The tart isn’t just an open-faced pie, it’s a completely different dish altogether. Compared to pies, tarts are much more visually appealing as the open-top allows the baker a blank canvas to design and layer the filling to their liking. Historically, tarts were also primarily served to the aristocracy as they were made with superior ingredients, while pies were made out of fairly common ingredients. We’ll go over the differences between pies and tarts in more detail down below.
- While it may look like they came out at the same time, tarts actually only started being made 200 years after pies, which is around 1550.
- The original medieval tarts were savory with meat fillings, but the modern tart focuses more on the sweet.
- There’s an amusing argument (yay internet!) on whether the pizza is a pie or a tart. The answer? It doesn’t really matter, pizza is pizza.
- The Tarte Tatin is an upside-down tart that is baked with the crust on top and flipped over after baking.
Tart Buying Guide
Before we go over the different types of tarts, let’s go over the actual differences between tarts and pies.
- Consistency – Consistency is one of the main differentiators between pies and tarts. Pies can have both loose and firm filling; examples would be fruit pies for loose filling (oozing and delicious) and pecan pies for firm filling. Tarts, on the other hand, need to have a firm filling as tarts are free-standing.
- Size and Shape – Pies almost always come in round shape due to their runny filling. Tarts on the hand, due to their firm filling, can either come in round, square, or rectangle shapes.
- Crust – Pies can have a top crust or a lattice or they can be open-faced. Tarts will always have only the bottom crust with no top crust or lattice.
- Crust Consistency – Pie crusts are usually soft, thin, and flaky and doesn’t hold up very well outside of the baking vessel. Tarts have a buttery crust that is firm and can stand on its own after being removed from the baking mold.
Now that we know what differentiates a tart from a pie, let’s go over the different types of tarts.
- Fruit Tarts – These are the most common and (in our opinion) the prettiest tarts out there. This is typically made with a fruit filling with the toppings made out of intricately sliced and patterned fruit. Almost too beautiful to consume.
- Lemon Meringue Tarts – Another popular tart variety. The filling is made out of lemon curd and is topped with piped meringue.
- Manchester Tarts – While originally found in the United Kingdom, these tarts can be found in almost any bakery that specializes in tarts. The filling is typically made with raspberry jam and custard and topped with cherries and coconut shavings.
- Egg Tarts – Very common in Asian countries like Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, this is a tartlet (usually 2 ½ inches in diameter) that has a very light and flaky crust and a filling made out of egg custard.
- Custard Tarts – These are the cousins of the Egg Tarts from across the ocean as they are popular in Great Britain and France. The difference between custard tarts and egg tarts is that the custard tart usually has a firmer pastry crust (like large tarts) when compared to Asian Egg Tarts.
- Butter Tarts – This tart type originated in Canada and is a very popular tart type in the United States. The filling is made out of butter, sugar, syrup, and eggs. The Butter tarts are commonly baked with different nuts such as pecan nuts, walnuts, and others. A pecan butter tart will have a similarity with pecan bars or pies.
- Bakewell Tarts – This tart variety is very popular in England but is very hard to find in America, this is usually served in high-end restaurants. The tart consists of a shortcrust pastry with a layer of raspberry jam, a filling made out of almond cream or frangipane, and topped with sliced almonds.
Hungry yet? I know I am. If you’re in the mood for any of the tarts listed above, head to your local bakery or confectioner, they should have freshly baked tarts available using fresh and local fruits as toppings.
Tart Production & Farming in Texas
In Texas, the most popular tart is a butter tart that has pecans as the main mix-in. This similar to the Pecan pie in many respects and locals often interchange the usage of the term tart and pie when it comes to pecans. The filling for pecan pie is traditionally so thick that it can be used for pecan pies and pecan tarts, with the only differentiation between the two, is the crust.
You can find pecan tarts all around Texas during the Pecan season and in pecan farms all year round!
Another popular tart in Texas is the sweet potato tart. This tart is usually available during the holiday season as it has the same harvesting season as pecans. In fact, a very popular variant of the sweet potato tart in Texas also incorporates pecans into the recipe. We’ll try to make our own sweet potato pecan pie later.
Preservatives, Additives, and Chemicals:
Let’s go over the ingredients of a famous tart brand that is commercially available, this should demonstrate the importance of buying locally and supporting your local tart makers.
- Enriched Flour – Flour that has been enriched with nutrients after the bleaching process removed all of the natural nutrients.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – The single ingredient that is possibly responsible for the majority of diabetes and heart disease in the country.
- TBHQ – This is a preservative that is allowed by the FDA in a very tiny amount. The amount allowed? 0.02%. That’s not two percent, that’s two percent of a percent. For every 5 kilograms of a product, only 1 gram is allowed of TBHQ. That’s a very tiny amount if you look at it, and this means that it only takes a small amount of this chemical to cause harm.
- Dextrose – As if High Fructose Corn Syrup wasn’t enough, more sugar is added to the product.
- Dried Fruit – While you might think that there’s nothing wrong with dried fruit, commercial drying processes use all types of chemicals and the source of the fruit can also be laden with fertilizers, pesticides, and a lot of other unwholesome things.
- Monocalcium Phosphate – A preservative in phosphate form.
- Modified Corn Starch – Depending on the usage, this ingredient has been known to be a hidden source of MSG.
- Red 40, Yellow 6, and other Colorings – Added to give the product that very attractive color. Does nothing for the taste.
- Natural and Artificial Flavorings – Unspecified sources of flavorings.
Frozen tarts available in supermarkets are first packed in Mylar bags or in single-use plastic bags before being boxed up.
For tarts purchased in local bakeries or from an artisan baker, they’re usually packed in pie boxes for full-sized tarts or individual clamshells for tartlets. Tartlets can also be packed in small boxes resembling donut boxes.
Tarts are usually consumed cold as they need to set before they can be cut. Although, some tartlets like egg tarts and custard tarts are best consumed while still warm.
Depending on the type of filling, tarts can be stored in a number of ways. Custard and egg tarts can be stored at room temperature on the countertop for a couple of days or inside the fridge for up to four or five days. Fruit tarts, on the other hand, have to be stored in the fridge because of their highly perishable nature. For longer storage, fruit tarts can be frozen for up to six months as long as they’re stored properly in a freezer-safe container.
Baking Your Own Sweet Potato and Pecan Tartlets:
Two of the most popular Texas ingredients made into one delicious snack or dessert. What’s not to love?
One Medium Sweet Potato
One Tablespoon Butter
One Tablespoon Maple Syrup
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
One and one fourth cup all-purpose flour
Half cup powdered sugar
One fourth teaspoon salt
Half cup (or one stick) cold butter, cubed
One large egg
Half teaspoon vanilla extract
Peel the sweet potato and boil until tender, drain.
Mash together all of the filling ingredients except the pecans. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, mix together all of the dry crust ingredients until fully mixed. Slowly add in butter and keep mixing until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the egg and vanilla extract and keep mixing until the dough starts to clump together. It should still be crumbly at this point.
Place the dough ball into a lightly floured surface, flatten with hand until it forms a disc. Wrap with cling wrap and place in the fridge for an hour.
Take the dough out from the fridge and let stand for a few minutes to soften. Flatten it out with a rolling pin and cut out circles before placing on cupcake tins or molds.
Par-bake for about 20 minutes in a 190C oven then let cool.
Pour in sweet potato filling and garnish with the pecans.
Bake for an additional 10-12 minutes.
Allow to cool down, and enjoy!