Is a tart a pie?

This “very controversial” question plagued judges at last year’s Oak Park Farmers Market Pie Bake-Off, according to Melissa Elsmo, the queen of cuisine behind, who served as a judge in last year’s contest.

Elsmo will return to the panel of pie appraisers this year for the contest that will again be held at the farmers market in the Pilgrim Congregational Church parking lot, 460 Lake St., from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1.

The offending vegan tart in question from last year’s bake-off did not have a top crust, but Elsmo said that was not an automatic disqualifier.

“A pie can have a top or not and still be a pie, but as a judging panel we were not so sure a tart would be considered a pie,” she said.

So the top of the pie is less important, but the crust and the size of the pan used are key factors in determining whether a baked treat with a fruit filling is a pie or a tart, Elsmo said.

A tart is typically baked in a pan that has a removable bottom with a depth of about an inch.

“But they don’t have a wide depth like a pie,” Elsmo said. “A tart is always shorter.”

The tart crust, called a pâté sucrée, also is baked before the filling – typically cream garnished with fruit – is added. Tart crusts use a different kind of dough, too, which is typically sweeter than one used in a pie, according to Elsmo.

“A tart is a great way to celebrate the produce available at the farmer’s market; the pie makes good use of the cooking fruits available,” Elsmo said.

In the final analysis, Elsmo said, entering a tart is not a disqualifier, “But it does give me a moment of pause.”

Oak Parker Sandra Clark was last year’s winner with her Perfect Peach Pie – the contest rules require all pie entries to be named.

The farmers market allows 15 entries total, all of which are selected by lottery. Last year, there were only 14 entries, though, so everyone got to compete, according to Elsmo.

Contestants must register by Aug. 22. More information about the contest is available online at

Now get to baking!


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