The ten pies and tarts that follow represent the most consistently requested, surefire-hit recipes from among the hundreds published by Martha Stewart Living over two decades. Individually, each one ranks among the all-time favorites of the magazine's food editors. Collectively, the assortment includes a nice variety of textures, flavors, and styles, so you're bound to find something to please every taste. Consider this chapter an introduction to the wonderful world of pie- and tart-making for beginners, and for baking enthusiasts, a delicious refresher course.Chocolate Cream Pie
With its foolproof crust and easy custard filling, this pie recipe is a breeze to put together, and a good place to start if you're a novice baker. Instead of rolling out dough, you simply press a mixture of ground cookies and butter into a pie plate and bake for ten minutes or so. The chocolate filling is also a cinch, as are the sweetened whipped cream topping and chocolate shavings-all can be completed in stages. The only hard part is waiting for the pie to chill thoroughly, preferably overnight, before savoring the end result. Because of the cornstarch, the filling sets up quite nicely and slices well; nevertheless, if you prefer something with a firmer texture, you can add gelatin (see optional instructions below). MAKES ONE 9-INCH PIE
FOR THE CRUST
25 chocolate wafers (6 ounces), or 1 1/2 cups wafer-cookie crumbs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
FOR THE FILLING
2 1/2 cups milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61% cacao), chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin (optional)
2 tablespoons cold water (optional)
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
FOR THE TOPPING
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Chocolate curls, for garnish
1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. In a food processor, pulse wafers until fine crumbs form. Add butter, sugar, and salt, and process until combined. Press mixture firmly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie dish. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. Bake until crust is fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
2. Make the filling: In a medium saucepan, heat milk and chocolate over medium-high, whisking occasionally, until chocolate is melted. In a small bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add 1 cup of milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbling and thick, 4 to 5 minutes (about 2 minutes after it comes to a boil).
3. If using gelatin, sprinkle 1 teaspoon over the 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks. Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into yolks. Return mixture to saucepan, and continue cooking custard over medium heat, stirring constantly, until custard is thick and bubbles appear in center, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add softened gelatin, if using, and whisk until dissolved. Stir in vanilla. Let cool about 10 minutes, whisking 2 or 3 times.
4. Pour custard into baked and cooked crust. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface of custard. Refrigerate until filling is firm, 4 hours or up to 1 day.
5. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk cream just until soft peaks form. Add confectioners' sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream over custard. Garnish pie with chocolate curls just before serving.Peach and Berry Tart
Making a pie, or in this case a tart, can be remarkably simple-as easy as baking a batch of cookies, in fact. Pâte sablée is essentially a cookie dough. Here it's pressed into a springform pan before baking. In this recipe, cornmeal stands in for some of the flour; its flavor works well with summer fruits, but if you don't have it, you can certainly use all flour. To make the filling, toss fresh fruit with sugar, add it to the partially baked tart shell, then finish baking. Peaches and berries are pictured, but if you have apricots or cherries on hand, feel free to use them instead; this low-key recipe takes kindly to improvisation. MAKES ONE 8-INCH TART
FOR THE CRUST
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
FOR THE FILLING
3 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
3/4 cup assorted fresh berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 400°F. In a food processor, pulse flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, butter, egg yolk, and vanilla until dough just begins to come together. Press dough evenly into the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of an ungreased 8-inch springform pan or tart pan with a removable bottom; set pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and slightly puffy, about 15 minutes. Using an offset spatula, gently flatten bottom of crust. Reduce heat to 350°F.
2. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a medium bowl, toss together peaches, berries, and sugar.
3. Arrange fruit in crust. Bake until peaches are juicy and tender, 30 to 35 minutes more. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.Pecan Pie
Home cooks in the South take great pride in their pecan pies, but the Thanksgiving classic is well-loved in all corners of the United States. Sometimes it's flavored with bourbon (add two tablespoons to the egg mixture in step 2) or chocolate (stir in half a cup of coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate along with the pecans in the same step). Cream cheese gives this crust a slightly tangy flavor. A fluted edge, made by shaping the dough with your knuckles or fingertips, is both decorative and practical-it helps anchor the crust to the pie plate, preventing it from shrinking or sliding as it bakes. MAKES ONE 9-INCH PIE
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Cream Cheese Pie Dough
4 cups (13 ounces) pecan halves, toasted (see page 000)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 13-inch round. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Turn overhang under, flush with rim. Flute edge. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 325°F. Set aside 11/4 cups pecan halves; coarsely chop remaining 23/4 cups pecans. Stir together eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Stir in chopped pecans, and pour mixture into prepared piecrust, spreading evenly. Arrange reserved pecan halves on top in concentric circles until surface is completely covered.
3. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until filling is just set and crust is golden brown, about 90 minutes. (If nuts are getting too dark, tent pie loosely with foil.) Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely before serving. (Pie can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 1 day.)
Copyright © 2011 by Martha Stewart Living Magazine. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.