COOKBOOK REVIEW Martha Stewart’s New Pies & Tarts

By Martha Stewart Living Magazine


Cookbook review written by
Stay-At-Home-Chef


Martha Stewart’s New Pies & Tarts is available for purchase through our online store or at local book stores

Whereas the year 2010 was dedicated to cupcakes, 2011 has been globally touted to be the year of the pie. As a result, foodies (professional and amateur alike) have been hell bent on making pie one of this year’s top culinary trends. Who makes this stuff up is beyond me, but nonetheless as a lover of pie who am I to argue?!

Either cleverly predicting or influentially dictating this focus on pies, the team at Martha Stewart Living has put together an incredible collection of classic and updated pie and tart recipes in Martha Stewart’s New Pies & Tarts (published by Clarkson Potter/Publishing, $24.99 USD). Beautifully photographed with a corresponding picture for each of the 150 recipes, this book includes detailed step-by-step information that guides you painlessly through the process of creating stunning pastry. From classic pies to free-form tarts, modern creations and savoury treats to special occasion pastries, this book has it all. In fact, I would go so far as to label it the quintessential cookbook for pies. Basic dough recipes are included with detailed and visual instructions, along with a variety of flavour twists and decorative techniques that will appeal to bakers of all levels. At the back of the book is included a comprehensive list of baking staples and equipment, along with pastry techniques, tips and tricks. This book also includes a feature that is near and dear to my heart; a comprehensive index allowing you to search by ingredients or flavour.

I love baking from this book, and above and beyond the three recipe tests for this review I have had other successes including the Peach & Crème Fraîche Pie and Pumpkin & Ricotta Crostata. With recipes drawn from two decades worth of some of the most requested recipes from Martha Stewart Living along with editor favourites…how can you go wrong with this book? The answer is; you can’t.

Caramelized Lemon Tart

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 (great twist on two classic desserts)

THE TEST:
Like the majority of photos in the book, this one is gorgeously staged and honestly I had no will power to resist its allure. Caramelized Lemon Tart? I had no trouble visualizing myself cracking into the hardened top and devouring the citrusy filling and sweet pastry. Mmm…

Sorry – where was I again?

This tart uses pâte sucrée or “sweet pastry”, a dough that is quite sturdy due to the addition of sugar and egg yolks but which is also more tender and less flaky than pâte brisée. Wanna hear something cool? You can take the basic recipe for pâte sucrée and create a variety of flavours; such as citrus, poppy seed, chocolate, cornmeal-lemon. Is your imagination running around wildly right now with the flavour possibilities? Mine is most definitely!



© 2011 Jasmine Bradley

The filling is a heavenly lemon custard, made by simmering an egg yolk mixture over heat until thickened. Off the heat, whisk in butter one piece at a time and refrigerate until set. Now I must be honest and say that something happened along the way and my custard never really set properly. I have a feeling I didn’t keep it on the heat long enough before adding the butter. I also failed to add the full amount of butter (½ cup) as I feared it would dilute the lemon taste and be too buttery. Should have known better than to doubt Martha. What was I thinking?!


© 2011 Jasmine Bradley

Once the pie crust is baked and cooled, fill with the lemon custard and brûlée the top when ready to serve. If you don’t have a handheld kitchen torch, you can easily place the tart under a broiler until the sugar sprinkled on top turns a nice golden brown. That being said, anyone who knows my husband will not be surprised to hear that when we brûléed our tarts a commercial grade torch was used. Don’t try this at home folks! Not the norm in most households. I think.

© 2011 Jasmine Bradley

THE RESULTS: This pie is not overly sweet, but when combined with the sweet pastry and sugared top it was perfect. The citrus flavour was incredible! Robust and fresh – lovers of lemon will not be disappointed. I loved the crunch from the brûléed top. Genius move.

Unfortunately because my custard never set properly, the filling was runny. Very runny. But we lapped it up anyway as it tasted delicious. There is no doubt in my mind why this recipe has been chosen as most-favoured-dessert amongst Martha Stewart Living readers ever since the tart debuted back in 1992. Kinda a no brainer.

© 2011 Jasmine Bradley

 

Strawberry Galette with Basil Whipped Cream

RATING: 5 out of 5 (unique, fresh flavours…restaurant worthy!)

THE TEST: Technically a galette, this particular pastry is basically a flat, freeform pie crust filled with thinly sliced strawberries. Very rustic looking, the recipe involves using pâte brisée (loosely translated as “broken pastry”). This rich, buttery flavoured dough gets its crisp and flakey texture by releasing steam as bits of unincorporated butter melts during the baking process. Sound intimidating? Don’t worry – this particular pastry is straightforward and easy to make. Plus the book provides detailed instructions and helpful step-by-step photos to assist you along the way. Thanks Martha!


© 2011 Jasmine Bradley

The strawberries are laid on top of the dough in a concentric pattern after being tossed with sugar and cornstarch. Dotted with butter, the pie is baked and served with a unique basil whipped cream that is completely and irrevocably addictive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

THE RESULTS: At first bite this pie became my new favourite. The pastry is light and buttery, very delicate in texture yet rich in taste. There’s barely a need to chew it melts so effortlessly in your mouth! The strawberries are beautiful in their simplicity, their flavour allowed to be pure and untampered.


© 2011 Jasmine Bradley

You could easily serve this galette alone, but one taste of the basil infused whipped cream and you’ll scoff at the mere suggestion! It is an amazing flavour combination that pairs perfectly with the pie. The taste of basil comes through strongly but in no way is it overwhelming. The mascarpone adds a nice depth to the whipped cream without making it too heavy. Absolute perfection.

© 2011 Jasmine Bradley

 

Yogurt & Blueberry Pie with Granola Crust

RATING: 4 out of 5 (light, fresh & fun!)

Click here for a copy of this recipe

THE TEST: This pie immediately jumped out at me, the ingredients closely resembling one of my favourite breakfast treats; yogurt parfait. The crust is made up of finely ground granola, sugar and cinnamon, with melted butter to bind everything together. I appreciated how the recipe called for ½ cup of the granola to remain whole, adding texture to the pie without losing that lovely crunch.

Once the pie crust has been baked and cooled, a yogurt and cream cheese mixture is added. The recipe instructs you to strain the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined sieve, but I opted to use Greek yogurt which is lovely and thick. One less step! Blueberries are scattered on top with honey drizzled to taste. The Greek yogurt I used was honey flavoured, so I decided to skip the honey drizzle as my filling was already quite sweet.


© 2011 Jasmine Bradley

THE RESULTS: I am excited to make this pie again in the near future, but next time I would definitely skip the flavoured yogurt as it made the filling too sweet for my liking. Plain yogurt would work better. But overall this pie was a success! The cream cheese added a nice creaminess to the tart yogurt, making the filling almost cheesecake like in taste and texture. I did find it a bit runny, so next time I would consider adding more cream cheese. Any excuse for more cream cheese!

© 2011 Jasmine Bradley

Blueberries are such a natural choice of fruit for this pie, but it would also be lovely with an assortment of fresh berries. Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries? Yes please! Plus the variety of colours would look stunning when the pie serving to guests. Be warned that the crust was quite crumbly and difficult to coax out of the pie pan, although once the initial slice was free the others came out much easier.

© 2011 Jasmine Bradley