These utterly delicious sweet tarts are said to be one of Canada’s only indigenous recipes and are baked on the street and in homes across the land, with several festivals and ‘food trails’ dedicated to celebrating them. They are traditionally made with corn syrup to keep the texture soft and oozing; however this can be hard to find in the UK, so I’ve used maple syrup, as it seemed fitting, but do use corn syrup if you can find it, or even golden syrup will work.
For the pastry, place the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Trickle in the water, pulsing as you go, until the mixture comes together into loose clumps. Don’t overmix as you will end up with tough rather than crumbly pastry. You can also make the pastry by hand: rub the flour and butter together between your fingers and thumbs until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add the water and stir through with a knife to incorporate it, bringing the mixture together with your hands. Place the pastry on a sheet of cling film and draw up the edges, gently pressing it into a ball. Chill in the fridge for an hour.
Once the pastry has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured worktop until it’s about 2–3mm thick – the thinner the better, so each bite is all about the filling. Using a 12cm cutter, cut out 12 circles. You may need to re-roll the pastry trimmings to get all 12 circles, but if you roll it thin enough there should be plenty.
Press and fold each circle gently into place in a 12-hole muffin tin; little folds and crimps are traditional here, so don’t worry about making the tarts look too perfect and neat. Chill the tin in the fridge for 30 minutes to relax the pastry and reduce shrinkage on baking.
While the pastry is chilling for the second time, make the filling. Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave to soak for 30 minutes before draining well.
Meanwhile, add the brown sugar and butter to the bowl of a food mixer and beat until smooth and creamy. You can also do this by hand with a wooden spoon and a bit of elbow grease. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Then add the syrup, vanilla and salt and beat until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Divide the drained raisins evenly between the pastry cases, then pour over the filling mixture. Bake in the hot oven for 15–20 minutes until the pastry is cooked and the surface of the tart slightly crisp. Don’t be alarmed if the filling seems to come over the top of the cases, as it will sink back down when out of the oven. Allow to cool a little before easing them from the tin. Serve warm or cold.