common question I am asked is “What is the difference
between a pie and a tart?” To answer that and to better
understand the differences and similarities between all the pie family
members, here are definitions and explanations to many items seen on
pastry menus in restaurants and hotels.
are several very old-fashioned recipes from historical cookbooks in
my collection. Titles among my favorites old books: “Little Blue
Book No. 1179 How to Make Desserts, Pies and Pastries,” “The
Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook, and Baker,” “Desserts,”
and “The Epicurean.”
This pastry item is the one of the most popular and historical dessert
menu items that can be found in the United States. A typical pie
consists either of one or two crusts with a sweet filling. Two crusts
are often dubbed ‘double crust’ and bottom crust only
a ‘single crust. Pies can be sweet or savory, and cream, fruit,
vegetable or meat based. Often fruit pies have a thickener (flour,
cornstarch, tapioca, etc) for the resulting water and juices released
Deep Dish Pie:
This is usually a single crust pie made in a deep-dish pan (pie
pan with higher sides). Baking the pie this way is great for Recipes
can also be found where the filling is placed in a casserole or
other baking dish and a layer of pastry is rolled and placed over
the top. The edges are crimped and the top is vented, and the
pie is baked. The resulting pie looks like a pie only it has no
bottom, only the top. This style is generally served a la mode
(with ice cream) or with whipped cream.
This item is very similar to a pie in that it has a pastry dough
bottom and a filling. It can be single- or double-crusted. Often,
tarts are thinner than pies, and can be found in fluted tart pans
or made in flan rings (see below). Tart rings come in many different
shapes, including round and rectangular. On menus, it can be listed
as ‘tart’ or ‘tarte’ depending on the pastry
This item can mean one of two things: an inverted rich egg-based
custard with a caramel syrup and/or a caramelized top, or an open
tart (one crust only on the bottom) baked in a flan ring. Flan
rings are metal circles with rolled edges, and the pastry crust
is made in them. The pastry dough is laid and pressed inside the
ring directly over a sheet pan.
shell can be baked by itself and used as a cooked ready-made base
for cooked creams or filled with a filling and baked. Flan rings
come in many different sizes from individual or very large sizes,
and can be found in tin, stainless steel or aluminum. A flan (tart)
can be savory or sweet.
Form Pie or Tart:
This is a pastry dough crust rolled out and instead of
placing in a pie tin, it is transferred to a flat baking pan.
center is filled or spread with a filling and the edges are folded
around it. The edges can be left as they are or crimped or cut decoratively.
It is then baked until the crust is browned and the filling is cooked.
|| Really watery or runny fillings are not good for this as the filling
would run over the edges before folding them over. Fruit fillings
are excellent for this kind of dessert.
This can be sweet or savory, and is basically anything in an edible
container like bread crusts, hollowed rolls, empty pastry shells,
cooked mashed potatoes, etc. For pastry, it generally means a
free form pie or tart. Croustades can be individual or larger.
sweet or savory baked items. When prepared sweet, galettes can
be defined in one of two ways: The first as a round and flat dessert
made out of pastry dough, yeast-leavened doughs such as brioche
and even puff pastry and are often filled with fruits, jams and
creams. The second is a round, flat sometimes crimped cookie similar
These are individual desserts made with pasty dough. Cut out from
rounds (or squares or other shapes), turnovers are filled with
spoonful or two of filling and folded over. The edges are crimped
or pressed to seal. These are generally baked but can also be
These are similar to turnovers, and are generally fruit-filled.
The pastry dough is usually always pie dough and after frying
they are drained and can be found served with a dusting of confectioner’s
Pies or Tarte Tatin:
Tarte Tatin is a caramelized apple dish baked with a pastry dough
on top. It is then inverted on a serving platter with the fruit
on top and pastry on bottom. Variations that can be found on pastry
menus include peach, nectarine, pear and other sliceable fruits.
The caramel and resulting syrup from the fruit that accumulates
and thickens is served with the dish. An upside down pie is similar
with less complexity: just a filling (usually fruit) placed on
the bottom of a pan with straight sides for easy unmolding, pie
crust is placed over the top and the whole thing is baked. It
is served inverted on a plate.
Generally speaking, these pies have a meringue crust to them.
Meringue is spread thickly in a pie pan and baked until it is
crisp and dried. Fresh filling is spooned high in the center and
served immediately. Cutting this pie is facilitated with a serrated
knife. The filling that is often used is a sweetened fruit filling.
Some of the popular flavors are raspberry and strawberry since
these both contrast nicely with the white meringue crust.
that you know a little about the different pies and tarts that can be
found, here are some recipes from old cookbooks. While they may be out
of print, old pastry cookbooks are a treasure. Not only are they a great
culinary learning tool but they can lend an historical hint of what
was popular way back then.
This recipe comes from the hard-to-find Little Blue Book collection
from the Haldeman-Julius Publications. The book “How to Make
Desserts, Pies and Pastries” by Mrs. Temple is No. 1179 in
the collection from 1927.
1 c sugar
1/8 t salt
1/3 c flour
1 c orange juice
1/4 c lemon juice
1 t grated orange rind
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 t butter
2 egg whites
1/8 t salt
4 T sugar
1 t grated orange rind
1 Prebaked pie crust
For the filling:
Mix the sugar, salt and flour in the top of a double boiler. Add in
juices and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add in the egg
yolks and butter and cook for another two minutes. Pour into an already
cooked pie shell.
For the topping: Beat the whites with salt until firm. Add in the sugar
and beat until glossy. Fold in the orange rind and top the pie with
it. Bake in a moderate oven for about eight minutes until lightly browned.
This recipe is adapted from a book by Olive M. Hulse. Her book “Desserts:
Two Hundred Recipes for Making Desserts Including French Pastries”
is loaded with quotes on every page and has a great introduction on
“Dessert Lore.” My favorite quote or thought: The discovery
of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the
discovery of a new planet.
5 large apples, peeled and
2 large eggs
4 T melted butter
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c cream
1 T brandy
Pinch of cinnamon
2 pie crust shells
Mix all the ingredients
together and divide between the two crust shells. Bake until the crusts
are browned and the filling is set.
Flan (Apricot Flawn or Flan d’Abricots)
This recipe originally has the flan spelled as ‘flawn.’
"The Epicurean" cookbook is 1183 pages of historical
menus, culinary definitions and black and white illustrations showing
many of the tools and utensils of the chef’s domain from Delmonico’s
kitchens from 1862 to 1894. The Epicurean was published in 1920
and written by Charles Ranhofer, ‘former chef of Delmonico’s.’
Flan ring, lined with pastry
Apricots, halved and peeled
Superfine sugar, for sprinkling
Arrange the apricot
halves in circles, overlapping each other. Sprinkle all over with superfine
sugar and bake in a moderate oven until pastry is browned and apricots
are softened. Remove flan ring, cool and serve.
© 2009 Renee Shelton.
All rights reserved.