Apple Pie Recipes and More in Taartwork’s Seasonal Cookbook of Pies
I first saw Taartwork’s pies on Instagram, where cinnamon blueberry and Mutsu apple pies were emblazoned with punny, hashtaggable and witty greetings like “Eat Your Heart Out,” “Keep it Kosher,” for Shabbat dinners and even a “Will You Marry Me?” for a proposal made easy as, well, pie.
A couple months later one November day, a delicious blackberry lemon zest pie was delivered to our then-home market editor; she generously placed it on a communal countertop for all of the office to enjoy. Our latest issue had launched that day and there was much buzz about our new cover girl, but I would argue that the peak of everyone’s workday was the mid-afternoon slice of Taartwork pie. (I was relieved to know these Instagram-friendly pies were as delicious as they were photogenic). I won’t name names, but one well-known editor was seen taking multiple slices before she ordered one for her Thanksgiving dinner. Soon after, Taartwork solidified its reputation as the de facto pie maker for many sweet-toothed Vogue employees; the almost too-pretty-to eat pies have also graced our magazine’s pages, and those of W.
Though each pie’s filling (peak-of-season berries and fruits minimally spiced and sweetened to let the natural fructose shine) are remarkable, it’s the crust that sets Taartwork apart—a shortbread cookie-like, flake-less crust that holds its own against the filling, traditionally the highlight of any pie. This is because Taartwork baker Brittany Bennett’s apple pies are more Dutch than American; she uses a recipe passed down from her Amsterdam-born and raised Oma (grandmother). The recipe is a straight forward taart (Dutch for tart) dough: flour, unsalted butter, lemon zest, salt and sugar. And while most pie crusts require a 2-hour refrigeration minimum, Bennett’s recipe takes a mere 5 minutes from start to finish.
Up until now, Bennett kept her pie crust recipe in the family, but flip through The Taartwork Pies Cookbook and you’ll find it alongside beautifully illustrated Dutch-style still-life photography. Her recipes include the simple taart dough (“Everything in a mixing bowl and knead, knead, knead!”) along with 63 fillings for each season of the year.
In advance of her book’s release, we caught up with Bennett to talk all things pie. She stresses how simple it is to follow her taart recipes. “The dough is as straightforward as they come and similar to shortbread, with a lot of lemon zest,” says the Brooklyn-based baker. “If you’d like to play around with the amount of sugar in it (it’s dessert though, so live a little) it may take a bake or two to find your preferred level of sweetness. Just don’t skimp on butter!” Though she calls her crusts “a no fail taart crust,” Bennett takes a less lax stance on ingredients; locality and quality are paramount.
The baker is also a chef who spent last fall harvesting olives, tending to an organic vegetable garden, and perfecting her pasta technique at a farm 45 minutes southwest of Siena. Since, she’s baked a bit of the Italian’s reverence of produce into all her Dutch-style delights. “You can buy conventional fruit year round to make a pie but I found that it’s never quite the same,” she says. “I broke the chapters into seasons because the strawberries in June and July are electric; to me, better pies start with a consciousness of seasonality.”
Of creating, testing, retesting, and putting her recipes down for all to reference, Bennett admits the process, though at times tedious, was also a joyous one. “I spent the summer testing recipes in an apartment with no AC but it was worth it.” Unsurprisingly, her kitchen was never without a visitor as friends flocked to chez Bennett upon seeing her Instagram stories announcing the pie test of the day.
Of her favorite recipe in the book, Bennett says she currently fancies her pumpkin chocolate tahini swirl pie. And of the kitchen accoutrements everyone should have at their disposal, she lists apple peelers (“they are heaven-sent,”) sharp knives (“cookie cutters are great but if you have a handy paring knife, the taart is your canvas,”) and a microplane (“I would be nothing without a microplane”). She also shares her must-have pantry staples: lemons, Mutsu apples, unbleached all-purpose flour, farm fresh pasture raised eggs, sesame seeds, and a jar of tahini. You’ll find recipes for all of these ingredients (and many others) in her cookbook, but below, she shares four of her taartworks—one for every season.
