Slice of Life: Pies and Tarts

November 21, 2013
Please note: fresh fruit and vegetables need to be inspected for insect infestation. Please consult our guide

cherry pieThe holiday dessert dilemma usually falls into the eat it with your fingers (cookies, fudge, candy) variety or the serve it by the slice assortment (cake or pie). I usually have an assortment of both but the most often requested dessert is the pie.

I get at least 10 to 15 emails or phone calls a year asking for my best pie or tart recipe. Then when I ask which they want, a pie or tart, the response is “there’s a difference?”

Pies and tarts are two very distinctly different, almost the same dessert. Perplexed yet? Both of these delicious pastry filled treats are perfect for a holiday table but knowing the difference will truly help you figure out which one will work best with them and skill level you have available.

Pie is a sweet and/or savory recipe with a crust and a filling. The sides of a pie pan are sloped and a pie can be made with one or two crusts. The crust is traditionally made of flour, salt, cold water, and shortening (traditionally lard) or a combination of shortenings like butter, lard and margarine. The perfect crust is supposed to be crisp and flaky and served from the pan it was baked in.

A tart can also be a sweet or savory recipe. The difference is that it’s made in a wider, shallow pan with a separate removable bottom and it only has a bottom crust. Tart crusts are typically made with flour, butter, cold water, and often times, sugar. The crust is firmer than a pie crust and is a bit crumbly.

When making your crust, an important baking tip is that you need to keep your fat/shortening cold. You also need to use ice cold water. The object is to keep the fat solid while you’re making the crust so that it only melts when it’s baked. When the fat melts as the pie bakes, the steam creates the flaky layers that give the pie it’s distinctive texture. If the fat and water are room temperature or warm, the crust doesn’t rise and it becomes hard and crunchy.

Some pies and tarts are best served cold while others are best warm. Whatever way you decide to serve them, you better make two. One just won’t be enough for you and the company you’ll be serving.

Basic Pie Crust (dairy or pareve)


  • Dough for three 9″ crusts
  • 4¼ cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup chilled butter or shortening
  • ½ cup chilled shortening
  • ½ to ¾ cup ice cold water
  • 2 Tablespoons fine white sugar (optional)


  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar (if using).
  2. Cut the butter into the flour using 2 knives or a pastry cutter. When the butter/shortening pieces are larger than a pea, stop working the dough.
  3. At this point SLOWLY add half of the water. Using your hands, gently work the water into the dough and make a rough shaped ball. Add remaining water and gently work together. Do not over mix or knead.
  4. Separate the dough into three pieces. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  5. To prepare: Grease a pie pan. Roll out 1 piece of cold dough between two sheets of waxed paper. Press the rolled round of dough into a greased pie dish. Trim the overhanging edges and crimp the edges. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  6. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  7. Poke the bottom of the dough several times with a fork. Bake on the bottom oven rack for 18-20 minutes or until baked but not browned.
  8. Fill with whatever filling you like and continue baking.
    You can also fully bake the crust for 25 minutes and then fill with a no-bake filling. (Dough can be frozen until needed).

My files modified from Good Housekeeping

Peach Berry Fruit Tart (dairy or pareve)

8 servings


  • 2-2/3 cups flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/3 cups shortening
  • 2/3 cup cold water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2-2/3 cups sliced fresh or frozen peaches
  • 1½ cups fresh raspberries


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until it resembles small peas. Gradually mix in the water until dough is just wet enough to hold together. Knead briefly, just so the dough holds together without crumbling.
  2. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  3. When ready to make the tart, press the dough into a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  5. In a bowl combine the sugar and cornstarch. Add the peaches and blackberries and toss to combine. Place the fruit mixture into the crust.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the fruit is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
  7. Let it cool completely before removing from the pan.

