For those of you new to Martha Stewart... I'm sure there are some people out there that fall into this category.... her books are gorgeous. You will want to lick every page. She and her team give great tips so the newbies out there can make a perfect... whatever... with easy to follow directions. Many recipes have photo guides for each step.
As with every one of her books, there's a section called "The Basics" that don't just give lists of ingredients (like many cookbooks do), she gives broad definitions and how to use what/when! In Pies & Tarts this is particularly important for those of us non-bakers in the room... you know who you are! Here's just a taste (pardon the pun) from Baking Staples...
"SUGAR: White granulated sugar, made from refined sugarcane or sugar beet, is the most widely used variety, especially for baking. Sanding sugar has large crystals and is better for decoration: Sprinkle it over the top crust that's been brushed with an egg wash before baking for a sparkly finish. Turbinado sugar and other"brownulated' sugars can be used in place of sanding sugar in some recipes. Confectioners' sugar dissolves easily into whipped toppings, and can be dusted over the top of a finished dessert. It often forms clumps, so you may want to sift with a fine sieve before using. Brown sugar is a combination of granulated sugar and molasses; dark brown sugar has a higher molasses content than light brown sugar, and a deeper colour and flavor. pee page 343 for how to measure brown sugar. After opening, seal the package securely or transfer brown sugar to an airtight container to keep it from hardening. (To soften hard brown sugar, place a wedge of apple in the bag and reseal; leave a day or two, until sugar is sufficiently soft, then remove apple.)"
Same detail is given to equipment and don't even get me started on the recipes & basic techniques for things like... Pate Brisee (I've incorporated it into my recipe below), so now there are no excuses and no fears to keep you from trying your hand at making pies and tarts like your grandmother.. or mother... or those prize winning bakers at Country fairs.
I love the way the book is arranged... you have the CLASSICS, like chocolate cream pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie, lattice top blueberry pie (and more); FREE-FORM thin pear tarts, peach tartlets, cherry & almond galette and mini rhubarb and raspberry galettes (I used strawberries instead of raspberries in mine) to name a few; SLEEK like creme brulee tarts; DREAMY Missisippi Mud Pie; RUSTIC Pear, Fig and Walnut Pie; LAYERED... the sections are many and the recipes for each is long and delicious. And if you're more of a savory person than a sweet... well, there are more than a dozen of those too. I'll definitely be making some Leek & Olive Tarts once I spot some leeks at my farmers market.
And just to whet your appetite, here are my glorious Mini Rhubarb & Strawberry Galettes that my Honey says are better than any restaurant or country fair versions! High praise indeed!