I did it, I did it! I created low carb butter tarts, just in time for Canada Day! Even if you’ve never had a butter tart in your life, you will love these sweet low carb treats.
This one goes out to my fellow Canucks, because only they can truly understand how momentous this recipe for low carb butter tarts really is. But even if you’re not Canadian, even if you don’t have a single drop of Canadian blood, I suggest you stick around. Butter tarts are worth it, believe me. Chances are that a large percentage of you reading this have never even heard of butter tarts, so we may need a little lesson in Canadianism first. Don’t worry, it doesn’t involve any history or politics. It just involves really good food.
If ever there was a national food of Canada, butter tarts are it. There are other uniquely Canadian dishes, like tourtiere and poutine, but those have a local flair and are distinctly Quebecois. And that other sweet Canadian treat, the Nanaimo Bar, has its distinct history on the west coast and is named for a city on Vancouver Island. But butter tarts are loved and appreciated nationwide, although perhaps most beloved in my home province of Ontario, where they are truly celebrated as the height of Canadian cuisine. There are butter tart festivals and butter tart cook-offs, and many bakeries claim that they make the BEST butter tarts. When my mother worked for Cottage Life, the magazine sent two writers touring around Ontario, looking for the perfect butter tarts. So you can see, these little tarts inspire much devotion in the hearts of Canadians.
Okay, great, but what ARE they? Well, at their best, butter tarts are made of tender, flakey pastry with an incredibly gooey, sweet filling that may or may not contain raisins or currants. The filling is similar to pecan pie but without the pecans. They don’t sound all that exciting, do they? In truth, they are unassuming-looking little tarts and you might be tempted to pass them over in favour of a more flashy-looking dessert. But a really good butter tart can beat the pants off any other dessert any time. They are just so delicious, so gooey and sweet and inviting; one bite and you’re hooked.
But a traditional butter tart is also the stuff of a low carb dieter’s nightmares. That sweet filling is made with copious amounts of brown sugar and often with corn syrup as well (not HFCS, just regular corn syrup). Wikipedia tells me that the average butter tart comes in at a a whopping 84 g of carbs. Youch! So a real butter tart is off limits for me now. However, never one to resist a challenge, I’ve been mulling over how to create low carb butter tarts for a long time now. I created good flakey low carb pastry some time ago, so that obstacle was already conquered. But getting the filling right was not going to be easy, I knew. In the end, I settled on a filling that was similar to my low carb pecan pie bars, with less egg. I created a low carb caramel sauce to take the place of the corn syrup, and I did add a few raisins, but chopped them to give better coverage. I also under-baked the tarts a bit, removing them from the oven before the filling was completely set, to keep them on the gooier side.
I have eaten a lot of real butter tarts in my day and I have made them from scratch a number of times. I am not going to tell you that these low carb butter tarts are exactly the same, because they’re not. Nothing quite behaves the way sugar or corn syrup does and that’s just a fact. They taste like butter tarts, but the gooey factor is more limited without the properties of sugar and corn syrup. But believe me when I say that these tarts are really, really good and are certainly the best approximation of butter tarts you can get using low carb ingredients. If this butter tart fiend is happy with them, you know you will be too!
HAPPY CANADA DAY!
Low Carb Butter Tarts
- Caramel Sauce
- 1/4 cup powdered Swerve Sweetener
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 2 tbsp raisins or dried currants chopped
- Combine butter and sweeteners in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook about 3 minutes. If using all Swerve, you may find that your caramel recrystallizes a bit.
- Add heavy cream and vanilla extract. Mixture will bubble vigorously, this is normal. Sprinkle with xanthan gum and whisk vigorously to combine. Stir in salt.
- Let cool to lukewarm and then whisk in water.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Combine almond flour, coconut flour, sweetener, xanthan gum and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine.
- Sprinkle surface with butter pieces and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- With processor running on low, add ice water, one tablespoon at time until dough begins to clump together.
- Place a large piece of parchment on work surface and dust liberally with additional almond flour. Turn out dough and pat into a rough circle. Sprinkle with more almond flour and cover with another large piece of parchment.
- Roll dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness and remove top piece of parchment. Use a 3 to 3.5-inch diameter cookie cutter (or a glass; I used a wine glass) to cut out 12 circles, rerolling scraps as necessary.
- Gently lift circles of pastry from bottom parchment with a knife or offset spatula and place in cavities of a standard muffin tin.
- Place muffin tin in freezer while preparing the filling.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together caramel sauce, powdered sweetener, egg, and melted butter.
- Divide chopped raisins and filling among tart shells and bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until tart edges are just golden brown and filling is slightly puffed and mostly set. It should still jiggle just a little in the center of each tart.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely.