You can make tart shells thick or thin or even buy pre-made tart shells. But here are a few tricks of the trade from Barbara Rowlandson when making the filling:
— To avoid "gritty" butter tarts, caramelize sugar first by blending on the stovetop with butter, syrup and vanilla. Let it cool before adding eggs to the mixture or they'll be scrambled.
— Likewise, maple syrup is delicious in butter tarts but is the grittiest of sugar syrups. Again, heat first or the granules will fall to the pastry shells and you'll end up with gritty tarts.
— Several contestants in Ontario's Best Butter Tart Festival have confessed their "secret ingredient" is golden syrup from cane sugar, which has a lighter flavour than corn syrup.
— Butter tarts pair well with whisky, as an accompanying beverage or an additional recipe ingredient.
— If you want the maple flavour but don't have maple syrup, use maple-flavoured pancake syrup. Besides being cost effective, tarts made with pancake syrup instead of corn or golden syrup do not boil over or crack on top.
— If tarts are too runny for your taste, add an extra egg or two in the next batch to thicken the filling.
— Don't fill pastry shells more than two-thirds full.
— As soon as the tarts can be handled after they come out of the oven, slide a paring knife around the outside and remove them from the pan to prevent sticking, especially if any of the tarts have boiled over.
Source: Barbara Rowlandson, events manager, Ontario's Best Butter Tart Festival, Midland, Ont.