My Tips for Baking A Truly Delicious Pie
Baking the perfect pie is no joke! I’ve honestly learned a lot more about pie baking since we opened our shop, which was only a few weeks ago. It helps when you decide to start baking for other people. You quickly realize what needs to be improved upon! I have been making pies for about three years now, so I am no expert, but there are some tried and true tips and tricks that I have learned over that amount of time that makes pies taste amazing. This is not a tutorial on how to make the perfect pie because that’s a standard only you can make for yourself. Your version of perfect is going to differ from mine; that’s what makes food so personal. I could tell you that the difference is the type of ingredients you use, but I know that most of it is the chemistry of how fat, sugar, salt, and flour bake into a flaky and delicious crust.
Read on to learn more!
Dough Formation Makes a Difference
You may not think how to form your dough matters, but alas, it does. I was having a really hard time making pie dough when we first moved into the farmhouse, my dough kept cracking and would fall apart in crumbles. I was using the same recipe as I always had, so I was really confused what the problem was. I soon realized that it was our well water and water softener. There was too much salt, and it was causing the dough to split and crumble to bits. I switched over to purified drinking water after that and had no issues, though it’s kind of a pain. After that I went on my marry way but realized sometimes my crusts never seemed fully baked. They didn’t always reach that hardened crusty stage that I love. This was seated, partly, in the fact that I was mashing the dough together with my hands. I discovered the trick of using a cold fork to ball up the dough instead, adding only tablespoons of water rather than all of the water recommended at once. Too much water and your crust turns out chewy. Using your hands can cause the butter to start melting, which chemically also results in a chewy crust rather than a flaky one. Use a fork and add tablespoons of water until the dough is no longer crumbly - you don’t have to soak up all of the flour. There might be some left at the bottom of your bowl and that’s okay.
Blind Bake Your Crust
Ever have your pie come of the oven with a half-baked crust or with a soggy bottom? My quiches were always turning watery, which was no good! I learned that blind baking is the way to go with most if not all pies. This is when you pre-bake or partially bake the crust. For most of the pies that I make, I am usually partially baking it first. This is what you want to do unless you are making a no-bake pie, like one with a cream filling. There are different types of pies that need a partially baked crust, like a custard pie (pumpkin, pecan, etc). Fruit pies don’t require blind baking, but I now do it anyway because it works better. That’s just me!
To blind bake, there are a few different ways that you can do this. Some people require a really hot oven for a short amount of time. Others recommend 275 degrees for 20 minutes. I have decided that my favorite option is right at 350 degrees for 15 minutes with pie weights in to weigh down the crust. I just line the inside of the crust with parchment paper and weigh down with wheat berries (you could use dried beans or a different heavy grain or the commercial pie weights). After that, remove the weights and parchment paper. Then poke holes into the bottom of the crust with a fork. This helps the crust from bubbling up while baking without the weights. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned, but not much. Follow the instructions for baking afterwards!
Brush the entire crust with egg
Before filling your crust with filling and then brushing the edges of the crust with egg, take a second to pause. I’ve found that most recipes I read for pie remind you to brush the crust after pouring in the filling. Then I spill egg into the filling, which is fine except when it isn’t, and you end up with a puffy egg white on the edge of your pumpkin pie. It’s always gross and disappointing. Try brushing the entire crust before you fill - yes, even the bottom! This creates a seal between the crust and filling, which will help prevent your crust from having a soggy bottom. No one likes a soggy bottom. This also helps to keep the crust from drying out, over browning, or burning while baking for a second time after blind baking. Make sure that if you are going to brush the entire crust, you do so after blind baking and not before. This will result in the parchment paper baking to the crust and your pie shell will rip apart. I have learned this from experience!
Refrigerate After Each Step
Not sure why your crust’s edge won’t stay in the right shape? You may need to keep your crimped pie crust in the fridge a little longer, like an hour or so. I finally figured that step out! It’s best to think of pie dough as only good when used cold. Refrigerate after you blend in the butter. Refrigerate after forming into a disk and wrapping with plastic wrap. Do this for at least an hour, but a couple of hours is usually best. In fact, make your pie crusts the day before if you really want to get into it! After you roll it out and shape it, refrigerate for an hour or more. Then your pretty crimped edge won’t fall apart while baking. You want it to be cold and frozen in place!
Once you can get some crust steps down, the rest is pretty easy. Make sure that you bake the filling according to recipe instructions. If you are afraid that the crust will over brown after being blind baked, something I have done but only with quiche, then you can cover the edges of the crust with tin foil or a pie shield about 15-20 minutes before the filling is done baking. If you are baking a pumpkin pie, don’t cover the top of the pie with foil, rather wrap it on the crust edges only. Pumpkin pies tend to inflate near the end of baking and you’ll ruin the filling with it sticking to the foil!
These are just little things that I think are beneficial, though I know they can seem finicky. It’s truly the little steps that help make pies look as beautiful and tasty as they can! Do you have a special tip for baking pies? Share them in the comments!