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Butter Tarts

Gooey and delightful, butter tarts are a staple treat at any Canadian holiday—usually Christmas, but I’ve seen them at Thanksgiving and Easter as well. I actually had no idea that they were a Canadian speciality until I move to Australia and my tart-loving family (hehe, I had to!) had no idea what they were.

There are two main varieties of butter tarts—those with “impurities” such as raisins or pecans, and those without. I guess I’m a purist because I prefer them without the added bits, but I’ll let you decide for yourself! I did cheat a bit for these ones and used pre-made pastry, which made making these an absolute cinch to make.

Canadian Butter Tarts

Makes: 12
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy


  • 12 premade shortcrust pastry tart bases
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey, golden syrup, or corn syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp each vanilla extract and white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup currants, raisins, pecans, or coconut (optional)

Optional: If using raisins or currants, soak in a few tablespoons of warm brandy, rum, or triple sec for about 20 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 450 F / 230 C. In a microwavable bowl, soften 2 tbsp of butter and whisk together with the sugar until creamy. Add the honey or syrup, egg, vanilla, vinegar, and a pinch of salt and mix well. If using extra fillings, divide these between the pastry shells now. Spoon the liquid mixture over top.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until filling has gone golden and is bubbling. Let cool and enjoy!

I’m not sure why all of my butter tarts didn’t go golden at the same rate—if needed, just pop a couple back in the oven for a few minutes!

French Canadian Maple Syrup Pie

I’m going to make a bold claim here: I think that maple syrup is as good as chocolate. (Gasp! Shock! Horror! Disbelief!) And much like chocolate, it’s really only worth having if it’s the good stuff. My grandmother’s family on my dad’s side has been in Canada since the 1690s, meaning that they were some of the first French settlers in Canada. Three hundred years is more than enough time to develop a unique cuisine, and the French Canadians really know their maple syrup, pies, and other tummy-warming dishes for long, freezing winters.

I’m not entirely sure where this version of the recipe came from, but my dad’s scribbled note at the bottom of it says, “This resembles what my grandmother Latour made often.” I never met my great grandmother Latour, but I’ve heard the stories of their large family gatherings on holidays, and my dad’s recollection of the sheer number of pies has me reeling. Maple, pumpkin, chocolate, apple, cherry, so on and so forth—my mouth is watering at the thought.

So here you go. One authentic, French Canadian maple syrup pie. Make sure you use “the good stuff” for this—it’s worth it.

Maple Syrup Pie

Makes: 1 pie
Cooking time: 30 minutes hands on, plus cooling time
Difficulty: Moderate


  • 1 pre-baked large pie shell
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 1 tbsp gelatin (1 envelope)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup real, good quality maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or essence)
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream (thickened cream)

Dissolve the gelatin in the 2 tbsp water and set aside for a few minutes.

In small saucepan on low-medium heat, whisk the egg yolks, milk, and salt together until the mixture thickens slightly (this means the yolks will have cooked, be sure to stir it slowly and constantly so that you don’t end up with any clumps). Remove from heat, and stir in the softened gelatin, vanilla, and maple syrup. Cool in the fridge (or outside if you’re in a cold climate) just until the mixture is cool to the touch (not cold, because the gelatin will begin setting).

While the mixture is cooling, beat the two egg whites with the 3 tbsp sugar until stiff peaks form and the meringue is glossy. In a separate bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff as well. It’s best to do this right before you think the mixture will be cool, as if you leave beaten eggs or beaten cream for too long they will begin to deflate and separate.

Once the maple mixture is cooled, fold it into the stiff egg whites, then fold in the whipped cream. Stir just until all the lumps are gone and you have a smooth mixture. Pour into baked pie shell, refrigerate for 2-3 hours (or more) until pie has set.

Serve with more whipped cream on top, and/or a drizzle of maple syrup, and/or some chopped pecans or walnuts.


  • Don’t bother making this pie unless you use real, good quality maple syrup!
  • I used “Ward’s” gelatin, which is the standard brand you’d find at most Australian supermarkets, and it was a bit stronger than what we would normally use in Canada (Knox brand). I would recommend using 2 1/2 tsp instead of 1 tbsp for this recipe, if using Ward’s brand gelatin.
  • Don’t leave the maple syrup and gelatin mixture in the fridge for too long. You want to mix it with the egg whites and the whipped cream just when it’s cool (if it’s warm it will deflate the whipped cream and eggs), but if you leave it too long then the gelatin will set. You can warm it again (do it very slowly) if you need to unset the gelatin, though it means you’ll have to restart the cooling process again. It should be roughly the consistency of liquid egg whites when you fold it into the whipped cream and beaten egg white meringue.
  • I have not attempted to vegan-ise this recipe; most plant-based milks I can think of would overpower the subtlety of the maple flavour.

Blueberry Banana Oat Muffins

Every now and then a recipe comes along and you say to yourself: “This is it. I’ve found it.”

