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Butter Tarts in Canada

Butter Tarts Issues – Greeting cards and other things…

OK… So, we were visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery downtown. They were showing Cezanne on the first floor and it was great. Even though we aren’t very big fans of modern art, there were some interesting pieces/displays on the 2nd floor of modern Chinese art.


sketch of card

Anyway, we were in the gift shop and I was looking for possibly a post card of the MadeIn Company’s exercise stuff [about the middle of the page is a video with the exercise stuff; it’s really entertaining if you have ever seen a yoga exercise video] and they had some very tongue-in-cheek greeting cards making fun of various aspects of Canadian culture. One card was on butter tarts and basically said: Raisins or walnuts? Runny or firm? I thought this was so funny because there are some very similar heated debates in the US in such matters (e.g., light or dark syrup for a pecan pie, marshmallows or savory sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, but I digress.)

We had been in Vancouver for days but, unlike other trips where we’d visit several bakeries, we actually focused on chocolate (both solid and liquid) and Asian/Native People’s food. So, when I saw the card, I wanted to understand the butter tart debate.


sketch of butter tart

First, there are many sites that discuss the debates surrounding butter tarts. One organization ran a contest and the results outline the issues (see Canada site Better Butter Tarts). Here are two: The Brandon Sun website or ctv website . Runny versus firm refers to the texture of the finished product. They are runny when you take them out of the oven and the top is firm to touch but jiggles a little and, when you bite into them, the center is runny. The debate about raisins or walnuts is actually a little more complicated. Either the tart has no add-ins (plain) or it can have raisins or nuts (and some say both?!). One site said that the corn syrup in Canada is different from what is found here in the US and not golden syrup (as in England). Some people add maple syrup or replace the corn syrup with maple syrup – although others say that it must have corn syrup. It’s fascinating.

So, after studying many of these recipes, I came up with my combination version. My daughter said that it’s a little bit Canadian because I’m a little Canadian (since my mother was born there).ayl butter tart 2015

The Butter Tart (Adrienne’s version)

*The debate – firm versus runny. We’re going to try for more firm just because we like more firm but it seems like there’s a split and also that some people like the top firm with runniness underneath.

*The debate – nothing, raisins and/or nuts. We’re going to use nuts because we like them. We love pecans but it definitely seems like a “no-no”. If I like this recipe, I may end up adding them.

**Note: Some people say that the Canadian corn syrup is different from American. It’s more golden colored but it’s not golden syrup. So, I decided to do part maple syrup.

**Note 2: The original recipe probably did not have cream or milk. I am not including cream or milk in my version right now. I may add it later and will add the optional amount below.

*I’m using my own pate brise (regular pie crust dough). Some people have used a puff pastry like dough. Most people use their own favorite recipe (including one with cream cheese but I have a hard time believing cream cheese was in the original.)


1/3 C (2 .67 ou/75 g) butter
¼ C brown sugar
¼ C corn syrup
¼ C maple syrup (using grade B)
2 eggs
(2 T milk or cream optional)
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
½ C walnuts (toasted and roughly chopped)
your favorite pie dough recipe


  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Spray tart tin (or tins). Use a cookie sheet to avoid spilling.
  2. Roll pie dough until thin. Use a cookie cutter that is just slightly larger than the whole of your pie tart pan holes. Put dough into tart pans and lightly dock. Put into fridge for about 10 min.
  3. If you’re going to par-bake, cut pieces of parchment to line tart tins. Use a few pie weights in each whole. Par-bake. (You don’t have to do this part but I like my tart dough very baked.) Bake 10 min. Remove from oven. Remove pie weights and liners.
  4. Pour filling about 2/3 full or just below rim.   Reduce heat to 350°. Put back into the oven for 8-15 min. (Less if you want runny ones.) Cool.

**The family loved these butter tarts. I am likely to make them again – maybe mixing it up. For example, I could see using all maple syrup and no corn syrup, using pecans, or trying raisins and nuts. Quite fun when you’re not being too serious.


April 28, 2015 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

Catching up in April

Hi! OK… So, I’ve been busy but haven’t we all. It seems like as the years go by, it’s harder and harder to sit down to write on top of being in the kitchen. I have so many kitchen projects, that it’s just hard to leave that nice warm place.

