With Valentine’s Day fast-approaching, this next title is perfect if you’re looking for recipes to impress your significant other (girlfriends, or even to make a nice meal for yourself). Pies & Tarts For All Seasons by Annie Rigg is a thoughtful compilation of one hundred delicious recipes that include both sweet and savory dishes.
I thought this title would be a great option for couples looking for a date night in idea, because for many people, fancy restaurants are the antithesis romance. Why? Well, more often than not, dining out on Valentine’s Day means a preset menu. That usually comes with a “no substitutions” tagline, which for someone with health issues like me, can prove extremely frustrating.
Then you’ve got to figure out how you’re getting there. Between parking, traffic, and a designated driver (if one or both of you are drinking), it’s a lot of logistics that can tally up to quite an expensive outing.
SO, I figured I’d dial it in to a really good piece of advice my mom and grandma both told me when I first started dating: “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Truer words have never been spoken. Sure, guys like gizmos and gadgets and beer and sports, but spend the time to cook something and you’ll be sure to impress him. And if he’s not impressed, dump him.
Even if the recipe turns out a complete disaster, the thought and effort will make for a memorable evening. Plus, you can always stock up on some frozen pizza and Trader Joe’s appetizers.
Now that I’ve gotten that preamble out of the way, let’s get into what you’ll find inside the book!
The table of contents is super straightforward. Here you’ll find:
–an intro, where the author aptly notes “there’s a pie or a tart for everyone and every season.” SO true. If you don’t believe me, look through the book and tell me there isn’t one picture or recipe title that doesn’t catch your eye.
–pastry 101, aka the in’s and out’s of how to make the perfect pastry dough. Here you’ll find how to make: sweet pastry, puff pastry, pate sablee (used for delicate sweet tarts), cream cheese pastry, sourdough pastry, and rosemary & parmesan pastry. If you’re running short on time and want to try one of the recipes in here, I’d recommend a grocery store pre-made pastry (I find mine at the local Safeway and it comes in huge sheets, enough for multiple recipes). Now, if you have the time, definitely make the effort to make the pastry yourself because it tastes 100 times better…but if you’re short on time, this should be a helpful “busy girl” tip, if you will.
–sweet, a little more than half the book, filled with all kinds of mouthwatering treats, like: mini passion fruit & lime meringue pies, chocolate & hazelnut salted caramel tarts, and buttermilk custard tart with roasted grapes.
–savory, this is probably where I’d start for romantic dinner options. Here you’ll find things like: beef & chorizo empanadas with chimichurri; vietnamese pork puffs; and manchengo, pear, & serrano ham pastries.
–index, aka the place to look up recipes by name or ingredient. If flipping through pictures to pick what to make isn’t your jam, maybe try looking here first and seeing if there’s a specific food or ingredient your significant other likes and go from there.
I should note, before jumping into the recipe tests, that many of the recipes I tried were extensive in time and ingredient preparation. Many of the recipes aren’t something I would (personally) integrate into a weekly meal prep, but that’s because (a) prior to this review, I hadn’t tried or prepared any of the recipes before, and (b) because neither my significant other nor myself have schedules that allow the kind of time where we could make handmade pastry-based recipes every night. It’s for this reason, in addition to the freezerpocalypse that happened not too long ago, that I only tried a handful of recipes from this book.
HOWEVER, none of this should deter you. The reason why I’m writing about this book right before the most loved on “holiday” of the year, (albeit one designed to bump revenue for greeting card/chocolate/flower companies), these recipes are so tasty and definitely worthy of a showcase if you’re looking to make something special on the 14th, the upcoming weekend, or sometime in the future.
So, with all of that being said, these are the recipes I tried!
SWEET: APPLE ROSE TARTS (p. 73)
This was my favorite of all the recipes I tried from this book, but it was also the one that took the longest. SIX HOURS. Yes, you read that right…but oh my goodness, they were divine. It was this recipe that made me understand why some bakeries charge the big bucks for tiny pastries because they are oodles of effort to put together. That being said, this is a really simple recipe (ingredient-wise), and once you’ve made it once, it gets a lot easier to repeat.
For instance, the amount of apples called for in the recipe left us with a ton of extra slices, so if I were to repeat the recipe, I’d probably half the quantity, lay them differently on the filling, and/or just follow the recipe and have extra slices as snacks for later. It was also a bit of a learning curve to prepare the pastry dough (so read the 101 tips at the beginning of the book first, and not while you’re doing the recipe like me).
SWEET: APPLE & SALTED CARAMEL PIE (p. 96)
If this pie had a dating profile, it’d say: “pairs well with creme fraiche, but would also be happy with vanilla ice cream.” I’d have to agree. This pie uses the sweet pastry dough made with rye (sorry gluten-intolerant friends). It’s a fun riff on a classic apple pie, and honestly, nothing beat homemade caramel. In fact, if I still had the metabolism that I did when I was twenty, I’d probably just make an extra portion of the salted caramel because it’s that good. However, being the adult I’m trying to be, I only made the called-for portion and added it to the apple + sugar + cinnamon + other spices that go into the filling.
The author recommends brushing the top of the pie with a lightly beaten egg prior to baking. I’d highly recommend this to get that golden-brown crisp on the top.
SAVORY: CORNISH PASTIES (p. 170)
I made this recipe at the request of my father, who is a HUGE fan of cornish pasties. My mom used to make them from scratch when they were dating, and then several years ago we visited Cornwall as a family (where the pasty originated). This is definitely a hearty recipe, so great for that man (or woman) in your life that’s more a meat and potatoes kind of person.
As far as tips while making this recipe, I’d recommend rolling out the dough quite a bit, otherwise it bunches up and you’ll get big bites of crust without any filling (not a bad thing, but if you want it more evenly distributed, start with the dough ratio). Also, like the prior recipe, if you dust the top with milk and/or egg, you’ll get a nice tinge once it cooks.
I made two versions of this recipe, one as-is, and one with some spices added to the filling (like rosemary, garlic powder, and sage). Personally, I liked the one with the spices a little better because it added more flavor to the meat and veggies…but the recipe as-is is very traditional.
All in all, this is a really fun cookbook if you’re looking to wow someone (or yourself). Be prepared to spend a bit of time in the kitchen (or prep parts ahead of time, like the filling for a pie). I’d encourage readers to try recipes that don’t have pictures (like the cornish pasties), because there are many that don’t…but that doesn’t mean they’re any less tasty than the ones with the beautiful color photographs. While this cookbook is a bit more technical than most cookbooks, the tips in the 101 section are invaluable, and if you have the patience to make it through a recipe or two, I think you’ll really be impressed with the final product.
I received this book complimentary on behalf of the publisher, but all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. All photography featured in this post is my own unless noted otherwise; please seek permission before copying or reproducing the images.
Book Stats: Pies & Tarts For All Seasons by Annie Rigg
Page Count- 223
Binding- Hardcover with color photography