Pie Family and All the Cousins:
Pies, Tarts, and Everything in Between (or on top of) Pie Crust
“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 desserts associated with a pie.
are several very old-fashioned recipes from historical cookbooks in
my collection. Titles among my favorite 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.”
A pie is a pastry item with a crust and a filling, and can have one or two crusts. Two crusts
are often dubbed ‘double crust’ and bottom crust only pie is
a ‘single crust. Pies can be sweet or savory, and can be filled with either a cream, fruit,
vegetable or meat filling. Often fruit pies have a thickener (flour,
cornstarch, tapioca, etc) to help thicken the water and juices released
- Deep Dish Pie:
This is a pie baked in a deep-dish pan (a pie
pan with higher sides).
A tart is very similar to a pie in that it has a pastry dough
bottom with a filling. It can have a single crust, or be double-crusted. Often,
tarts are thinner than pies. Tart pans are typically fluted around the edges, and can be round, square, rectangular.
A flan can mean one of two things: an inverted rich egg-based
baked custard with a caramel syrup, or an open
tart (one crust only on the bottom). The flan related to pies are baked in flan rings, which are metal circles with rolled edges. The pastry dough is laid and pressed inside the
ring directly over a sheet pan. A flan shell is simply a plain crust baked alone with the ring. 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. The
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.
- Croustade / Crostata:
Crostades or crostatas 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. Sweet turnovers are baked or fried.
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 served with a dusting of confectioner’s
- Tarte Tatin:
Tarte tatin is a caramelized (classically apple) baked dish with a pastry dough
on top. While classically made with apples, tarte tatin can be made with other fruits, especially stone fruits. Sugar is caramelized in an ovenproof pan with butter. Once the sugar is cooked, fruit is added, and it is continued to cook until a deep caramel is formed. The crust is carefully placed over the fruit, and it is baked until the crust is browned. Once it is pulled from the oven, it is inverted on a serving platter, leaving the fruit
on top and pastry on bottom. The caramel and resulting syrup from the fruit is served with the dish.
An upside down pie is similar
to a tarte tatin but with less complexity: just a filling (usually fruit) placed on
the bottom of a pan with straight sides for easy unmolding and a crust. 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.
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 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup flour
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon butter
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon 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 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon 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.