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Anyway, every year we’ve been making gingerbread houses over the Xmas holidays. (I’ve posted some in the past.) At first we tried to have everything done before Christmas eve but as time has gone on, we’ve let things slide. It’s made it quite a bit more relaxed. I usually do final landscaping touches right before the gingerbread housebreaking part. This year I created the plans for my version of the San Diego mission. (We’ve done several missions over the last few years now.) I replaced the two large imposing walls that funnel people into the main church with a simple path (of cookie crumbs and chocolate rocks) and added a pond, as well. The innovation is the bell tower. It is 4 cookies placed together. In the middle, I added royal icing bars and hung little bells. The 3D effect was great; the little bells looked suspended inside those openings. I kept the side wall but didn’t do very much with it other than adding a set of doors. I made a fountain in the courtyard behind the church (because there is actually one there.)

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In 2014 we adoped a Berner pup. She’s sweet but sometimes a little obnoxious. I made a Berner cookie of her… Everyone from the extended family comes over to do decorating. It’s fun and messy. I’m including a picture of the space shuttle and little astronauts that was part of our new cookie cutters set this year.


February is busy due to all sorts of birthdays and this year’s entrance of the Year of the Sheep (or Goat). Belated, Gung Hay Fat Choy (Happy New Year). I didn’t do as much this year for the breakfast: dan go (steamed egg cake from mom’s recipe) and mixed fruit with almond jello. We did have a family dinner with my sister’s family but we basically chose recipes that we’ve made in the past (and traditional dishes).

IMG_1015My youngest niece loves Nutella. So, we actually celebrate National (or is it International) Nutella Day. I usually make my own Nutella and this bread had Nutella in the middle and nutella across the top.

Mardis Gras also makes an appearance in February. I love making King’s cake. Here’s this year’s version. We also make a wide variety of sweet and savory pancakes (for Shrove Tuesday). This year I made gumbo and rice so that we had a little protein to go along with all the sweet.


March was a special pi day. We had to use our pi plate that we received for Xmas. (Pie day is actually in January and, of course, we made pie then, too.) On 3-14-15 9:25:53 we cut the pie….and we had pizza pie for dinner.


Note that my sister and her family live down the street. So, for the most part, we also have big celebratory dinners that go along with the big days – like Chinese New Year, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, etc. Anyway, for breakfast on St. Patrick’s day, we had potato pancakes with thinly sliced smoked salmon. Yum!


Phew. Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time spring break came but at least we’re all caught up a bit… Hope you all had as much fun eating from January to April as we did.

April 15, 2015 at 5:08 pm Leave a comment

Hush Denver – Premiere of Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar

Hush Concepts Dinner January 22nd….

~For months I’d been receiving e-mails about events happening mostly in Denver, every so often, in different venues, with different chefs, etc.  I’ve wanted to go but have been busy for one reason or another.  (Click on Hush Denver for more info.)

~In Dec I received an e-mail about a preview of a new restaurant in Denver.  This sounded like a lot of fun and January was so far away that I couldn’t imagine being busy on that date.

~After a very hectic 3 weeks of the new year, we were ready for a night out.  The event was at the Spire building which is right across the street from the arts complex and convention center (where the big blue bear is looking in).  There’s still a lot of construction and the restaurant isn’t technically done.

~We checked in and headed to the 9th floor lounge.  Spire is like many of the new city buildings: mixed use with retail on the bottom and living on the upper levels.  This is very high end.  There’s a general lounge on the 9th floor with a staircase to a lounge on the next floor up.  (The upper floor had seating areas, a movie room with popcorn machine, a long table that could be used for meetings or catered events, and 2 Macs.  The 9th floor was a huge lounge with a balcony that had a long swimming pool, hot tub, and several couched areas.  There’s a great view of the convention center.)

View onto balcony from 9th floor lounge

View of convention center from 9th floor lounge






~Initially, they served a welcome cocktail and passed hors d’oeuvres (walnut/parsnip soup in small sipping glasses, pulled pork on crostini, parmesan crisps with goat cheese).  There was enough time to explore, sit in a retro 70s red rounded chair, talk to the concierge, and look at the view before dinner.  The long tables were reminiscent of a wedding or a very large farm-to-table dinner.

View of other side of room, near set-up/temp prep space

~The seat next to P was empty, as was the seat across.  The 3 couples next to us happened to be in the other part of the room when we squished ourselves into the red chair.  They were thrilled to recognize us (“you’re the red chair folks”).  I enjoyed chatting with the different folks, sharing pics of our kids, and talking about outrageous things.  (ex/The woman next to me has their house rented in Oregon while they’re here on business for a few years.  On New Years their tenants got drunk and shot guns from the balcony.)  The woman across from me is a chef who works at a Catholic convent now (did her time in restaurants etc already).  The third woman does international level accounting for a Denver company (flies all over, etc).

