At its heart, a pie is simply a dish made from pastry crust and a sweet or savory filling. But at the same time, a pie is so much more than this. Over the centuries, cooks have played with the basic definition of a pie to create a number of distinct recipes. From meringue-heaped confections to rustic galettes to custardy quiches, there's a pie for every occasion.
Double Crust Pies
Whereas a pie with just a bottom crust, like a pumpkin pie, is considered a single crust pie, double crust pies are formed with both a top and bottom layer. The top crust may be a full sheet (but do make sure you vent it) or latticed to allow for more evaporation while baking, and both variations are most often used with fruit fillings such as cherry or apple. Double crust pies are not only delicious but also functional since the extra layer of pastry contains the filling better and gives the pie structure. Due to its texture, it's best to let your double crust pie rest for a few hours before slicing. When it’s ready, you can serve it with homemade whipped cream or ice cream.
A quiche is essentially a savory open-faced egg tart. The most famous recipe is quiche Lorraine, but the classic French dish is so popular and versatile that many variations exist today. You may be tempted to bake the filling and crust together, but it is best to blind bake your crust first to prevent it from turning soggy.
A cream pie is made from a pudding filling that’s cooked and chilled separately from the pie crust, which is a single layer made from a traditional pastry, graham cracker, or cookie crust. It’s then assembled and usually topped with whipped cream. Cream pies can come in many flavors, including vanilla, chocolate, banana, and coconut.
Chiffon pie was created by Monroe Strause (aka the Pie King) during the Roaring Twenties era in the United States. It’s made by folding meringue into a curd for a light, airy filling that’s then set into a pre-baked pie crust, which can range from a graham cracker to a pastry base. Pumpkin chiffon pie is a popular version, made from blending canned pumpkin with meringue.
The thick billowing top layer of meringue characterizes this pie, which is typically set over a custard or curd filling and baked just long enough to turn a bit brown. Lemon meringue pie is a classic, but caramel meringue, chocolate meringue, and other flavors are equally as delicious. Meringue has a reputation for being a bit tricky so if you’re not confident about whipping it up, make sure to avoid the common meringue-making mistakes.
Pot pie is made with either a single or double layer crust. It’s always savory and its filling can range from meat to vegetables to seafood. Most commonly, a pot pie is baked in the oven, but it can also be cooked in a skillet on the stovetop when made with a single crust.
A tart is a relative to the classic pie, made from a shortcrust pastry which has less fat than a classic pie pastry recipe. A tart also appears more neat and structured than most pies since it’s set in a shallow, often crimped pan. It’s an open-faced recipe, with either a sweet or savory filling that can be baked together or separately from the pastry.
A custard pie is simply a single crust pie filled with custard. The main difference between custard and cream pies is that custard is thicker and eggier, and its filling is often baked with the pastry. As a result, the layers of the finished pie fuse together and the filling is firm yet smooth in texture. You can infuse the custard with just about any flavor, and a rhubarb or summer squash custard pie is a great place to start.
A galette is a free-form pie that can be filled with anything from beets to berries. As a result, it’s a great beginner recipe for those who are new to baking or simply don’t want the fuss of a more complicated pie. Because it’s open-faced, you can have fun with its presentation by mincing herbs over top savory galettes or glossing a sweet galette with a few pats of butter before you bake it.
Ice Cream Pie
Ice cream isn't meant for just cones and sundaes; an ice cream pie is a delicious way to enjoy the frozen treat. The recipe is simple: Soften the ice cream, mix in any toppings you’d like, and set in a pre-baked pie shell in the freezer until it’s ready to be served.