Yotam Ottolenghi, the famed London-based Israeli chef, is quoted saying: “The differences between a tart, a pie, and a Quiche are a blur.” With the diverse backgrounds of many Canadians, this is certainly true – one person’s pie is another person’s tart and both seem interchangeable. In fact, the French word ‘Tarte’ can mean either pie or tart.
Starting as an apple pie and ending as an apple tart, the Tatin sisters Stephanie and Caroline of the Hotel Tatin in France were the first to create this blurred line. To this day we know that the upside-down pie, or tart, was made in error but the way it got that way is still oft disputed. Now a classic on many French restaurants’ menus, it shows that the best kitchen errors can become favourite dishes.
Tarts are thought to have come from Medieval times where they were viewed as high cuisine and eaten by the nobility – filled with meat rather than sweet versions. As sweeter tastes started to prevail, fruit or custard fillings became more common.
The great thing about tart or pie is that it’s usually seasonal, filled with the offerings of nature at that time of year. The Maids’ Cottage began their business selling butter tarts on the front lawn, made from a secret, family recipe. Decades later they have a thriving retail, wholesale and full service restaurant. Known far and wide for their award winning butter tarts though, that secret family recipe is still revered.
COBS Bread has a few outlets in the GTA and makes a range of single-serve tarts: a bracing lemon tart, extra creamy butter tart, or pumpkin tart.
To blur the lines between pie and tart, The Scottish Nook in Schomberg does UK favourites like traditional Scottish meat pies and Cornish pasties. Bridies are a specialty and are not to be missed.
Hurst Bakery in Aurora produces a delicious fruit flan. A scratch bakery, Hurst makes everything with fresh ingredients. Their tarts are as delicious as they are varied including lemon, butter, pecan, s’mores, mince and more.
For a more continental slant, try Caldense Bakery in Bradford for their Portuguese custard tarts. Pasteis de Nata is an egg tart dusted with cinnamon, found mostly in Portugal (especially Lisbon) and Brazil. It is traditionally served with coffee or fresh orange juice at breakfast and is well worth trying. These little tarts were created by the monks in the Jeronimos Monastery. At that time the nuns and monks used egg whites to starch their clothes, so the leftover egg yolks became a major ingredient in desserts.
As decadent as these pies and tarts are, it might seem tricky to recreate with vegan or gluten-free options. This is certainly not the case. There are many recipes to suit your needs. A peach tart with a crust made from gluten-free rolled oats, cashews, and coconut oil is easy to make, with a filling of peaches, coconut milk, and thickened with arrowroot, makes it all possible. The same can be said for vegan or gluten-free savoury tarts, filled with in-season vegetables and tofu.
The Scottish Nook, Schomberg
Hurst Bakery, Aurora
Caldense Bakery, Bradford