Martha Stewart's just-released cookbook, Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts (Clarkson Potter, $24.99), is a home dessert cook's dream, whether that cook is a novice piemaker or perfecting her or his latticework crust.
A complete, illustrated "basics" section covers traditional doughmaking instructions, make-ahead strategies and more. More advanced piemakers will find the tips on decorative crusts and finishing techniques (such as cutouts and classic edgings) to be useful.
But the real treasure here are the recipes: 150 of them, with beautiful full-color photos, covering down-home classics like chocolate cream pie to seasonal and holiday-appropriate treats, such as Easter Neapolitan pie and coconut and berry Passover tart (see recipe, right). Mini-dessert lovers will appreciate recipes for tartlets (gooseberry custard and persimmon-caramel cream among them), mini jam tarts, meringue mini pies and hand pies.
And if it's savories you crave, there's a chapter on those, too. We can't wait to try the summer squash lattice tart, Alsatian potato pie, and Swiss chard and goat cheese galette.
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Ginger-pear hand pies
Brown butter, vanilla-bean seeds and freshly grated ginger are used here in good measure to flavor individual pear-custard-filled pies. The pleated pastry shells are formed in a standard muffin tin, allowing for easy removal after baking.
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
For the filling:
2 large eggs
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe, firm pears, such as Bosc, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and scraped
2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
1. Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add butter and shortening; pulse just until mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 times. Combine vinegar and 1/4 cup ice water, and drizzle evenly over mixture; pulse just until dough comes together. If dough is still crumbly, add up to 1/4 cup more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
2. Pat dough into 2 disks, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, 1 hour or up to 1 day.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut 12 5-inch rounds from dough. Gently press rounds into cups of a 12-cup standard muffin tin, making pleats around edges and gently pressing to seal. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and granulated sugar until thick and pale yellow. Whisk in lemon juice, then flour and salt. Place diced pears in a medium bowl.
5. In a small saucepan, heat butter, vanilla bean and seeds, and grated ginger over medium-high until butter foams and browns, about 5 minutes. Pour mixture through a fine sieve over pears; discard solids. Stir egg mixture into pear mixture until combined.
6. Divide batter among chilled shells. Bake pies until crusts and filling are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool in tins on a wire rack, 30 to 40 minutes. Unmold; let cool completely on rack. Just before serving, dust with confectioners' sugar.
Nutritional information per pie: 401 calories, 25 grams fat, 41 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 88 milligrams cholesterol, 236 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 55 percent of calories from fat.
Coconut and berry Passover tart
This fresh berry tart defies the notion that Passover desserts are any less indulgent than those that contain flour and dairy. The "missing" ingredients are more than made up for by the chewy coconut crust, soft vanilla-almond filling and flavorful fruit on top. It's perfect for Passover -- or any other time of the year.
For the crust:
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 tablespoons almond paste
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup soy cream cheese, preferably Tofutti
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon apricot jam
4 cups mixed fresh berries, such as sliced strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine coconut, sugar, egg whites, vanilla and salt. Press into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch round fluted tart pan.
2. Make the filling: Scrape vanilla seeds into a small saucepan, and add pod. Stir in soy milk and 2 tablespoons sugar, and bring to a boil. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, arrowroot and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Add hot soy-milk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined. Return to pan, and whisk over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard vanilla pod.
3. With an electric mixer on medium, beat soy-milk mixture and almond paste 5 minutes. Beat in almond flour and soy cream cheese. With an offset spatula, spread mixture evenly over crust. Bake 15 minutes. Cover edges with a foil ring. Bake until set, 15 to 25 minutes more. Let tart cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Unmold. In a small saucepan, heat jam until loose. With an offset spatula, spread jam evenly over tart. Arrange berries on top, and serve.
Nutritional information per serving, based on 8: 376 calories, 21 grams fat, 44 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 69 milligrams cholesterol, 139 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.