And that’s what these muffins are! I’ve made many a muffin in my time and there’s a difficult balance to find between taste, health, moistness, and flavour. Some muffins are just too healthy. Some are a cupcake by another name. To me, a good muffin is one that sits pleasantly in the middle of the scale, with great flavour to boot.

The next time you have blueberries in your fridge/freezer just begging to be baked into something, pull up this recipe and enjoy.

Blueberry Banana Oat Muffins

Makes: 12-18 muffins
Cooking time: 20 min hands on


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup each plain flour and whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond meal (or wheat germ)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups mashed bananas (about 2 large)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (use vegan butter if desired)
  • 1 egg or your favourite egg replacer
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (many other berries would work great in this too, do not defrost berries before using)

Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or grease it well.

Combine all dry ingredients (including sugar) in one large bowl and toss until combined. In separate bowl, soften butter and mix well with mashed bananas (they can still be a little bit chunky), egg, and vanilla extract. Pour over dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add berries and stir again just until they are dispersed through the batter.

Divide among muffin cups — these don’t rise a huge amount so you could do 12 muffins, but I opted to be on the safe side and reserved enough batter to make six more. Up to you! Bake for 20 minutes or until slightly golden on top. Cool on wire racks.

Enjoy! These keep well for several days in a sealed container, freeze if you want them to last longer (although you’ll probably want to eat them straight away!).

Mom’s Cornbread

Mmm, there’s just nothing like fresh homemade cornbread, is there? I love how it combines the sweet with the savoury, and the cornmeal (polenta to you Aussies) adds such wonderful texture to a fluffy body. Once I left for uni and chili became a dietary staple, I tried several different cornbread recipes to accompany it—unfortunately, no cornbread recipe I’ve tried has ever really compared to this one. Either it’s just that this is what my mom always made and it is therefore what I know and love, or it really is as amazing as I thought it was.

One thing’s for sure—the rate at which it disappeared the last time I made it sure said something as to its deliciousness. I recommend slicing it into twelve squares instead of nine, else you’ll find yourself lacking cornbread all too quickly!

Mom’s Cornbread

Makes: 9-12 servings
Cooking time: 15 minutes hands-on, 45 minutes baking plus cooling


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • optional: 1 tin (about 12-14 oz, 300-400 ml) corn kernels or creamed corn
  • optional: small jar of pickled jalapeno, coarsely chopped or laid out on top

Cream together sugar, butter, eggs, and salt until smooth and light in colour. Sift together dry ingredients, then add to the butter and sugar alternately with the milk. Stir until no lumps can be seen. If using, add the corn kernels or jalapenos.

Bake in a greased 9×13″ or 10×10″ ovenproof dish, for 35-45 minutes at 375 F / 190 C until the top of the bread is going golden-brown and a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. (My oven usually takes about 45 minutes.) The golden-brown might make it look overcooked, but I promise it will still be moist on the inside.

Gingersnap Cookies

Ahh… here in “sunny” Australia, things aren’t as balmy as they usually are. Winter is upon us, and while the days are starting to get longer, it’s still pretty chilly. Since Christmas falls during the middle of summer in Australia, I had basically no motivation to want to cook the rich, delicious foods associated with the holidays. Now that it’s cooled off, though, I’m craving hot tea and cookies and pie and a good roast turkey. The solution? Christmas in July! Not only are we having a dinner party this weekend to celebrate, but I’ve noticed a small uprising of fellow Christmas in July supporters… ‘Winterland’ markets and ice skating at our local venue (guess what I’m doing on the weekend too!), and festively decorated store windows. It’s subtle, but it’s there, and it feels surprisingly awesome to get into the Christmas spirit in July.

These ginger snap gems are a family recipe. So simple and sweet! There’ll be a few different Christmas-themed recipes up over the next few days, but why not start with these cookies to bring a little bit of holiday cheer to your tummy.

Ginger Snap Cookies

Makes: 2 dozen
Cooking time: 15 minutes hands-on


  • 1/2 cup butter (best at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (and a bit extra for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 cup black molasses (you could substitute golden syrup or treacle syrup, which I had to do—but molasses is the best!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional: 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

Blend slightly softened butter and sugar together until no lumps remain. Add in molasses, egg, and vanilla. Measure in the flour, and form a well at the top to add the spices, soda, and salt—blend lightly with the flour, then with the rest of the batter. (This step saves you from having to get a whole extra bowl to blend the dry ingredients, which I find highly annoying and generally unnecessary for cookies.) Combine just until the flour disappears.

Forming the cookies works best if you refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours, but can be done straight away if you’re in a hurry. Using a tablespoon, form the dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with white sugar.

Bake at 350 F / 180 C for 12-15 minutes, until the tops of the cookies begin to crack. 12 minutes will give you a slightly soft cookie, and 15 minutes will give you a nice crisp one.

Pour yourself a nice big glass of milk and enjoy!