UPPER CRUST: The Anatomy of the Perfect Tart

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 Sweet Oven with a location in both Barrie and Orillia, are famous for their butter tarts. With over 20 different flavours, it’s hard to choose! From the traditional plain to chocolate chip, coconut, raisin, walnut, and their signature raspberry tart – they also carry mint Oreo for the kids and kids at heart.

To blur the lines between pie and tart, Campbell’s British Food and Tea Room in Barrie does UK favourites like the meat pie. They also make a Scotch Pie, Shepherd’s pie, and classic pastries, including sausage rolls.

Murphy’s Farm Market in Alliston makes all pastry and filling by hand. Pie choices change with the season depending on what delicious fruits are being harvested. Their wild blueberry, raspberry, and apple pies are staples that can be found in the bakery all year long. In the spring, they start with rhubarb pies. Those are quickly followed by strawberry rhubarb, raspberry rhubarb, and peach pies. Once the weather cools down in the fall, their pumpkin and mincemeats pies are some of their customer favourites!

For a more continental slant, try Oporto BBQ in Barrie for its 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.

Mariposa Market in Orillia hand makes 11 different types of pie including Banana Cream, Drunken Christmas (apples, tart cherries, and cranberries with a splash of Kentucky Bourbon), and Muskoka Berry pie with blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, and cranberry.

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, and Bakes by the Lakes in Orillia carries a wonderful selection. Their pies are gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan and include flavours like Pumpkin, Coconut Cream, London Fog Cream, and Apple Streusel.

Savoury pies make the perfect meal for a cozy night in, while something sweet pairs seamlessly with a morning coffee. How do you like your pie?


The Sweet Oven, Barrie and Orillia

Campbell’s British Food and Tea Room, Barrie

Bakes by the Lake, Orillia

Orporto BBQ, Barrie

Murphy’s Farm Market, Alliston

Mariposa Market, Orillia

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