Three Days of Butter Tarts
By Marc Smith
Who wants a butter tart? Who has the best butter tart in the Kawarthas Northumberland region? Well, if the first question you are asking is “What is a butter tart?” then let me school you on the little piece of heaven that is the Canadian butter tart.
First, take a light and flaky pie pasty, line a muffin pan and then fill it with a filling made up of butter, sugar, syrup, and egg. You can also add raisins, walnuts or pecans if you like. You bake it until the top becomes golden and crunchy while the centre attains a custard like firmness. This quintessential Canadian delicacy is the Butter Tart. Think pecan pie, but not quite.
The Kawarthas Northumberland region is famous for their butter tarts. So much so that almost every place you go to has a butter tart on their menu. You can even spend a day or two, or longer, on their year-round self-guided Butter Tart Tour throughout the region and visit over 50 participating bakeries, restaurants and cafes, each with butter tarts worthy of tasting.
I spent several days in September 2016 traveling from one end of the region to the other in search of this noble sugary goodness. Here are eleven places I’ve visited. Each bakery adds their own special twist or flavour to their version of a butter tart. Will I tell you which one was my favourite? You will have to wait and see.
It doesn’t matter if you begin or finish your butter tart tour here at Betty’s Pies and Tarts, just make sure you include it. This award winning bakery in Coburg only makes pies and tarts so you know that everyone is a masterpiece. The crust is flaky, the filling is golden sweet and the combination is perfection.
Who makes over 500 dozen tarts and sells out of them in under 3 hours? Doo Doo’s does. Diane and her team of bakers may not make the prettiest tarts but when they disappear so quickly into your mouth who has time to look at them? These are just like the scratch made treats grandma used to make. Oh, and yeah, they’ve won plenty of awards including the 2016 Royal Winter Fair, the 2016 Kawarthas Butter Tart Tour Taste Off, and the 2016 Ontario Best Butter Tart Festival to name a few.
Driving through Buckhorn along Country Road 23? Stop in at Country Mart and pick up a half dozen or so. If you are like me you may get one fresh out of the oven. So ooey gooey good the butter tart just melts in your mouth. They also make amazing sandwiches to order if you need a picnic lunch on your way to the cottage.
Open for over three years in downtown Peterborough, you will come for the butter tart but I guarantee you will leave with a loaf of fresh baked bread. Everything is made in house from 100% organic flour and whenever possible the ingredients are sourced locally. Flaky pastry and a sweet filling make this butter tart my amuse bouche before lunch.
Light golden flaky pastry with a honeu-coloured filling are the tell-tale signs you are enjoying a Black Honey butter tart. A little less sweet than most tarts I’ve tried but this tart retains all the flavour of a traditional tart with a bit less sugar. Great for those that are avoiding a sugar crash. A fine selection of Gluten Free options are also available if you are avoiding Gluten in your diet.
I came for the schnitzel but I left with a butter tart. Amazing treats if you are in or around Aspley, and it’s only a few minutes up the road from Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. While I was enjoying my lunch three different people came in to pick up their pre-orders of tarts. It’s no lie to say that these tarts are 100% delicious and they have plenty of varieties available to choose from.
A favourite stop on the late night crawl home, the Whistle Stop Cafe is famous for having over 100 different poutines on their menu. What is their number one selling menu item though? You guessed it, their fresh baked butter tart. As good as you can find at a bakery the Whistle Stop delivers a perfect butter tart and best of all it is located in the heart of Peterborough. Enjoy one with your poutine, or with a cup of tea in Grandma O’Reilly’s Sitting Room.
For over twenty years, The Planet is where vegetarians go to eat. Today it is where I am to get a butter tart. Verdict? I’ll take another please. It is easy to see why they have been around as long as they have. Made fresh daily it is a classic example of what a butter tart should taste like.
They opened their doors in 1949 and people have been lining up ever since. Still run by the Dooher family, this bakery prides itself on fresh local ingredients and making its customers happy. Famous for their Cream filled Donuts, their butter tarts are simply delicious.
If you have been to Warkworth before you will know this bakery as Cara Mia. New owners have taken over and are keeping up with the former bakeries reputation. Just like my Mom used to make is how I’d describe their butter tarts. A little bit of the filling bubbles up over the pastry during the bake and the results are a sticky caramel almost toffee like drizzle on the sides. These are imperfectly perfect, just like Mom used to bake.
Located minutes from the luxurious Ste. Anne’s Spa near Grafton, this is the only Certified Gluten Free bakery in the Kawarthas Northumberland region this bakery is a hit with celiacs and the like. In fact they are so popular they sold out of butter tarts before I got there. No worries though. I had a piece of peach cake, also gluten free…
Speaking of gluten free, many of the bakeries and restaurants in the Kawarthas Northumberland offer gluten free options. They may not be able to offer you certified gluten free status like Ste. Anne’s Bakery does but they have plenty of options for those that are avoiding gluten. As always, if you are a celiac, please ask questions before you take your first bite. Some bakeries may need advance notice as they may bake them to order.
So that is approximately 20% of the Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour completed. There are still almost fourty more places for me to visit! I highly recommend you pace yourself and visit a couple per day during your visit. One in the morning with your coffee and then another in the afternoon for a snack. This way you can enjoy each butter tart on its own.
Oh, I forgot to say which one was my favourite. Hmmmm, I would have to say it was the one from…
Marc Smith is a travel and lifestyle writer at 30 Day Adventures. What started out as being a tourist in his own city has blossomed into a nomadic adventure exploring Canada, the United States, and the World one adventure at a time. You can follow along with his adventures on his blog at www.30dayadventures.ca or live via his Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Be warned you may just get inspired to get off the couch and have an adventure of your own.