The scent of pies and tarts baking can conjure wonderful memories and lift the spirits. Their promise of sweet bites, evoking feelings of warmth and comfort paired with copious amounts of tea or coffee and good company to accompany.
As the fork presses down breaking its outer shell to release the deliciousness inside, each bite lifted to your lips, their delicate perfume fills your mouth while the flavors mingle and dance on your palate.
The journey of pies from past to present, those simple through elaborate pieces of art, came from very humble beginnings.
A favorite of dessert lovers, pies and tarts are a baked dish of filling over pastry base covered or uncovered with pastry, sometimes containing custard. As for the distinction between “pie” and “tart” or “flan”, the term is often interchangeable though the term ‘pie’ is used more prominently in the United States of America. The delicious sweet pies and tarts we know and love were not always sweet, nor at their very beginning, were they even eaten.
A Nibble on the Origins of Pie
The delectable sweet filled pastry we know as ‘pie’ is a more recent addition to our food repertoire. The pie began as a practical means for cooking meats; they were a practicalsolution to work with the ovens at the time which were large clay pots with fire burning inside. When meat was cooked over these open fire on spits, bread made was crushed flat and round. The act of cooking meat over an open flame posed a problem – it caused the meat to lose its juices and rendered it dry. So, to counter this and preserve the meat juices, a simple dough made from flour and water was wrapped around the meat, sometimes referred to as a ‘bake-mete’. These early medieval pie crusts were called ‘coffins’, ‘basket’, or ‘box’ and were made several inches thick in order to withstand hours of cooking. Historians trace the origin of these meat pies to the Greeks.
The Arrival of Sweet Pies
Sweet pies arrived in the 1600’s but were not popularized until the 1800’s. Sweet pies were also made to preserve foods that filled them like dried fruit miked with cinnamon and nutmeg, which was also used to season meat.
Types of Tarts and Tortes
There are so many delicious choices of pies, tarts and torte desserts to satisfy all palates. Here is a brief look at a few of the more famous ones:
TARTE: Tarte is french for tart (open) or pie (closed).
CROSTATA | Italian Crostata, which dates back to the 1400’s is a rustic, free-formed version of an open front tart.
TARTLET | Tartlets or miniature tart
JAM TART | A tart filled with jam
TARTE TATIN | Tarte Tatin is an upside-down with apple or other fruit or even onion for a savory version.
SAVORY TART | Savory tarts include quiche, the German Zwiebelkuchen, an onion tart.
TORTE | A Torte is not a pie but rather a multi-layered rich cake filled with whipped creams, butter creams, mousse or fruit and is cooled, glazed, and garnished.
- Austrian Sacher Torte and Linzertorte: A specific type of chocolate cake, or torte, invented by Austrian Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna.
- German Schwarzwalder Kirsch Torte: Otherwise know as the Black Forest Cake. Named for the specialty liquor of that region, known as Schwarzwälder Kirsch(wasser) and distilled from tart cherries.
- Hungarian Dobos Torte: A Hungarian sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel. The multi-layered pastry is named after its inventor, Hungarian confectioner József C. Dobos.
- French Gateau St. Honoré: The St. Honoré cake, named for the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré or Honoratus (d. 600 AD), bishop of Amiens.
The Famous Sacher Hotel, Vienna — The Sacher Torte
The original Sacher Torte recipe is a closely guarded secret. Thousands of Sacher Tortes are baked daily at the Sacher Hotel and each of the 36 steps is still carried out by hand.
For more on the famous Sacher Torte, visit www.sacher.com/original-sacher-torte