Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Great Butter Tart Taste-Off

I love butter tarts. I mean I really, really love butter tarts.
All that remained of my 21 butter tarts when I
finally remember I was supposed to take pictures.

Which is why when I read this BlogTo article about the best butter tarts in Toronto, I honestly felt that I had no choice but to test out the integrity of their list. And if that meant that I would be forced to eat 12 butter tarts all on my own, so be it.

But just as I was about to break out my Thanksgiving Pants*, I got a call from my good friend Roselyn inviting us for Sunday dinner. And we were to bring the dessert.

If ever there was an example of kismet, this was it. There was a high power employing me to orchestrate a Butter Tart Taste Off.

From the start, I knew that this wasn't going to be easy, which is why I called upon the services of my trusted sidekick and fellow foodie, my son, Billy. 

On Sunday morning, I emailed him the link along with his mission: create a route that hit up as many butter tart bakers as possible in the shortest amount of time. In doing so, he would have to ensure that (a) the bakery was open for business and (b) they had fresh butter tarts on hand. No raisins, no nuts, no chocolate; just straight up traditional tarts. It wasn't easy but he finally created our route. If all went well, we'd be eight tarts richer in less than two hours.

Overall, our trip was a success. Sure, we had our challenges, such as almost running out of gas, less-than-perfect parking in every single location, and the agony of defeat when we found out that Future Bakery was sold out, but overall our mission was a success and we returned home with (lucky number) seven different brands of butter tarts (six from the BlogTo list and one cheap-o one from the grocery store to see if anyone could tell the difference).

When we got home, we set about creating score cards. I wanted to create a school-style rubric score sheet complete with multiple rows and columns that was based on crust, appearance, runniness, and overall taste, but my son talked me out of it, suggesting that perhaps I was taking this whole thing a bit too far. I conceded and we ended up with a simple "score out of ten" card with room for comments.

When we got to Roselyn's, I was pleased as punch to find our that her family and guests were just as into the Butter Tart taste test as I was. So after dinner (which was delicious btw) was cleaned up and put away, we set up our Tart taste-off. Our judges ranged from 7 to 47 years of age and consisted of
three lawyers, three children, a teenager, a techie, a nutritionist, a teacher (me), and last but not least, a personal stylist from Holt Renfrew. Would our motley crew vote the same way as the folks at BlogTo?

Now before I give you the results, I feel the need to point our a few things:

1. We didn't actually try all of the tarts on the BlogTo list. Besides the Future Bakery fiasco, we also didn't try Bunners, Tori's bakeshop, Petit Four, San Remo, or 7th Baker either because they weren't baking tarts that day or because they were geographically undesirable. I have no doubt they are all very delicious and I look forward to trying them one day.

2. As I stated earlier, parking at each of the locations we visited was challenging to say the least. However, in every case, the neighborhood of each bakery is a neighborhood that I'd love to spend more time exploring on foot. The tarts turned out to be a great catalyst for getting to know my city.

3. Out of all of the comments people left on our score sheet, there was one thing that nobody commented on: size. Apparently, when it comes to butter tarts, size doesn't matter. (I know, cheap cliché. But it's true!) And neither does appearance, since nobody commented on that either. I guess everyone felt that it was what's inside that counts (once again, a bad cliché).

4. While we had to put one tart in first place and one in last, I can honestly say that there really wasn't one bad tart in the bunch. They were all super-yummy. It's just that some were slightly more super-yummy than others. Except the grocery-store brand. No one really liked those.

So have I driven you completely insane with anticipation? Are you dying to know which butter tarts in Toronto we think reign supreme? Without further adieu, here they are:

In 7th place was the generic grocery store-bought brand. Everyone could tell these ones a mile away and didn't even really want to try them. My son ate one because really, he'll eat anything.

In 6th place is Leah's Bakery. We all liked the filling; it had the perfect amount of runniness. However, our tasters thought that they crust wasn't as buttery as the other crusts.

In 5th place is World Class Bakers. We really loved the taste of the filling but one person thought that maybe they were a bit too runny.

In 4th place is Phipps. This was my personal favorite. But I may be
impartial because they were the only ones who didn't have a plain butter tart so we had to get the caramel butter tart and I LOVED that little bit of chewy caramel. Some other people (I think it was the "older" tasters) thought they were a bit too sweet.

In 3rd place is BakerBots. The filling was sweet and firm (get your mind out of the gutter!) and the pastry was particularly buttery and flaky.

In 2nd place is Café Belong. This was the most  fanciest looking of
the bunch; it had a more classic round French tart shape vs. the others' more rustic look. It also had a bit of a sugary crunch in between the filling and the crust. Some tasters LOVED that. Some...not so much.

And in 1st place (drumroll please)...

Andrea's Gerrard Street Bakery. One person said they taste like chocolate pecan pie without the chocolate or pecans. Another person loved the buttery butterscotch flavor. And yet another person said they were flaky sweet goodness. My daughter summed it up with this: she gave them a 10 000 out of 10.

Andrea's was also the BlogTo pick for best Butter Tart.

Coincidence? I think not...

Andrea and her crew really do make the most bad-ass butter tart in Toronto.

Unless you have something to say about it.

Do you? Are there any other Butter Tarts in the GTA that I need to try?

*Pants that are worn in anticipation of eating a huge meal (i.e. Thanksgiving dinner). These pants usually boast an elastic waist, to allow some give for that third helping of sweet potato pie.

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