While the rest of North America is busy getting ready for Halloween, Canadians are busy in their kitchens baking up traditional Canadian desserts in preparation for celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving.
Similar to American Thanksgiving, the Canadian holiday was established as a time to give thanks for assistance received by natives in the New World after a long and difficult voyage from Europe. It has since grown to become a time of feasting and togetherness, gratefulness for the harvest, and a whole lot of good food.
But you need not be Canadian to partake of the delicious array of desserts and confections that grace our Thanksgiving tables. Here are a few desserts that taste good any time of year.
Butter Tarts are caramelized fruit fillings encased in buttery pastry. You know you’ve met a well-made butter tart when the succulent filling drips down the pastry after your first bite. Traditionally made with raisins, brown sugar, and butter, variations include other dried fruits such as currants or dried cranberries. These flaky bits of deliciousness are handy in that they’re equally good served warm or cold, so they’re great to make ahead of time. They also freeze well so you don’t need to be slaving over a hot oven when your house is full of loved ones you’d rather be visiting with.
Nanaimo Bars can also be made well in advance. These lavishly rich morsels are so dense with butter and chocolate that you must cut them in small pieces. But they are worth every sinful bite as they literally melt in your mouth. A layered bar, Nanaimo Bars are built on a base of ground coconut, graham crackers and walnuts held together with butter. Pressed into a baking pan, it is topped with a creamy layer of whipped butter, custard powder, and confectioners sugar. The final layer has — you guessed it — more butter melted with dark chocolate. Chilled until ready to serve, you simply cut them in small squares when it’s time to eat.
Shortbread is another traditional treat. A simple recipe of butter, flour, sugar, and flavored extract, you can make them extra Canadian with the addition of maple flavoring and fall-inspired spices.
For a bonus Canadian dessert, try the very traditional Matrimonial Cake, a scrumptious oat base stuffed with a smooth date filling.
- 1/2 cup dried raisins
- hot water
- enough pie dough for double crust pie
- 1/4 cup softened butter
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Place raisins in a small bowl. Cover with hot water and let sit 20-30 minutes. Drain.
Lightly spray bottoms and sides of muffin tin. Pinch off pieces of pie dough and press firmly and evenly into each muffin mold, making sure dough comes up to the top. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
In a medium bowl add butter, sugar, salt and corn syrup. Mix well until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove tart shells from refrigerator and divide raisin mixture evenly in the bottom of each tart shell. Using a large spoon, ladle butter/sugar mixture evenly into each tart shell.
Place muffin trays in oven and bake 15 minutes if you like your butter tarts runny, 20 minutes if you like them firm. Remove from oven and let cool before removing from pan.
Spiced Maple Whole Grain Shortbread
- 2 cups whole grain pastry or all purpose flour
- 1/2 butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add maple extract to melted butter and stir. Mix dry ingredients and stir into the butter mixture. Press into a square 1/2-inch thick. Cut into squares and bake for 20 minutes.
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 5 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons vanilla pudding powder
- 2 cups powdered sugarTopping:
- 4 ounces dark chocolate
- 1/4 cup butter
Melt first three ingredients in the top of a double boiler or heavy saucepan. Add egg & stir to cook & thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients & press firmly into an ungreased 9 x 9-inch pan.
Cream all ingredients together; beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
Melt chips and butter over low heat; cool. When cooled but still runny, spread over middle layer. Chill in refrigerator. Use a very sharp knife to cut into squares.
All photos are courtesy of the author.