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Prove your love for the classic dishes

Pies, tarts, and galettes are three related but distinct families of sweet and savoury dishes. Enveloping a limitless array of delicious fillings in a crave-worthy crust, they are a beloved treat among those who love interesting marriages of flavours and textures. If you are one such foodie, brush up on your pastry vocabulary and learn the differences between the three, below:

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Nowadays, the classic pies are often attributed to the United States: the all-American apple, the Southern pecan, and the Thanksgiving pumpkin are just three of the comfort food staples that have become symbolic of the nation’s cuisine. However, the origins of pie actually trace back to England and date even further back to Greece.

The pastry shell that envelopes said mixture is thought to come from Greece and was popularised in the Roman Republic. Like the pyes that later became a staple in medieval England, these pies were more often savoury than sweet. Filled with a blend of rich meats like beef, lamb, duck, or magpies (and even seafood for the Romans), warm spices, and fruits like dates or currants, these traditional delicacies eventually made their way to the United States through British colonies.

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Pie Jargon Deborah Rainford / Unsplash
Above Photo: Deborah Rainford / Unsplash

As American as apple pies are today, the dessert actually comes from England as well—a result of French, Dutch, and even Ottoman gastronomic influences. Nonetheless, it has certainly become a rightful American dish since crossing the pond. The first-ever documented recipe for the original English dish is quite different from what we now know as apple pie, including “figs, raisins, pears, and saffron” in the filling.

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Pies can be made either double-crust, where the filling is fully encased; single-crust, where the top is left exposed; or somewhere in the middle, with partially covered lattice tops. Additionally, no-bake pies like banoffee and key lime will have a cookie base for their crust rather than the typical flakey, buttery dough. 

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Pie Jargon Slashio Photography / Unsplash
Above Photo: Slashio Photography / Unsplash

Tarts are a close cousin of the pie, and many cite identical historical and geographic origins between the two.

Much like pies, tarts can be made with either sweet or savoury fillings, and utilise some blend of fat and flour for their crust. However, tarts are by and large an open-faced pastry. Tarts are also noticeably shorter, baked in a shallow dish with a removable bottom (though using a large pastry ring atop a baking sheet is also a common substitute). Having an easily-removable mechanism makes a big difference when baking tarts since its crumb tends to be more firm and crumbly, a stark contrast to that of the typical pie—thus, tart shells are also much more delicate and prone to shattering.

The French Tarte Tatin is perhaps one of, if not the best-known variants of the artful tart. The upside-down creation was allegedly the result of a kitchen mishap by the Tatin sisters, who had mistakenly placed the caramelised apple filling in the oven sans-crust, disoriented from the hustle and bustle of running their hotel, Hôtel Tatin. However, as far as tarts go, the famous Tarte Tatin is quite unique from the rest of the heap since it is quite close to a typical pie—not only does it use a flakey pastry, but it also has a heavy filling that would be difficult to support with a crumbly tart crust.

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A more representative example would be the classic French fruit tart, which fills a pâte sucrée (sweet shortbread crust) with a luscious custard and tops it all off with a decorative assortment of fresh fruits. The Portugese pastéis de nata and Hong Kong egg tarts are popular and related tartlets (miniature tarts), though the former uses a laminated crust more akin to that of a pie and the latter utilises a short pastry that is more akin with the common tart.

In the world of savoury tarts, quiches reign supreme. Hailing from Lorraine, France, the eponymous quiche Lorraine starts with a golden-brown crust and is filled with a simple mixture of egg, milk, and/or cream, plus onions, bacon, nutmeg, and gruyère.

Tatler Trivia: tarts, tortes, and tortas all refer to different dishes, don’t mix them up!

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Pie Jargon Bruna Branco / Unsplash
Above Pie Jargon Bruna Branco / Unsplash

Of the three, galettes are the most distinct in the family. Whereas pies and tarts are baked in a mould or dish, galettes are freeform; laid on a flat sheet, its edges are turned up and folded inward by hand, producing a rustic appeal and a distinct shape—while tarts and pies have crusts that are wither straight or widen at the mouth, the mouths of galettes are smaller than its base.

That said, galettes are also open-faced, which is why they are most often mistaken for tarts. Galettes likewise come in both sweet and savoury iterations, an easy yet impressive way to make use of whatever fruits are in season or whatever’s been taking up space in your fridge.

Confusingly, galettes are also used to refer to a handful of other dishes. The Breton galette is a thin, savoury buckwheat crepe where its edges are folded inwards (similar to the galette pastry) to encase ingredients like egg, gruyère, and ham. The galette des rois, enjoyed in celebration of the Epiphany, is an indulgent dessert that stacks two rounds of puff pastry with a frangipani filling in the centre. In Belgium, galettes campinoises or kempense galetten refers to thin, crunchy, yet buttery cookie-like waffles.


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