Baking is my first love and, although I’ve been baking cakes, cookies and even bread successfully since I was a kid, double crust pies used to be my nemesis.
The filling was often too runny; the bottom crust was sometimes soggy and my top crusts sometimes ballooned up during baking only to collapse when the pie was cut. Worst of all, the edges of my pies were rarely pretty unless I made a cardboard textured crust. All sad but true facts from my tortured past (like all artists, we bakers suffer!).
Over the years I’ve worked on my pie-making techniques by practicing, reading and quizzing professional bakers. I’ve learned a lot of important lessons and now, about 95% of the time, I make damn fine pies.
Shortcut your way to pie making success with these tips, gleaned on my journey from pie shame to pie pride:
1. Because I have warm hands, I use a food processor to make pie crust so that I handle the dough as little as possible.
2. If a pastry recipe says you can use all-purpose flour or cake and pastry flour, I use the all-purpose. It’s easier to roll and move than C&P based pastry.
3. I like to use a tapered rolling pin instead of one with handles. It’s easier to roll the dough to an even thickness. I also find my wrists get less fatigued when making a lot of pies if I use this type of rolling pin. I had a marble rolling pin which is prized for being cooler than wood but it was so heavy that it compressed the fat and flour so the resulting crust was not as flaky as it should be.
4. When making a big pie (over 9-inches/23 cm) in diametre, I like to roll the dough out on waxed paper so that it has support when being moved. In fact, I often roll the top portion of dough on waxed paper and then transfer it to the refrigerator to rest. Then I roll out the bottom crust, line the pie plate and place the lined plate in the refrigerator while I prepare the filling.
5. Although I’m still not the world’s best crimper, I’ve learned to roll out enough dough so that there is ample overhanging dough to make a pretty edge.
6. If using frozen fruit, thaw completely before using and drain off all liquid. If you want to use these juices, reduce them in a saucepan or thicken them with cornstarch before stirring them back into the filling mixture.
7. Cut lots of little vent holes in the top crust instead of several larger vent holes to prevent the crust from rising and forming air pockets as the pie bakes.
8. Always bake pies on the very lowest oven rack so that the bottom crust is exposed to the highest heat possible. (I’ve tried cooking pies on a preheated pizza stone and it works quite well, by the way).
9. I always use a glass pie plate so that I can lift up my pie and check to see if the bottom crust is golden. If it isn’t, the pie bakes longer no matter what the recipe says.
10. Always bake fruit pies until the juices are bubbling. They don’t have to bubble over like my apple pie posted above but they must be boiling for the juices to thicken.
Have you ever had a pie making disappointment? If not, what tips can you share that ensure your pastry prowess?
Also: Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! I hope you enjoy a wonderful meal with people you love to be with!