Our Pies Taste So Great, 'Cause It's All We Make!

Pie Baking Tips

The Right Pie Pan

For optimum baking results, use a glass or dull-metal pie pan. Dark pans may cause crusts to brown too much. Shiny metal pans reflect the heat and may result in soggy, soaked bottom crusts. Avoid pans with holes in the bottom.

Use the pan size recommended in your recipes.

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To Prevent Over-Browning Of Pie Crust

To keep baked edges from getting too brown, cover the edges with foil or a pie crust ring for the last 20 minutes of baking.

To use foil, cover the edge of the pie with a 2 to 3-inch wide strip of aluminum foil, and mold lightly around edge of pie, use caution as pie will be hot.

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Tender & Flaky Pastry

Add one teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice as part of your liquid for each cup of flour in pastry and pie dough recipes. This won't affect the flavor but will result in more tender baked products.

A flaky pastry is one that flakes or separates into thin layers as in pie crust, puff pastry, Danish pastry and croissants. Fat or butter creates flakiness by being a spacer between the layers of dough. Pieces of cold, hard fat keep layers of the dough apart in the oven just long enough for the dough to begin to set. The fat melts, and then steam from the dough forms and pushes the layers apart.

The fat or butter should be cold when used in pastry, and must be in large enough pieces so it will not melt easily. If the fat is very cold and firm when the dough goes into a hot oven, the layers of dough will be spaced apart as they begin to bake and set, resulting in a flaky pastry or pie crust.

Using too much flour and overworking the dough will contribute to tough (non-flaky) pastry or pie crust. Measure flour accurately and use only enough additional flour to keep the pastry from sticking to the pastry cloth.

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Rolling Out Pie Dough

Flour work surface very lightly. Excess flour will toughen pastry dough. Add additional flour sparingly, as needed. Roll out dough from the center to avoid overworking. A straight rolling pin is preferable for beginners. Dough can be easily moved on a rolling pin to flour the work surface or to fit dough into a pie plate. To size the dough, place a pie plate upside down on the rolled-out dough and measure an additional 2 inches around the perimeter of the plate.

Traditionally bakers have lightly dusted the surface and rolling pin to prevent sticking. But one of my favorite tricks is sliding your rolling pin into a knee high stocking to make rolling the dough easier, and to help prevent dough from sticking. Rub flour evenly onto stocking covered rolling pin for easy handling. If dough is too soft, refrigerate for about one hour.

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"Blind Baking"

This is the method of pre-baking your pie or tart crust before adding the filling. This is primarily used for cream pies.

One method is to prick pastry thoroughly with a fork to prevent puffing during baking. Bake pie in preheated 350 degrees oven for 15 to 20 minutes or as directed in recipe.

A second method is to use dried beans or pie weights. Line the pastry with parchment paper or large paper coffee filter and fill with dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from shrinking. Bake the pastry "Blind" (without filling) at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.

In either case allow crust to cool. Pour prepared filling into crust and top with meringue or whipped cream as directed.

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Weeping Meringues

Bakers sometimes notice that their meringue "weeps" or "sweats" after baking. The key is to spread the meringue over the filling while it's still very warm.

Lemon or cream pies with a soft meringue topping have been known to weep so excessively that the meringue skids slickly off the filling as the pie is served! And if you've had that happen, you'll know how annoying it is. The culprit is a thin layer of water sitting just at the point where the filling and the meringue meet.

Weeping meringue is usually a two-part problem, resting with both the egg white foam and the pie filling. Usually the egg whites haven't been beaten sufficiently after the sugar is added.

It is wise to begin with room-temperature egg whites and very fine granulated sugar. Once dissolved, sugar holds moisture within the whites, so it's less able to leak away. While there are other methods of making meringues, those in which the sugar is beaten into the egg whites are more stable than meringues in which sugar is folded into beaten egg whites.

Add the sugar gradually, on tablespoon at a time, beating well, so it dissolves in the egg whites. Beat until foamy and the peaks bend over in soft curls when the beater is lifted. Those fluffy peaks are stretched protein films surrounding bubbles of air that swell as the air expands during baking.

The temperature of the filing also influences the tendency of meringue to weep. If the filling is allowed to cool, the underside of the meringue never becomes hot enough to firm properly, so liquid leaks from the undercooked meringue.

