Whoever coined the phrase "easy as pie" clearly didn't bake much. Enter Martha Stewart ... Again.
Stewart's latest cookbook "New Pies and Tarts" – offers more than 150 recipes whose clear instructions, gorgeous photos and brevity (all recipes fit on one page) take the intimidation out of pastry. Organized by category from "classic" (think apple) to "free-form" (no pie plate handy?) to "artful" (double lattice crusts, shingled leaves), the book lets users pick pies according to their skill and occasion.
From savory tarts to mile-high meringues, the range of pastries offered makes the book useful for dinner or dessert, winter or summer, weeknights and weekends. Mini chicken pot pies with herbed crust make a hearty winter meal, while vegetable tartlets filled with zucchini and tomatoes are an elegant summer lunch.
Everyday desserts such as the fruit tart with a cookielike crust can be made all year long with whatever's in the market, and free-form galettes – in which the dough is simply rolled and folded over a mound of fresh fruit – are easy enough for a busy Tuesday night.
Even special occasion desserts like billowy Key Lime Pie with graham cracker crust and dainty tartlets filled with persimmon and caramel cream appear straightforward. For the holidays, you've got Neapolitan Easter pie filled with wheat berries and ricotta and a berry tart snuggled into a macaroon-like crust of coconut and egg white. And it is flour- and dairy-free for Passover.
True to the formula of Stewart's books, an instructional chapter offers the 1-2-3 of crust making, excellent tips about freezing ingredients so you're ready when guests pop by, and a graduated lesson on mastering pie-making skills from single-crust affairs to dried-fruit compotes with star-lattice designs.
Who knows? Maybe it was Stewart who called pie-making "easy."
Coconut and Berry Passover Tart
This simple berry-topped tart is perfect for Passover. It sports a coconut crust that is both chewy and crispy, a puddinglike vanilla-almond filling and mounds of fresh fruit.
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (plus cooling)
For the crust:
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup vanilla soymilk
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 tablespoons almond paste
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup soy cream cheese (preferably Tofutti)
5 tablespoons apricot jam
4 cups mixed fresh berries, such as sliced strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
Heat the oven to 350 F.
To prepare the crust, in a medium bowl combine the coconut, sugar, the 2 egg whites, vanilla and salt. Press the mixture into the bottom and up sides of a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Set aside.
To make the filling, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into a small saucepan, then add the pod. Set over medium-high heat, then stir in the soymilk and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Bring to a boil.
In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 egg yolks, arrowroot and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Add the hot soymilk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until combined.
Return the mixture to the pan, and whisk over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Discard the vanilla pod.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium to beat the soymilk mixture and almond paste for 5 minutes. Beat in the almond flour and soy cream cheese. With an offset spatula, spread the mixture evenly over the crust. Bake for 15 minutes.
Cover the edges of the tart with foil. Bake until set, another 15 to 25 minutes. Let the tart cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Unmold.
In a small saucepan over medium, heat the jam until loose. With an offset spatula, spread the jam evenly over the tart. Arrange the berries on top, and serve.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 409 calories; 184 calories from fat (45 percent of total calories); 20 g fat (13 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 54 mg cholesterol; 51 g carbohydrate; 9 g protein; 5 g fiber; 188 mg sodium.
(Recipe from "Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts," Clarkson Potter, 2011)