I grew up with a parent who loathed Martha Stewart. Mention her name and my dad would become apoplectic. “That woman! She’s . . .!”
I never understood it. After all, it was my mother, not he, who cooked the family meals and did our decorating. Who knows? Maybe he envied folks who ate bouillabaisse and coq au vin at a table adorned with homemade pine cone centerpieces and dried wild flower napkin rings. Whatever the cause, I knew that bringing a Martha Stewart cookbook or magazine into the house was tantamount to treason. That I’m a fan of one of her cookbooks, well, I can imagine what he’d say – Judas! Yet, I have to admit that I like her latest offering, Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts.
Compiled by the editors of Martha Stewart Living, Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts provides 150 simple to mildly difficult recipes for pies and tarts. Whether I’m pressed for time or able to spend a few hours in the kitchen, this book has an array of sweet and savory treats to suit my needs. Need a quick, seasonal or chocked-full-of-chocolate dessert? I’ll whip together a phyllo tart with sugared pluots or chocolate cream pie. Want something different for dinner? I’ll make the leek and olive tart or Alsatian potato pie. All are easy and utterly delicious.
Divided into 10 chapters, the cookbook begins with “Classic,” 10 recipes for such perennial favorites as lemon meringue, pumpkin and lattice-top blueberry pie. It then moves on to one of my preferred pie types, “Free Form,” unstructured creations that need neither pie pans nor fussy adornments. Galettes, crostatas and phyllo tarts fall into this category as do, oddly enough, hand-held pies. As these must be formed with cookie or biscuit cutters, hand-held pies seem better suited to the “Rustic” rather than “Free Form” chapter. It’s a small complaint in an otherwise solid baking book.
For newcomers or those requiring a refresher in pie baking, Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts goes over the basics in a section entitled, sensibly enough, “The Basics.” Here readers learn how to poach fruit, make a meringue as well as a variety of doughs and craft fancy pie crusts. All of the techniques needed to create a good pie can be found at the back of the book.
As much as it would drive my late father crazy, I’ve found Martha Stewart’s Pies & Tarts to be a big crowd pleaser. It’s a welcomed addition to my cookbook collection. No doubt it will be the same for you, too.