Ordinarily my TBT reviews are for books ten or twenty years old. Forgotten treasures. Ah, but today is, not an emergency, but a key day. Memorial Day weekend is upon us. Farmers markets will finally open up in many spots across the land — for those of us who do not live in California. It’s time for summer to begin and for pies and tarts to flow. This book, from the Culinary Institute of America, is an excellent way to plot your pie and tart summer excursions.
Most of us are a generation or two removed from having pie making as part of our normal, daily or weekly culinary life, the life where we are the ones making the pie. “Pie” now means a visit to a diner or defrosting something made in a factory. That’s a culinary tragedy.
To get back into personal pie mode, we need help and help has arrived in superlative fashion. Pies and Tarts, from the Culinary Institute of America and author Kristina Petersen Migoya, is the latest in the wonderful line of CIA books targeted to an expanding culinary audience.
The subtitle of the book tells it all: The Definitive Guide to Classic and Contemporary Favorites from The World’s Premier Culinary College. That is precisely what this book is about: a thorough education in the craft of making pies and tarts along with a bevy of recipes, some classic and many deliciously new. Kristina teaches at the CIA and has a lifetime spent loving and making pies. The CIA faculty and chefs are world class and have helped refine this book to the state of perfection you need to readily tackle and conquest any pie challenge before you.
What exactly does Pies and Tarts do for you? It will teach you the essentials for crafting a great pie or tart, both in terms of flavor and presentation. Certainly the “look” of that crust is as important as the flavor. Pies are inherently visual.
And Pies and Tarts provides a portfolio of recipes that will occupy you for a year, season by season. The recipes includes classics: Apple and Lemon Meringue. And new combinations reflecting emerging trends in flavors and highlighting the Hispanic influence that abounds: Maple Cream and Dulce de Leche.
The book has eight chapters that come in a natural order and span all the intelligence you need:
- Tools, Equipment and Ingredients
- Pie and Tart Crusts
- Chocolate and Nuts
- Finishing Techniques and Recipes
Those first three chapters get your grounded in the techniques and methodology for creating superior pies and tarts. The Tools chapter covers everything from rolling pins to which apples are best at what times of year. The Techniques chapter uses panels of photos to take you through the mechanics of getting a crust positioned just right over that pie dish, no matter what the size.
Have you ever had a crust fall apart on you as you tried to drape it over your pie pan? Not a good pie day, and here Pies and Tarts will provide guidance and insurance.
The Crusts chapter has a dozen recipes, some classic and then there is a pretzel example and one for empanadas based on masa harina and ready to be filled with veggies or beef in the recipes that follow.
The Fruit chapter has all the classics but the fun is the new flavor ideas: Strawberry Balsamic, Bellini Peach, Concord Grape, and Roasted Ginger Plum. I can’t wait for the concord grapes to arrive in that limited fall window to make, bake, and consume.
The Cream chapter is similar. It presents classics like Vanilla Cream coupled with new treats: Chocolate Malt, Chocolate Nutella, German Chocolate, Maple Cream, and Chai Vanilla. Yes, maple cream is not brand new but it’s one of those neglected flavors that now is abundant in recipes, both sweet and savory. And, yes, there is a separate chocolate chapter but Kristina has graciously seeded chocolate ideas everywhere. My kind of author.
The Custard chapter has the same story. Classic pumpkin pie but also Pumpkin Cheesecake, Maple Pumpkin, Chocolate Chess, Shoo-Fly, Creamy Maple, Bittersweet Chocolate Mocha Tart, Honey Orange, And Dulce De Leche. These are treats here to enjoy year round. However though, the Creamy Maple and Maple Pumpkin are ideas for your holiday feasts as this year concludes.
The Chocolate and Nut chapter offers Maple Pecan, Hazelnut Coffee, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Pretzel Tart, Walnut Caramel Tart, and of course Salted Caramel. You find salted caramel recipes everywhere, I know. For a good reason: salted caramel is delectable and this pie recipe is a grand one for your first salted caramel step.
The Savory chapter offers both year round and seasonal treats: Kale Bacon and Onion Quiche, Chicken Potpie, Vegetable Potpie, Black Bean and Corn Empanadas, Crab and Chive Tart, Bacon Crème Fraiche and Spring Onion Tart, Ham Asparagus and Cheddar Quiche, Artichoke and Parmesan Tart, plus Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart. Some ideas here are designed for spring, using asparagus or spring onions. But others can be relished year round, like the Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart.
The final Finishing chapter offers ideas to round out your pie repertoire plus some clever recipes. There are crumb toppings, washes and glazes. The technique to make perfected blowtorched meringue is amply displayed in photos. There are guidelines on how to refresh pies by reheating, plus tips for freezing: bake with fresh fruit then freeze for enjoyment when the snow is on the ground.
The recipes include a new technique for easy candied whole nuts, some gallant bourbon whipped cream for your pumpkin and maple pies, and brown sugar and oat crumble topping to top fruit and berry pies.
Pies and Tarts is a book for pie lovers, eaters, and bakers of all skill levels. If you are already pie experienced in your own kitchen, there are new recipes here to try, plus education to boost your skills. If you have never made a pie in your life, now you can. With confidence and success.