Spring: Bee Tart Pie
When I think of spring, I think of the first flowers and with the first blooms, the first buzzes. This buttermilk pie is sweetened with honey and is a bouquet of edible flowers, which add a robust, earthy spice to the creamy texture.
PREP: 5 MINUTES / ACTIVE: 14 MINUTES / BAKING: 65–70 MINUTES / TOTAL: 1 HOUR 30 MINUTES
1 cup / 236 ml buttermilk
¼ cup / 8 g lavender buds
¾ cup / 150 g granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp / 24 g arrowroot starch flour
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup / 59 ml wildflower honey
A handful of edible flowers
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Heat the buttermilk over medium heat in a medium saucepan, and be sure to remove from the heat just before the milk begins to boil. If the milk comes to a boil, I’m afraid you’ll be dealing with sad, curdled milk that isn’t fit to be used in this recipe.
Steep the lavender in the warm buttermilk for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. The buttermilk will adopt the aroma of the buds while remaining tangy.
In a bowl, mix the sugar together with the spices, salt and arrowroot. In a second bowl, stir together the eggs, vanilla and honey. Combine the sugar with the eggs, followed by the lavender buttermilk, a little at a time, stirring constantly as it’s added. Mix until fully incorporated.
Pour the custard into your prepared pie shell and adorn with edible flowers. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until the middle is just about set. The center should jiggle a bit! Allow the pie to cool on a rack for up to 2 hours to let the filling set before slicing in.
Tips: You can use organic roses, borage and calendula as edible flowers to bake in the pie and to garnish with. If you don’t have a garden of edible flowers, it’s worth seeking out someone who does. I found that the Sweet Earth Company in Pound Ridge, New York, where practices like companion farming are used, grows prime buds.
Avoid spilling the filling all over your oven by placing the pie on a baking sheet. This will help combat a soggy bottom, but do allow the pie to cook for 5 to 10 extra minutes for an evenly cooked and browned bottom.
Summer: Open face Cherry Taart
Tahini is a dessert’s secret weapon. The sesame paste is featured predominately in hummus, but the nut butter–like consistency is a welcomed ingredient in sweets. It adds a little bit of a toasted essence to the sweetness of the cherries, which deepens the bite. My best friend in Tel Aviv uses tahini in most of her cooking and baking. Time spent with her always exercises the use of the paste and I’m hoping she’s impressed by this iteration.
PREP: 10 MINUTES / ACTIVE: 6 MINUTES / BAKING: 45 MINUTES / TOTAL: 1 HOUR 1 MINUTE
10 oz (about 2 cups) / 288 g, sweet cherries, pitted
1 tbsp / 12 g light brown sugar
1 cup / 236 ml heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp / 23 g confectioners’ sugar
3 tsp / 7 g cocoa powder
¼ cup / 78 ml tahini
2 cups / 300 g fresh currants
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the cherries with the brown sugar and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cherries have released their juices and begin to naturally caramelize. Let them cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
Whip the cream in a stand mixer at medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder with the whisk running on a medium speed, and whip until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes more. Keep a close eye on the peaks and do not over whip. Fold in the tahini lightly and in increments with a rubber spatula.
Pour the whip into your pre-baked pie shell and let set in the fridge. Top with roasted cherries and fresh currants.
Fall: Traditional Dutch AppelTaart
Oma promised that if you peel an apple skin perfectly in one swirl, toss it over your head and let it land on the floor, the shape it takes will be the first initial of your soul mate. I grew up swinging Granny Smith peels over my head as if practicing for the rodeo. (My soul mate’s initial has typically been revealed as a vague “N,” or maybe “S” if you cock your head.) This fortune-telling technique is one of the many pleasures in composing the traditional taart.