My files, source unknown

Cherry Pie (dairy or pareve)

6 to 8 servings (1 pie)


  • Dough for 2 pie crusts
  • 5 cups pitted fresh (or frozen, defrosted) cherries (about 2½ lbs.)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 Tablespoons butter or margarine cut into small pieces
  • 9-inch pie pan


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a saucepan combine the cherries, sugar and lemon zest. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and cherries are soft.
  3. Cool for about 15 minutes then mix in the flour. Set aside.
  4. Remove chilled crust from refrigerator. Roll out the first crust and place it in the pie pan. Using a fork, poke the bottom of the crust 4 or 5 times.
  5. Bake for 3 minutes. Remove the pie crust from the oven and fill it with the cherry mixture.
  6. Dot the top of the fruit with the butter, place the second crust on top and crimp the edges with a fork or use your fingers. Cut a few vent slits in the top to let the steam vent.
  7. Bake 20 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350°F and bake another 30 to 40 minutes until the cherry juices bubble and crust is golden.

My files source unknown

Caramel Apple Pie (dairy)

6 to 8 servings (1 pie)


  • 2 ready-made pie crusts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 cups thinly sliced peeled apples
  • ½ cup caramel ice cream topping (divided)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In a bowl, combine the sugar, ¼ cup flour and the cinnamon. Mix and add the apples and mix to coat. Spoon apple mixture into one of the crusts. Drizzle the ¼ cup caramel sauce over the top of the apples.
  2. In bowl, combine the 1 cup flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until you have a crumb mixture. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the apples.
  3. Remove the second crust from its pan. Cut it into ½-inch strips. Place half of the strips across filling in pie plate. Weave remaining strips with first strips to form lattice. Trim the overhanging edges and then crimp the ends of the strips to the pie crust.
  4. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until the top golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes, drizzle the remaining caramel topping over the top of the pie.
  5. Cool an additional 2 hours before serving.

Modified from

Pear and Almond Tart (dairy or pareve)


  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider
  • 1¼ cups flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 Tablespoons chilled unsalted butter or margarine, cut into ½-inch pieces


  • ½ cup (packed) almond paste (about 5 ounces)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 medium Bartlett or Anjou pears (about 7 ounces each)


  1. In a bowl, combine the egg yolks and apple cider and whisk together.
  2. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add chilled butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk mixture and process until moist clumps form.
  3. Gather dough into ball and flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour.
  4. Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Chill while preparing filling. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)
  5. Preheat to 375°F.
  6. Blend almond paste and sugar in processor until almond paste is finely ground. Add ¼ cup flour and 3 Tablespoons room-temperature butter and process until thick paste forms. Add eggs and vanilla extract and process until smooth. Spread filling in crust.
  7. Cover and chill while preparing pears.
  8. Peel pears. Cut each pear in half lengthwise and core. Slice 1 pear half crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Press on pear half to fan slices towards wider end.
  9. Slide spatula under pear half and place atop tart filling, positioning narrow end of pear in center of tart and wider end against crust. Repeat with remaining pear halves.
  10. Melt remaining 1 Tablespoon butter. Brush over pears.
  11. Bake tart until pears are tender and crust is brown, about 50 minutes. Cool 30 minutes.
  12. Remove from pan and serve warm or at room temperature. (Tart can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Submitted by Rhonda Marsten Chicago modified from Bon Appétit March 2003

Sweet Potato Apple Pie (pareve)

This recipe was created by Judith Waldron of Rossville, Indiana. It took 1st place in the Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust Pie Baking Championship, 2009 Indiana State Fair.


  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1½ lbs. sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1 (9- to 9½-inch) unbaked pie shell
  • ¼teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake about 1 hour or until very tender. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  2. Line pie shell with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake on the lower rack of the oven for about 15 minutes or until just starting to set. Remove the weights and continue to bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
  3. Meanwhile, peel sweet potatoes and transfer flesh to the bowl of a food processor. Discard skins. Process until potatoes are puréed. Transfer 1½ cups purée to a large bowl (you may have a little extra). Add milk, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt, and whisk until combined and smooth.
  4. Layer apple slices in concentric circles in the bottom of cooled crust. Pour sweet potato filling into crust over apples (you may have extra filling depending on the depth of the crust).
  5. Bake about 50 minutes or until just set in center of pie. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
  6. Serve or chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Modified from

© Eileen Goltz pie13a

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.