“Try it frozen first,” advises baker Eric De Garie, offering a plate of his maple butter tarts served three ways: from the freezer, at room temperature and out of the oven. When cold, the filling almost resembles fruit jelly: soft but not gummy, and as De Garie notes, not as sweet. “You can also eat more like this.”
At room temperature, the filling breaks away into a gel, sweeter than frozen but not as sweet as the typical butter pie thanks to the maple giving it a bit of smoke. When hot, the crust is crispier and tastier, and the maple butter mixture flows like lava. It might be the summer heat going on, but these pies are even more delicious when frozen, especially for a palate like mine who generally avoids butter pies because I’ve always considered them too sweet . I can imagine them cut into small pieces and sprinkled over vanilla ice cream. In fact, that’s exactly what I did with the pecan variation after buying a variety pack from De Garie that also had Skor, Banana Crunch, and Brazil Nut flavors.
Dating back to at least the 1800s, the butter pie has become a dessert synonymous with Canada – last month thousands flocked to Ontario’s Best Butter Pie Festival in Midland after a two-week hiatus year. The pie itself is simple: a pie shell topped with a gooey buttery syrup filling, which means it can serve as a blank canvas for different interpretations (hello, raisins, or no-raisins debate) .
De Garie, a former banker turned self-taught baker, is behind Eric’s Handcrafted Butter Tarts, which he runs from the kitchen of his basement home in Etobicoke’s Lakeshore Village, and is where some of the best pies are made. with city butter. For De Garie, he wanted to create a pie that combines the maple flavors of Quebec sugar pie with the crust/filling ratio of butter pie.
“I grew up in Montreal and we had sugar pies. In Ontario I saw a butter pie and thought it was a hand held sugar pie. But it was full of corn syrup and had a thick pie. Every year I would try to make a better pie. After 20 years, I found this recipe,” he says. “Everyone has a different opinion, but for me, a good pie uses real butter, eggs, maple syrup and good brown sugar. I use a combination of dark and light maple syrups. Too much black and it’s too strong, too much light and there’s not enough flavor. (The ratio of syrups, he says, is the secret).
De Garie supplies places around town like Cheese Boutique, San Remo Bakery, La Rocca Creative Kitchen and a nearby cafe, Big Guy’s Little Coffee Shop. Outside of Toronto, her pies can also be found at Backroad Coffee Roasters in Port Credit; Boffo’s Fine Foods and Tribeca Coffee Shop in Oakville; Hamilton’s Ward IV cafe and bar and Murray’s Farm butcher; and Familia Fine Food of Burlington.
Depending on where you go, expect different flavors. Cheese Boutique has a variety pack with flavors like cinnamon-raisin, hazelnut, coconut, and creme brulee; while San Remo roasted marshmallow and Brazil nuts, for example. De Garie does not deliver for individual orders, but people can email her for contactless pickup from outside her home.
Now semi-retired, the 56-year-old spends his time in his tiny kitchen big enough for exactly one person. It’s been retrofitted to hold a freezer, two sinks, a commercial oven and a cooling rack, enough to bake 30 dozen pies every day, making it perhaps one of the smallest kitchens with a DineSafe green sign. from the city. Before that, in 2016, he started out in a commissary kitchen in Hamilton, learning about food production from other vendors, while offering financial advice to new business owners and testing whether his pies would sell by visiting. at farmers’ markets. “It’s the easiest way to get immediate feedback,” he says.
He’s since received offers to stock bigger grocers and thought about hiring someone else, but ultimately De Garie is sticking to a one-man show and isn’t interested in opening a store. “If I just wanted to make pies, why would I pay for a space three times the size of what I need?”
And from the customer’s perspective, butter pies are a simple dessert with roots in home kitchens, enjoyed on camping trips or small-town festivals. Picking up a package of pies made on a massive scale from a giant grocer doesn’t have the same appeal as picking up a box from a neighborhood coffee shop, or in my case, asking De Garie to wrap me a box that just arrived. to be cooked.
“It’s a small job to occupy me six hours a day, four days a week, and I get discretionary income. I am 56 years old and my ‘conquest of world time’ is over,” he says. “In finance, I could make a million dollars and I would get a pat on the back and be told to do it again the next day. But when you see someone eating your pies and then there’s a big smile on their face, that’s all I need.
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