Maple Butter Tarts

What with all the holiday fun and festivities swirling about, you’d be forgiven if your plans for National Maple Syrup Day – December 17th – were still a bit up in the air.  So let me help: why not mark the occasion with a batch of these Maple Butter Tarts?

Courtesy Ken Haedrich dean of The Pie Academy

My friends in Canada, where butter tarts are something of a national obsession, won’t argue with my suggestion, though I understand they sometimes fuss amongst themselves over what makes for an authentic butter tart – a sort of miniature pecan pie. Should the filling be “set” or slightly runny? Contain raisins or currants or neither? Some favor them with chopped pecans. Others consider it heresy. 

I suggest sidestepping the debate entirely and getting busy on a batch of these. Not only are they a fitting way to acknowledge one of North America’s original artisan foods. These downscaled, two-bite sweets are the perfect dessert to serve at one of your holiday gatherings, or for gifting. A little boxful of them, brightened up with a bow and some festive bling, will lift anyone’s spirits.

Courtesy Ken Haedrich dean of The Pie Academy

Production-wise, these take no more effort than your average cookie. You start with one of your favorite pie dough recipes – I like my whole wheat pie dough to give them a wholesome personality – roll it out, and cut into 4-inch circles. Line twelve muffin cups with the dough disks, add our simple maple filling, then bake. 

Courtesy Ken Haedrich dean of The Pie Academy

You’ll note that the oven temperature is higher than usual – 425° – and that we bake them low in the oven, to quickly brown the crust. Bake them closer to 15 minutes and they’ll still be a little runny which, as I mentioned, some prefer. Eighteen to twenty minutes, and they’ll be firmer, the crust a little more golden. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to experiment because once you make a batch of these, you’ll want to make them again and again. Enjoy!

Canadian butter tarts courtesy Ken Haedrich dean of The Pie Academy

PASTRY NOTE – Use your favorite single crust pie dough recipe to make these delicious tarts. I like the whole wheat pastry I use with a favorite pecan pie recipe; Food Processor Pie Dough; or half of the recipe for my Three-Grain Butter Crust.  

Ken Haedrich dean of The Pie Academy

Maple Butter Tarts

Yield 12 tarts

These little two-bite tarts, wildly popular in Canada, are a wonderful way to show off pure maple syrup. I especially love serving them at the holidays; they're just the right size after a big meal. A small tin of these tarts make the perfect homemade holiday gift. 


  • Enough pie dough for a single crust pie
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (very soft)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Small handful raisins, dried currants, chopped pecans or chopped walnuts (optional)


  1. If you haven't already, prepare and refrigerate the pie dough for at least 45 minutes. Get out a standard 12-cup muffin pan - not one with the jumbo cups - and set it aside.
  2. Roll the dough as you would for any pie, about 1/8-inch thick. However, don't worry about keeping it nice and round, like you normall would, because it will be cut into circles.
  3. Using a 4-inch diameter cookie or biscuit cutter, cut the dough into as many circles as possible, keeping the cuts close together. Line each cup with one of the circles, gently nudging it down into the bottom creases of the pan. Try not to stretch the dough as you work. The top edge of the dough circle should come to about the middle of the cups. Gather the scraps and re-roll them if you need more circles. Put the pan in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes while you make the filling.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425° and move one of the oven racks into the lowest position. Combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, and butter in a mixing bowl and whisk briefly. Add the egg, vinegar, vanilla, and salt and whisk again. 
  5. Get out the muffin pan. If you're using the fruit or nuts, put a few pieces in as many of the shells as you wish, but don't crowd them; you want to mainly end up with gooey filling. Divide the filling evenly between the shells. Bake on the lower oven rack for 15 to 18 miunutes, until the filling bubbles and turns a shade or two darker. 
  6. Transfer the pan to a rack. Cool for 5 minutes, then carefully run a butter knife around the edge to loosen the tarts and make sure they're not sticking. Cool the tarts in the pan, then remove them. Store, refrigerated, in a single layer in a covered tin or container, but let them come to room temperature before serving. Makes 12 tarts