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Pies a perfect dessert for holidays

The most often requested holiday dessert I receive is the pie.

I get at least 10 to 15 emails or phone calls a year asking for my best pie or tart recipe and then when I ask which they want, a pie or tart the response is – is there a difference?

Pies and tarts are two very different, almost the same dessert. Perplexed? Both of these delicious pastry-filled treats are perfect for a holiday table, but knowing the difference will truly help you figure out which one will work best with the skill level you have available.

Pie is a sweet or savory recipe with a crust and a filling. The sides of a pie pan are sloped and a pie can be made with one or two crusts. The perfect crust is supposed to be crisp and flaky and served from the pan they were baked in.

A tart can also be a sweet or savory recipe. The difference is that it’s made in a wider, shallow pan with a separate removable bottom on the pan, and it has only a bottom crust. The crust is firmer than a pie crust and is a bit more crumbly.

Some pies and tarts are best served cold, others warm, but whatever way you serve them better make two because one won’t be enough for you and the company you’ll be serving.

Basic Pie Crust

Makes dough for three 9-inch crusts.

4 1/4 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup chilled butter

1/2 cup chilled shortening

1/2 to 3/4 cup ice cold water

2 tablespoons fine white sugar (optional)

In a bowl combine the flour, salt and sugar (if using). Cut the butter into the flour using two knives or a pastry cutter. When the butter/shortening pieces are larger than a pea, stop working the dough. At this point slowly add 1/2 of the water. Using your hands gently work the water into the dough and make a rough shaped ball. Add remaining water and gently work together. Do not over mix or knead. Separate the dough into three pieces. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

To prepare: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a pie pan. Roll out one piece of cold dough between two sheets of waxed paper. Press the rolled round of dough into a greased pie dish. Trim the overhanging edges and crimp the edges. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Poke the bottom of the dough several times with a fork.

Bake on the bottom oven rack for 18 to 20 minutes or until baked but not browned. Fill with whatever filling you like and continue baking. You can also fully bake the crust for 25 minutes and then fill with a no-bake filling. (Dough can frozen until needed.)

Peach Berry Fruit Tart

2 2/3 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups shortening

2/3 cup cold water

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 2/3 cups sliced fresh or frozen peaches

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

In a medium bowl combine the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until it resembles small peas. Gradually mix in the water until dough is just wet enough to hold together. Knead briefly, just so the dough holds together without crumbling. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. When ready to make the tart, press the dough into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl combine the sugar and cornstarch. Add the peaches and raspberries, and toss to combine. Place the fruit mixture into the crust. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Let cool completely before removing from the pan and serving.

Serves 8.

Cherry Pie

Dough for two-crust pie

5 cups pitted fresh or frozen (defrosted) cherries (about 2 1/2 pounds)

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons butter or margarine cut into small pieces

9 inch pie pan

Preheat to 400 degrees. In a saucepan combine the cherries, sugar and lemon zest. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and cherries are soft. Cool for about 15 minutes then mix in the flour. Set aside.

Remove chilled crust from refrigerator. Roll out the first crust and place it in the pie pan. Using a fork, poke the bottom of the crust four or five times. Bake for 3 minutes. Remove the pie crust from the oven and fill it with the cherry mixture. Dot the top of the fruit with the butter, place the second crust on top and crimp the edges with a fork or use your fingers. Cut a few vent slits in the top to let the steam vent. Bake 20 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 30 to 40 minutes until the cherry juices bubble and crust is golden. Makes 1 pie.

Serves 6 to 8.

– Modified from Good Housekeeping Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.