming to have the best butter tarts in the province. Contests have been held to determine the best butter tarts in the province. Some people like their butter tarts to be runny, some like raisins but no nuts in their tarts, some like nuts but no raisins, some prefer tarts with neither raisins nor nuts. My tarts are not runny, and they have both raisins and nuts in them. They are excellent tarts.
You will need about 24 tart shells. You can make the pastry yourself and then roll it, cut it and put it in a tart tin (like a muffin tin, only shallower), or you can buy pre-made tart shells and use them. There are many vegan brands of tart shells available in supermarkets today, and most of them are quite good. I used a house brand from my local Loblaws store.
Start by pre-heating your oven to 400 degrees. Prepare your tart shells by separating them, and placing them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. The parchment paper will protect your cookie sheet from spills when you are filling the tart shells, and from boil-overs when the tarts are in the oven.
Place a half a teaspoon of chopped walnuts or pecans in each tart shell. Follow that with a half a teaspoon of raisins in each tart shell.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of packed brown sugar,
1/2 cup of melted Earth Balance margarine,
1/2 cup of corn syrup or Lyle's golden syrup (I use Lyle's golden syrup, which is not made with corn),
1 teaspoon of vanilla,
and one tablespoon of white vinegar.
Add the equivalent of two egg's worth of vegan egg replacer. I used Ener-G egg replacer.
Stir the ingredients until they are well mixed. In the traditional butter tart recipe, eggs are used to bind and thicken the mixture, so that after cooking, the tart contents hold together. I could detect no difference between these tarts and the kind my mother used to make with eggs and butter.
Spoon the mixture into each tart shell - you will need slightly more than a tablespoon in each tart shell. If you put too much of the mixture in each shell, the mixture will spill over in the oven and this makes the tarts next to impossible to get out of the tart shells in one piece.
Place the tarts on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Check your tart shells for doneness at about the eight or nine minute mark. The filling will be bubbling and hot when you take the tarts out of the oven, but will settle down once the tarts cool.