Whether your peel spells out your future romance or not, there will certainly be a lot of love surrounding Oma’s traditional, simple Dutch delight. I keep coming back to this recipe time after time for dinner parties, Thanksgiving feasts and just another weekend night. The thinly sliced apples create crepe-cake-like layers that will turn an apple pie hater into an enthusiast, as chunks don’t overwhelm the bite. The tart crunch of apples supported by the sweet crust invigorates the taste buds. Add the cool factor of vanilla ice cream on top and suddenly a bite of pie becomes more like a love potion.
PREP: 15 MINUTES / ACTIVE: 5 MINUTES / BAKING: 50 MINUTES / TOTAL: 1 HOUR 10 MINUTES
2¼ lbs (about 4 to 5 apples) / 1 kg tart apples (Mutsu or Granny Smith), peeled and sliced ¼”(6-mm) thin
1 tbsp / 14 ml lemon juice
3 tbsp / 37 g granulated sugar
2 tbsp / 16 g ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt Vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional
Whipped cream, for serving, optional
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Using your hands, toss the apples in a mixing bowl with the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Try one! If you want them to be a little sweeter, add a teaspoon of sugar at a time and toss to distribute the added sweetness.
Spread the apple filling evenly in the prepared pie pan and top with a lattice or inspired design of your choice. If you’d like to try a rose design.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Allow the pie to cool in the pan for 30 to 35 minutes. The liquid released from the apples will continue to cook and thicken as you patiently wait with your fork nearby.
Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.
Tips: You can use a mandolin when slicing the apples to get a consistently thin slice. But a sharp paring knife and eye for detail will work well here too. You can use a 9-inch (23-cm) pie pan, but traditionally a springform pan is used in Holland to create more of a deep-dish style apple pie.
Winter: Chocolate Coconut Taart
There is a supposed great divide between people with a taste for pie and those who prefer cake. This is the kind of taart to patch up those cracks in dessert versus dessert. The crust of this taart gives you the crumb of a shortbread cookie, while the filling is more like a moist cake. They come together to make pie and provide peace. It’s a compromise without compromising flavor, texture or taste. Dig into this rich delight to have your cake and pie too. Chocolate never goes out of a season and while the produce to bake a sweet pie might be limited during the winter, especially in New York, you can still enjoy the dessert. Coconuts are produced year-round instead of just one season, so you can find them and their shavings at any time.
PREP: 5 MINUTES / ACTIVE: 10 MINUTES / BAKING: 55–60 MINUTES / TOTAL: 1 HOUR 15 MINUTES
1⁄4 cup / 50 g light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup / 50 g granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup / 64 g unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) / 115 g unsalted butter
6 oz, about 1 cup + 1 tbsp/ 170 g bittersweet chocolate (62%), coarsely chopped
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1⁄2 cup / 30 g shredded coconut
Ice cream, for serving, optional
Fresh fruit, for serving, optional
Combine the brown sugar, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.
Whisk these ingredients together with a fork until no lumps remain. If the brown sugar insists on remaining in a lump, break it up with your fingers and mix again with your fork.
Place a small heatproof bowl over a small saucepan with an inch (2.5 cm) of boiling water. Melt the butter and then stir in the chocolate with a rubber spatula. Once the chocolate is smooth, remove the pan from heat using oven mitts to avoid getting burned.
Stir the flour and sugar mixture into the chocolate a third at a time and combine until the chocolate looks sandy.
Add the vanilla and eggs. Whisk together until the mixture is smooth again.
Fold in the shredded coconut until thoroughly distributed.
Pour the filling into your prepared pie shell and bake for 55 to 60 minutes.
Insert a toothpick after 45 minutes. If it comes out clean, your pie is done. It’s okay for there to be a few crumbs clinging to the toothpick! Allow the pie to cool for at least 1 hour on a rack before enjoying with a scoop of ice cream and a side of fresh fruit!