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Pies, Tarts, or Cobbler?

While there is nothing stopping people from enjoying pies, tarts, or cobblers any time of year, there’s no question that spring and summer tend to be the seasons that really bring out the desire for these desserts--likely because so many cooking-friendly fruits are in season. A few restaurant supplies are all it takes to make a bevy of delicious and delightful desserts; however there is some confusion around terminology. Even though the most important factor is taste, the correct application can make a difference even in that--so in the interests of clarity, it’s time to review the differences between these three forms, and discuss how to put them to their best uses.

At heart, all three items--pie, tart, and cobbler--are, in general, a combination of a filling and a crust. For the sake of clarity, we’re going to focus solely on fruit pies. So to get to the heart of this issue, we’re going to define the specific ways that fruit pie, cobbler, and tarts differ from each other:

Pie — Pie has a bottom crust topped with a filling. It’s baked in a pie plate, which should have sides that are sloped and are a couple of inches tall. Some pies are topped with a second crust, which is pinched together with the bottom crust to create a seal.

Tart – Tarts have a crust that’s thicker than a pie crust. They’re baked in tart pans, which are shallow with ridged or fluted edges. Tart pans have removable bottoms so a baked tart can be removed from the pan and placed on a platter for serving. Tarts never have a second crust, but may have lattice-work decorating the top.

Cobbler — A cobbler has no bottom crust. The fruit is placed in a dish (it can be made in a pie pan or a baking dish), then topped with dollops of biscuit dough or some kind of batter.

So starting from this point, we can clarify a little further: fruit fillings for cobbler are never pre-cooked--they’re fresh (or in some cases, canned) fruit, with sugar and/or spices added, with the crust on top; the crust--by virtue of how it’s made--works its way down onto the fruit, absorbing juices. Some sticklers may toss the fruit with some cornstarch, but generally speaking this is unnecessary. Pies and tarts can both use pre-cooked fillings, depending on what kind of fruit is being used.

From here, it’s important to look at the best pairings of fruit to baking medium. Pies and cobblers share some overlap in terms of which fruits work best in the application: juicy fruits--especially things like berries and stone fruits--are great for both fruit pies and cobblers. Because both functions include a deep dish for cooking, the main attraction is the unctuousness that the cooked fruit takes on in its thickened juices. However, there are some areas in which pies are a better vehicle than cobblers; for example, pumpkin cobbler simply wouldn’t work as well. For tarts, it’s important to remember that the shape of the tart pan demands a fairly thin layer of fruit, and that while the crust is thicker, the consistency of the filling is supposed to be much stiffer.

Ultimately the question of which one is best comes down to what you’re looking for in the finished pastry. The strong point of a tart is that the thick, crumbly crust creates an excellent vehicle for intense flavors and elegant presentation, while pies are a beautiful way of cooking juicy, ripe fruit in its own juices, containing it in a crust. Cobbler’s main strength is the ease of building it: no need for the fussiness of a short crust, or for pre-cooking the fruit beforehand. Once you have a firm grasp of the differences, you can experiment with classic and new recipes alike--for example, tarte Normande, with thin slices of apple beautifully arranged on a tart shell crust, is a very different experience from thoroughly American apple pie, and both are very different from an apple cobbler. All three types of fruit-based dessert are wonderful seasonal additions to any menu--and they will all impress diners of all stripes. With a few good restaurant supplies and a little bit of imagination, anyone can learn to make the most of any of the three forms--or all of them!

2018-05-21 00:00:00
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