To counteract this, heat the filled pie shell in a 350 degree oven for five minutes or just until steam beings to rise from the filing. Remove from the oven and quickly spoon meringue onto filling. Now, when it's returned to the oven, the heat from the filling will cook the bottom of the meringue, while it's surface browns.

Sometimes amber colored droplets appear on the surface of a meringue. If this "beading" happens immediately, usually it's because the foam has been over jelled during baking. Baking a meringue in a hot oven for a short time can minimize this problem.

Baking a meringue on a humid day can also contribute to beading because the sugar in the meringue attracts moisture from the air. After the meringue cools, beads of syrup form at the surface.

A meringue topping baked quickly (4 to 5 minutes) at 425 degrees is tendered and less sticky than one baked at 375 degrees. But beware of overcooking. Meringue that is baked too long also weeps because its moisture has been squeezed out by egg white proteins that have over thickened.

A good meringue is soft, fluffy, slightly moist, and very tender. It should have a glossy sheen and a fine grain. Meringue making is a technique worth practicing, for a perfect meringue offers a spectacular finish to a homemade pie!

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Runny Pie Filling

Pie filling is "runny" most likely because has not been baked long enough. Simply try baking 5 to 10 minutes longer than normal.

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Tips on Making Fruit Pies

The pie's juices must be bubbling thickly all over to ensure that all of the thickening agent has absorbed the liquid and thickened the filling.

If the top of the pie is browning too much, tent it with foil, but be sure to make a steam hole in the center for moisture to escape so the crust stays crisp.

Allow the pie to cool on a rack to room temperature, or until barely warm, before slicing to ensure that the filling is set and will not run. This will take between 2 to 4 hours, depending on the thickness of the pie.

Slice apples thinly for apple pie. Thick slices promote air space and create a gap between the fruit and the crust. This also makes slicing and serving the pie much easier. For the purest flavor in fruit pies, macerate (marinate) the fruit, capture the juices, and boil and reduce the liquid. The will decrease the amount of thickener and create more intense, focused flavor and a juicy filling.

One tablespoon of cider vinegar relaxes pie dough and makes it easier to roll. It will not diminish the crust's flakiness but will diminish shrinkage as it bakes.

Cornstarch is also a good thickener to use with fruit to make a filling with because it does not impart its own flavor and yields the smoothest texture. It also does not thin when reheating a slice of pie.

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Soggy Bottom Crust

One of the big problems when making a fruit pie is getting a soggy bottom crust. It is usually caused by liquid fillings which are too hot coming in contact with the lower crust. Some of the liquid gets absorbed by the crust. This is a problem with custard, pumpkin and fruit pies.

To Prevent Soggy Pie Crust Bottoms

  1. Moisture proof the bottom of the crust before chilling and filling. Seal the bottom of the crust by brushing bottom of pie crust with egg white wash or dust with a combination of 1 Tablespoon of flour and sugar. Place crust in freezer for at least 20 minutes before assembling pie.
  2. For custard and pumpkin pies, use a hot oven temperature (such as 425 degrees F) the first 15 minutes of baking.
  3. Thicken the filling before adding it to the crust to be baked.
  4. Place the pan on the lower oven rack on a preheated baking sheet or pizza stone.
  5. Use a pan that readily absorbs heat, such as glass or ceramic.

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Here Are Some Guidelines For How Much Fruit You Will Need For Making A 9 Inch Fruit Filled Pie

  • Rhubarb: 5 medium stalks = 5 cups
  • Apple: 7 small, 5 medium, 4 large = 5 to 6 cups
  • Cherry: 1 pound = 6 cups
  • Apricot: 10-12 medium = 5-6 cups
  • Raspberry: 6 (1/2 pint) baskets = 6 cups
  • Blueberry: 3 pint baskets = 6 cups
  • Peach: 10 -12 small or 6-7 large = 5-6 cups
  • Blackberry: 6 (1/2 pint) baskets = 6 cups
  • Strawberry: 4 pint baskets = 6 cups
  • "Sugar Pie" Pumpkin: 1/2 pound = 1 cup
  • Sweet Potato: 1/2 pound = 1 cup

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