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Baking From My Home to Yours: Pies and Tarts

December 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the Pies and Tarts chapter of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. So far, we have made:

    Chocolate Cream Tart
    My husband and I made this with the plain sweet tart dough (rather than chocolate) because I thought chocolate on chocolate might be too heavy. The custard is very easy to put together. We made the custard and the tart dough the night before, then baked the dough and assembled the tart the following day (Thanksgiving). It was a huge success. We used Callebaut 54.5% chocolate -- depending on the crowd, I might try this with stronger chocolate next time.

    Quick Classic Berry Tart
    We've made twice so far, with outstanding results. This is the first tart dough that I've enjoyed both making and eating. For my tastes, pie and tart crusts are usually just a waste of time, something to push aside so you can get at the rest of your dessert. This tart dough is more like a shortbread cookie.

    Our only modification: the second time we made this recipe was for Thanksgiving, so we made a double recipe of the tart dough, baked the tart in an 11" pan rather than the 9" pan called for, and made a few mini/raspberry strawberry tarts for our toddler and the other kids coming for Thanksgiving. Yes, they enjoyed them. By the way, without much effort, this recipe comes out looking exactly like the photo in the book, which is a real bonus.

    1. I've been really tempted by the banana cream pie. It totally doesn't feel like the kind of thing to eat in the fall, yet it's really calling out my name (particularly if one were to put a think layer of bittersweet chocolate on the cooled crust to both function as a barrier to the moistness of the pastry cream and add that yummy chocolate flavor that marries so well with bananas (drool).

      1. Quick Classic Berry Tart

        Beautiful and delicious, but not quick. The tart shell is easy and very good. The instructions for the pastry cream, however, leave much to be desired. If I hadn't made pastry cream many times in the past, I woul'v'e had an absolute mess. Greenspan says to bring the mixture to a boil, and then boil for two minutes more. Long before mine reached a boil, it was verging on over-cooked. It was so thick after cooling, it was almost impossible to spread it in the tart shell. That said, however, it tasted just fine, and didn't seem too thick.

        1. Florida Pie, p340.

          I made this for Christmas Eve after a dinner of stone crab. This was really good. In fact, I made it again this weekend to bring over to mom and dad's yesterday. Dad loved it. It's basically a key lime pie with the addition of coconut. First a thin coconut cream layer is made by reducing heavy cream and shredded coconut, and then pouring into a graham cracker crust. This is covered by a classic key lime filling made with sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Bake for 12 minutes, let it cool, and then put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes before whipping the egg whites. Shredded coconut is also folded into the meringue. Both times I froze it overnight, and then moved it to the refrigerator.

          After browning the meringue under the broiler:

          A messy slice:

          1. French Lemon Cream Tart
            Sour Cream Pumpkin Tart

            The tart pastry is very easy and good (and sandy shortbread type), but I have a hard time pressing it into the pan evenly, and so it cooks unevenly with some overly brown spots. The first time I made it it was fine, but the second time I overcooked it and some spots overbrowned so much I had to break it up and crumble the crust in a bowl and spoon the lemon curd over.

            I have previously spoken about how great the sour cream pumpkin filling is. Just silky smooth and dead rich. Perfect.

            The lemon filling was good. I didn't realize how rich it was until I started adding the butter into the eggs and sugar in the blender. Although not a complicated recipe, it was very difficult to take the temperature of the mixture while constantly whisking. I don't think I ever reached 180F. When I strained it, I did have fine particles of cooked yolk and white in the strainer. Still, after bravely adding the 2 sticks and 5 Tbsp of butter, I got an extremely rich and flavorful lemon cream. It was not 'deceptively light' as described and this is likely due to my technique errors and the type of blender I was using not really fluffing it. Still it was liked by all spooned on crust crumbles and topped with whipped cream and was crazy good on biscuits the next day.

            1. I've been on a huge Dorie kick this holiday season, and have made quite a few things from this cookbook. For Thanksgiving, I made her sour cream pumpkin pie (p. 324, great), and her Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake (p. 310) which I really liked. The Pie-Cake is very rustic looking and I think that I slightly over baked it, because the corners were a little too crunchy (she says 65-80 minutes, and I think it should have definitely been more like 65/70 minutes for me) but the middle pieces of the cake were delicious, and they were great for breakfast with coffee for the days.

              I really came, though, to post about the Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart (p.355), which I made for a holiday party this weekend and was easy and delicious. Well, it's easy if you have some experience with caramel, but that was the only tricky part. You put tart dough in a tart pan and fully bake and then cool it, make caramel, make ganache, chop honey roasted peanuts (or pecans, or hazelnuts, I used the peanuts), then combine the chopped peanuts with the caramel, spread the caramel and peanuts on the bottom of the tart, let the caramel set in the fridge for about 15 minutes, then pour the cooled ganache over everything and let it set in the fridge for 30 minutes, then serve at room temp. It was wonderful, very impressive looking, and everyone loved it. I'm definitely going to make this one again! Attached is a slightly messy picture of the last piece, I forgot to take pictures when it was still whole.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JasmineG

                Thanks for reviving this thread, Jasmine. I'm glad to see the photo and one last piece is better than a pan filled with crumbs! Also provides evidence that it was very popular.

              2. Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake p. 310

                Loved it again! Where have you been all my life, Dorie Greenspan?? An interesting hybrid of pie and cake, with a sweetish crust and a simple apple-cinammon filling. Very homey and old fashioned, and simple to make as well. I halved the recipe and made it in an 8x8 pyrex dish, which was a perfect breakfast sweet for the 6 of us.

                I made the dough the night before, as the recipe required a 2+ hour refrigeration. The dough was much easier than pie crust- just mix butter, sugar, baking powder, eggs, flour and lemon juice together, form into 2 rectangles and refrigerate. The next day, I peeled and cored my apples, tossed them with cinammon, sugar, and raisins, then rolled out the chilled dough to fit my 8x8 dish. The dough broke a little, but I pieced it together and mushed the seams without a problem in the finished product - Dorie says because of the baking powder, the dough is forgiving. Then I layered in the apples, and placed the 2nd layer of dough on top, brushed with water and popped it in the oven for 50 minutes. The hardest part was letting it cool- the recipe recommends serving at room temp to let the cakey part rest. It smelled so good and looked so quaint, we were able to hold off for a little bit, but dug in before it cooled all the way. Here's a picture:

                3 Replies
                1. re: yamalam

                  That sounds heavenly, yamalam. (And so did the carrot cake and Rubee's banana cake.) I'm so pleased people are coming back to this book. I had taken it out of the library when it was first COTM and copied about half a dozen recipes from it. I wanted to buy it at the time, but it was still quite expensive, even used, on Amazon. Just checked again and they have copies for about $14 +shipping. That I can afford. And the continued (mostly) raves have convinced me I really do need to have this. About to go pull out my credit card. Thank you all.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    I think it was all the rage when it won the Beard award in 07, but the buzz has since died down. I found my copy on the clearance rack at Sur la Table for $18, and recognized the name from this board and Tastespotting. I've loved the results so much I couldn't keep them to myself:)

                    1. re: JoanN

                      Yes this book is well worth it, have been baking from it ever since I got it.