View of where we sat from the stairs leading to the upstairs lounge

~P started talking to one of the wine distributors sitting across from him.  They were from Grand Vin in Littleton.  The distributor accessed P as someone who loves wine and could carry on and interesting conversation… So, he started to pour some of the ones he had on the side.  These were fantastic pours and we’ll likely try to find them.  He suggested that if we wanted to find them or any other that we’d had at a restaurant, we could go to our local wine store and ask that the acquire it from Grand Vin.  (Great advice.  I’m currently searching for a wonderful Riesling that I had at Benu.)  We are definitely going to try this with some of these wines.

~Also, the owner, David Schneider, took the seat next to P and talked about how he came to Denver after owning 4 restaurants in Chicago, how he met the chef, how the design/re-design of the restaurant went and what the current progress is.  He’s anticipating opening in the next 6 weeks….We’re looking forward to seeing the actual space and trying the food again.

~Here are pictures of the dishes.

The food was good (except for the tuna which was definitely overcooked).  To the chef’s credit, he came out and apologized – however, he didn’t need to do so, we all understand how difficult service for 75+ is (especially when you’re not in your own kitchen and in some sort of odd, put together space in the back of a large L shaped room).




~After dinner we went upstairs to the 42nd floor (top of the building).  There’s another lounge that is reserved for guests who stay in floors 25+.  The round table was full when we got there and by the time I took the picture many plates had disappeared. 



On the long table, one of the sous chefs was putting out hot chocolates to go along with dessert.  That was actually the best part of the dessert.  The wine distributor came by and offered P & I a great Madeira.  The woman across from me wanted some and took up my white wine glass.  I told her not to do that and the distributor agreed that it wasn’t a good idea to ruin my white wine.  I offered the woman my glass of Madeira, finished my white, and asked him to pour the Madeira into the empty glass.  It was delicious but I do like caramel flavors.  P noted that what he liked about the wines brought by this distributer (not necessarily the ones as listed on the menu) was that they had a balance – not too sweet. 

~Another couple from our side came by and started talking to the couple across from me and that freed P & I to go off and explore the model rooms they had to show.  Amazing views and even more amazing prices…  (The kicker is actually that their HOA fees are really high and parking costs as much as a nice car – over 35K.)

Phil Armstrong (Hush), Chef Arik Markus, owner David Schneider

~We chatted with the wine distributor out on the deck a bit more – about beer, where he lives relative to Spire, and how glamorous or unglamorous his job is.  He was a really nice guy with a great deal of wine knowledge.  It was an honor that he shared his knowledge with us.  We also had a chance to meet Chef Markus and thank him for doing this event.

~Here is a picture of the view from one portion of the balcony.  One can definitely see how you could live downtown if you could have this kind of view.  All in all, the experience was fantastic – good food, great wine, & nice people:  I’d definitely go out for one of these unusual events again.

January 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm 2 comments

Daring Bakers – Steamed Pudding

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.


Chinese New Year 2010 foods

~So, when I read this challenge, I wasn’t very excited.  The idea of using suet bothered me a lot.  However, since I could use bacon fat as a substitute, it was great opportunity to try another bacon fat recipe.  (I made a gingerbread recipe using bacon fat once and you couldn’t really tell because the spices made the cookies taste like any gingerbread cookie.)

~I was also interested in trying a steamed pudding because I make my mother’s steamed egg cake (dan go) quite regularly.  You can read about it on my Chinese New Year post. Chinese dan go is light and airy and not too sweet.

~For this steamed pudding, I used the recipe for Type 2 steamed puddings.  I used baker’s sugar for the caster sugar because it’s so fine.


~Because I didn’t have a 1 litre bowl, I took 2 of the bowls from my pottery collection.  These are bowls made every year at the Boulder Arts Coop downtown.  The money raised goes to the Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA).

~After mixing the ingredients, I filled the bowls about halfway and placed them into two steamers.  I watched the water in one of them because it was much more shallow.  I used aluminum foil to cover and then a rubber band around the outside to hold it in place.  It worked out really well.

~Here’s what it looked like when I was done.  I macerated some strawberries and used some creme anglaise.  I feel badly that I threw together the plating but I knew that the strawberries and creme anglaise would be welcome.

~We all didn’t care for the flavor that came through with the bacon fat (lard).  I noticed that a number of folks made sticky toffee pudding or pineapple upside cake using the steamed method and I think I should have done it that way since I have some great recipes for sticky toffee pudding.  I would definitely try this again using one of those types of alterations to the recipes (and/or chocolate or gingerbread).

