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Martha Stewart reaches out to beginner bakers

In certain circles, "Martha Stewart" has become shorthand for overly fussy, time-consuming household presentations best attempted by women with domestic staff.

But Martha Stewart's cookbooks have long eluded those pejorative connotations, and the updated paperback version of "Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts" explodes it entirely.

Here's a volume with everything a nervous, rookie pie maker needs to excel at the tart arts.

The "Basics" section explains key differences between ingredients like sugars and chocolates, and offers illustrated guides to crust making and baking. What should the mixture look like when you cut the fat into the flour, before you add the water? Here it is.

Want a page of pie crust crimping variations, or a visual guide to crust glazes? The color photographs, designed and executed by Martha Stewart Living magazine staffers, are loaded with information.

The volume also contains plenty of challenging, exquisite recipes to inspire veterans of the blind-baked crust. Marbleized Lemon Tart with Sage, anyone? How about a Brandy Apple Pie with a top crust shingled with leaves carved from dough?

First up are the classics, the most-requested, best tested pies and tarts from two decades of recipes. Chocolate Creme, Pumpkin, Mile-High Lemon Meringue, Pecan and Lattice-Top Blueberry are all here. So are tarts like Peach and Berry, Tarte Tatin, and Berries and Cream Tartlets.

But the book also aims to have you looking at pies and tarts in new ways. There's a section of free-form pies and tarts, some not made in pie dishes at all, just dough folded over a filling and baked. A thin disc of cream-cheese dough is patted out for the Thin Pear Tart, and the book's standard pate brisee crust is rolled out and crimped around fruit for the Cherry and Almond Galette.

There are also crusts made from shredded coconut, vanilla wafers, granola and other departures from straight-up pies. Dietary concerns get nods, too, like the vegan, dairy-free, no-cook Banana and Coconut Cashew-Cream Tart.

Despite its heritage, the book doesn't sneer at prepared ingredients and bakers in a hurry. Supermarket staples like frozen puff pastry and phyllo serve as the foundations of several treats, including savory choices like the Leek and Olive Tart.


Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts

By Martha Stewart Living

Clarkson Potter

352 pages, $25

ON THE WEB: Check out the recipe for Martha Stewart's Yogurt and Blueberry Pie with Granola Crust at

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