Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Butter Tarts, Comfort and More

Dee's Butter Tarts

We are cocooned in our home, wrapped in shawls and sipping hot tea as the winds blow outside and temperatures drop to -25C tonight. There is no doubt that cold weather brings on cravings for comfort foods. My daughter had an upsetting time at work a while ago and we had tea and muffins as she told me about the events of the day. She suddenly stopped and asked, "Why do I feel better when I eat?"

A good question indeed. From the day we were born, someone stuffed something in our mouths when we cried or were in emotional distress. We may not have always wanted food, but it was usually the first thing used to try and calm us down. There are other good biological reasons that explain why food provides comfort, but that discussion is not the purpose of this post.

Butter tarts are one of relatively few genuine Canadian recipes. A properly made tart consists of homemade pastry filled with a gooey, sweet filling made with butter, sugar, eggs and optional raisins, nuts, chocolate chips or other added ingredients. Wellington North is a township adjacent our region. They have published a Butter Tart Trail Map and Birding Map. While you are out birding, you can stop at featured local eateries to sample homemade butter tarts.

One locally famous vendor is Dee of Dee's Bakery and General Store. She located in the middle of nowhere but makes an average of 1000 tarts a day and has sold over 1,000,000 tarts since 1997. She states she has never eaten one as she does not like sweets. She does love animals and a couple of times a year donates a day's earnings to the Cambridge Humane Society. I have passed her store many times when I take the back roads to Hamilton. Last week I decided to stop in and purchase a dozen of some of her 12 featured varieties. Her tarts are large, cost $1.50 each, and are worth every penny. She has perfected the balance of flaky crust to soft filling, even though they are very, very sweet. The mother of one of my friends was a very brittle diabetic and butter tarts were her remedy of choice when her blood sugars dipped to dangerously low levels. They brought her sugars up quickly even though the doctor would have preferred she have cheese and crackers. She was very thin and followed her diabetic diet well otherwise.

Hopefully we will not take this sign literally!

I must say that my eldest daughter makes the best butter tarts I have tasted. She uses a mini muffin tin for bite sized morsels and has the patience to roll the pastry into small rounds and fill the tiny tins. I have posted her recipe in my Come Home For Supper blog here.

We still have six of Dee's tarts in the freezer and will break them out when we really need something sweet and comforting in this cold weather. Perhaps an hour of snow shovelling would be a good activity to start with before our indulgence.


  1. Oh my, it has been a while since I had a butter tart. At our farmer's market in the summer, a man has a booth: My Wife Makes the Best Butter Tarts ... and they ARE pretty good ... not so sweet as some. I don't make them any more. Since we've cut back on sugar, some things are just TOO sweet.

  2. Ruth,

    Butter tarts are delicious, especially if they're homemade. I'm not keen on the ones bought in grocery stores and of course can't eat butter tarts anymore because of my diabetes. I remember Grandma's butter tarts. They were flaky and oh, so delicious. Things seemed so much better when they were cooked in a woodstove.

    Enjoyed your post and am going now to read about the deep freeze in your previous post.


  3. Ruth, I'm new to your site... it's a lovely blog you have, and your photos are gorgeous.

    I'm curious about some of the settings you're using in your photos, if you would be so kind. In your Jan 9 post, the first pic of the pine cone (at least that's what it looks like to this Texas gal), what kind of settings are you using on your digital camera? It's a beautiful shot.

    Would love to know, if you have time or inclination.

    Regarding this post about comfort food..... I've never had a butter tart, but they sound divine.

  4. At the wedding this summer, the girls had butter tarts instead of the traditional cake.

  5. I've never had a butter tart, but they sound like one of those things you have to just bite into, hold in your mouth with your eyes closed and let the explosion fill your! Indeed, our need for food as comfort and balm is topic for another post all together. :c)

  6. Anonymous7:37 am GMT-5

    YUMMO - butter tarts! I feel sorry for Jayne and Dayle Shockley who have never sunk their teeth into one. It's a treat you must try.