April 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm Leave a comment

Daring Bakers – Nanaimo Bars

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and


~I think that everyone needs to feel like part of something outside of herself.  Things changed drastically last year and so it’s been nice to have so much baking to keep my mind active.  Certainly, there have been many more wonderful people around me and they have been happy to taste.

Vancouver 2006

~This challenge is based on the Nanaimo bar – from British Columbia.  My cousin lives in Vancouver and she has sent me many pictures of her family vacationing in Whistler where the Olympics will be held soon.  I love visiting her because there are so many fantastic places to eat.

~So, this month’s challenge was actually the Nanaimo bars plus an added gluten-free graham cracker.  While I have been interested in trying (and have been trying) to make gluten free, I also think you should understand what the standard is before embarking on something different.  I decided I’d try a few recipes for graham crackers – using graham flour available from Bob’s Red Mill.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of all my attempts.  I can tell you that one of them was such a spectacular flop that it was a little like the recipe author didn’t write any part of the recipe correctly (or maybe scaled it incorrectly from her bakery.)

The Graham Crackers:

1.  I did manage to take pictures of two of my attempts.  The first was interesting because it puffed up in the oven and then fell back – just like our very good gingerbread.  It also reminded people of gingerbread, even though no ginger was present.

2.  The second was a recipe from Martha Stewart’s site.  This one turned out to be the most like a real graham cracker.  The technique was a little fussy; but, because the timing only required minutes rather than hours, it was easier to plan.  My sister thought they tasted like a graham cracker version of butter cookies.  These are the ones I eventually used. The techniques used were different (cutting them into squares first and baking as one large square) and may have also made a difference in the final product.

3.  I also purchased a box of organic graham crackers to compare.  Although I’ve had great luck in the past, this particular brand was not good at all.  I ended up composting it.

What will I do with the leftover grahams? Well, the really good ones may get eaten just straight.  For the others –  S’mores, of course.  Maybe some cheesecake base….

The Nanaimo Bars:

1.  I used the recipe as written with the following choices:  I could not find the Bird’s mix (although  our local store used to carry it).  So, I used organic vanilla pudding by Oetker. (If I were to do this again, I would skip the pudding and use just straight vanilla flavoring.)  I also used Ghiradelli semi-sweet bar chocolate and cocoa.

2.  For the base, you’re asked to melt chocolate, sugar, and cocoa and then add in a beaten egg.  The consistency looks all wrong at first but then suddenly comes together into a nice smooth chocolate paste – if you keep whisking over the heat.  It’s really great.

What did people think? Everyone seemed to like it a lot.  One person thought it tasted like an elaborate fudge bar.  I am certain that the homemade graham cracker is lost in all the flavors of the base.  In some ways, I think you could easily substitute any graham cracker.

This is a really fun, easy recipe, but definitely high in fat and sugar.  Now that I know how these are supposed to taste and have made them a few times, I will likely return and try it with my own gluten free mixture.

{The picture to the left gives you a better side view.  You can see the layers.  Even when you dip and wipe your knife, it’s still hard not to have some bleeding of the chocolate top layer. Each layer has a different texture and flavor.}

January 27, 2010 at 8:27 am 2 comments

Three more breads

Here are the next 3 breads from Pinch My Salt’s BBA challenge. If you want more details and pictures, go to this page…more detailed notes.

IMG_2845The first is the Casatiello. Peter Reinhart The Bread Baker’s Apprentice tells us that this bread is a form of Italian brioche. The beauty is in the combination of meat and cheese. I used finely chopped prosciutto in place of the salami and Mahon Spanish cheese in place of Provolone. My sister considered this bread to be like a very sophisticated ham and cheese. One of my friends who is the recipient of many of my practice baked goods told me that this was her favorite bread so far.


Greenspan version

The second is the Challah. I made 2 versions: Reinhardt’s recipe and Dorie Greenspan’s version from Baking with Julia. I have a longer explanation of the differences among the challah recipes that I had chosen to examine and why I chose Dorie Greenspan’s version in more detailed notes.


Reinhardt's version

I made the Dorie Greenspan version in the classic braid; while I used a braid-on-braid as illustrated in Reinhardt’s book for his dough. The Greenspan version had a more brioche smell and texture; the Reinhardt version had a more bread-like smell and texture. I liked them both.IMG_2860

The third is ciabatta. It was looking good until it went into the oven. Then it bulged up in the oven. This is one that I’ll repeat to figure out what happened; however, the use of the linen that Marilyn gave me was perfect for the proofing stage. IMG_2869

September 18, 2009 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment