Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's As Easy As Pie

   For some, this is true, but for others Pie making can be the straw that broke the Thanksgiving Dinner!  If you've had little success in the past with or just need a refresher, here is a Pie Guide just for you.  Whether your pies come out underbaked, overbaked, soggy, or dry; there is a trick for it all.


The golden rule of Pie making is "make it cold, bake it hot." The pie dough should always be cold from mixing and rolling to when it goes in the oven.  The oven should be pre-heated before the pie goes in.  This technique prevents sogginess.

A Soggy crust can also be caused by underbaking, a watery filling, or a combo of these. To prevent underbaking, bake your pies until golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Using a glass pie plates is always a god idea because you can see the bottom.

A light dusting of flour or ground nuts in the bottom of the pie, before adding the filling, can also prevent a soggy crust.  You can even brush the bottom dough with a beaten egg white before adding the filling. The egg white forms a layer that will protect the crust.

Mushy Filling

Using overripe fruit always ends with mushy pie filling.  Very ripe fruit should only be used in chilled pies.  Always use firm, almost underripe fruit in pies.  Remember, different varieties of apples and pears have different textures.  Use apples like Granny Smith, Crispin (Mutsu), Jonathan, Jonagold, Macoun, Fuji and Winesap.  Using a few varieties of apples lead to the best pie with great texture and flavor.
My Crust Is Underbaked

A very common problem is that the pies are not baked at a high enough temperature. The pie stews in its own liquid and the crust turns almost raw and soggy. The reason is that the butter in the crust melts into the dough without evaporating, making it impossible to get a flaky crust.

Start out pies, especially fruit pies, at a high temperature, 425degrees F. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F after about 20 to 30 minutes until the pie is nicely browned and the filling is bubbling.

Dry Hard Crust

This is a result of overworked pie dough.  Over mixing the gluten in the flour turns the dough into a brittle dry mess.

The most important part about making pie dough is to work it as little as possible and to keep all the ingredients as cold as possible.  Use cold butter and ice-cold water.  If you've made the dough well, you should see flakes and streaks of butter

Gap Between Pie and Crust

This often happens with sky-high pies. The top crust firms in the oven before the filling has completely cooked. The filling shrinks during baking, and you're left with a giant gap between the top crust and the filling.

To prevent the air space, cut the fruit into smaller chunks or thin slices. You can also precook your pie filling, which allows it to shrink before you place the pie top on. This will dramatically decrease the gap.

A pale pie just isn't as pretty as a nicely browned pie.

Brush the top crust with a beaten egg.  This will create a nicely brown and glossy appearance.  You can also sprinkle the pie with coarse sugar, which sticks to the wash and creates a sweet crunch when eating

Bubbled Over

This is often an issue with lattice pies.  Don't be too worried about it.
Crimp the edges of a double crust pie very securely to ensure the pie won't ooze through the edges. Bake the pie on a sheet pan to collect any juices and keep your oven clean at the same time.   Make sure there's a hole in the top crust or a few slashes. This will help release steam, which would otherwise cause the pie to leak.
Cracked Custard Pie

Custard pies and pumpkin pies have a tendency to crack if baked at a very high temperature.  Bake these pies at a lower temperature, 375 degrees F. You can also bake them in a water bath, like you would a cheesecake. Make sure not to overbake, the center of the pie should be slightly jiggly when it's done.

Runny Filling

Fresh fruit is naturally watery and baking fruit just draws water out. Use a thickener, such as flour, cornstarch, potato starch or tapioca. These thickeners are hardly noticeable by taste and they hold together the juices well. Flour and cornstarch tend to create a cloudy filling, so if you prefer, use tapioca or potato starch for a clear filling.  Another solution is to precook the filling.

Make sure the pie is completely cooled before cutting it. A fruit pie will be extremely watery if you cut into it while it's still warm or hot

Burnt Crust

Some pies, like apple, need a long baking time.

Use aluminum foil or metal pie crust shields to keep the crust from burning. If your pie is completely burned, you've baked it at too high a temperature.

Happy Baking and Happy Thanksgiving!

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