    I have seen and heard of Dee's Bakery and the wonderful tarts she makes. I have YET to stop in and give it a try. The picture looks yummy enough to eat. I'm not a big "sweet" person, but I do like a homemade tart. Hope you find an excuse SOON to pull the last of the tarts out of the freezer - lol

  7. Your post reminded me of a college memory. One of my friends coined the idea of 'happy food' which for her was always pound cake and vanilla ice cream. It helped almost anything!

  8. OK, Ruth, you had me with butter. . .one of my food weaknesses.
    Anything made with butter tastes better (Julia Child was right).
    The tarts sound delicious--and, of course, we feel better when eating, especially comfort food.

  9. Sound wonderful while you're safe inside from the storm. Good company, a cup of tea, and butter tarts.

  10. This is so funny, I was craving these the other day but couldn't for the life of me remember where I had them and what they were called. Now I remember, my grandma made them for me when I was little. I'll look forward to the recipe.

    I realized awhile ago I eat when I am bored. When I am stressed I tend not to eat because I get queasy, but the moment I am out of things to do... I think recognizing the trigger is the most important step though, then you can learn to avoid it.

  11. All those Buttertarts need is a good cup of coffe and a fiend to share them with.When will the coffee be ready? LOL

  12. Ummmm - butter tarts! I love eating these sweet, delicious gems in the winter. They're my hubby's favourite.
    I have a good recipe that uses raisins along with the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. But, I cheat - I buy the frozen tartlet shells.

    Don't think you have to shovel snow to enjoy these. Comfort food can be enjoyed anytime.
    Chocolate is what I reach for when I'm feeling blue.
    Stay warm!

  13. Oh YUM!!! I love buttertarts.

    Stay warm!

  14. HA, your post is making my mouth water. I am a true emotional eater and love my comfort foods. This time of the year is the worst for me because I crave things that have both a lot of fat and a lot of sugar.

  15. CS- I agree that they are too sweet, especially in a large size. They have to be taken with coffee or tea.

    Mary- The crust has to be flaky and that is where many commercial tarts go wrong.

    Dayle- Thanks for visiting.

    AC- That was a great idea! I like butter tarts better than wedding cake too.

    Jayne- Best not start with your first bite, Jayne...

    Cheryl- If you drive by Dee's it is worth a stop, even though they are pricey. The maple walnut one was the only variety we tried that was painfully sweet. The raisin and plain ones were my favourites. But then vanilla ice cream is my favourite too.

    Mare- mmmm...pound cake... I have always wanted to try a traditional recipe with a pound each of butter, sugar, flour and eggs.

    KGMom- Yes, the flavour of butter cannot be beaten. I never buy margarine.

    NCMW- We are not really having storms...just bitterly cold, arctic air. It was -25C this morning.

    Jaspenelle- Beth just gave me the recipe but I think you wrote wisely in your blog when you said exercise was better for the winter blues than sweets.

    Ruth- I seldom drink coffee, but agree the taste is a better balance with the tarts than tea.

    Wendy- You make me want to have another one, lol!

    Sara- Spoken like a true Canadian.

    Kim- Women do tend to be emotional eaters, likely because we are in the kitchen so much. It is true that a salad is not as appealing in cold weather.

  16. OH MY ...birding and tart trail...what a delight...cant wait till our wheels make it to your part of the country!

  17. I never had a butter tart until I went to Tim Horton's when I lived in Maine. It was instant love and how I miss them! When I was there last summer I went into Tim Horton's (in the US)and wanted to get some with my favorite Cafe Mocha but was so disappointed when they did not have them. I will have to come to Canada and follow that Birding and Butter tart trail! Yum! Now my mouth is watering!

  18. Dawn- don't visit now...

    Kathie- Nice to meet an American who appreciates Tim Hortons, a true Canadian icon. I have never had a butter tart there though.


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