How to Bake a Perfect Pie

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About: Architect/designer based in SE Minnesota. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to peek in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to m...

When making a pie there are three elements that are most tricky. The real trick is to manage water content in each of the three main elements of the pie.

  • The Crust
  • The Filling
  • The Topping

The Goal... remove hurdles and show that long recipes often make things more complicated. To make a great pie you simply need to manage a few components to bring together a delicious pie!

Step 1: The Crust

Recipe's for crusts are pretty similar.... fat, flour, salt, ice water

  1. Mixing - The goal here is to keep all the ingredients cold before switching to hot. That's why a pastry blender comes in handy for mixing ingredients and keeping body heat from raising the temp of dough. First combine all ingredients except the water. Once they form pea size clumps add water to fold into a dough. Optional to refrigerate for an hour or freeze for 15min (better if you do but not necessary).
  2. Rolling Out + Forming - Roll out the dough about 1/4" thick and to a few inches larger than your pie pan. (assuming a 9" pie pan). Use a fork to lightly poke into the based of the crust. Press about halfway into the dough. Also an option is using the folk on the edge of the crust to make for a crispier bake.
  3. Refrigeration - Allow for an hour in the fridge or 15 min in the freezer.
  4. Par-Bake - Bake for 20min at 400 deg (205C) with a piece of foil wrapping the crust. Coat a piece of foil with cooking spray and wrap. (if you're ready to switch to bulk aluminum foil)
  5. The Filling + The Topping + The Bake - Next Three Steps

Recipe calls for 2c. Flour, 1tsp Salt, 2/3c. Cold Unsalted Butter (or lard), 5 tbsp. ice water

Step 2: The Filling

We went with Triple Berry for this bake. Never a bad option.
The trick... is to minimize added liquid and use tapioca flour (starch) to thicken the filling.

  1. Berries - wash, slice, pit as needed. You may want to pat dry with a cloth.
  2. Sugar - I always add less sugar than recipes recommend. Didn't miss about 1/4c. less sugar than used by Smitten Kitchen.
  3. Lemon Juice - We used a lemon curd as a substitute for juice. This helps minimize the added liquid. It also introduces some sugar.
  4. Tapioca Flour - I have a surplus from some recent mochi making. Here's a link to Bob's Tapioca. Also worth a look is a great table for reference on thickening.
  5. Citric Acid - The lemon juice adds to the acidity which helps bring out the flavor of the berries. We added a couple shakes of citric acid. A great way to bring out flavors and help preserve freshness. See this recent instructable, Citric Acid Gets a Shaker, for more reasons to keep citric acid on hand.

If you're in the area... a couple local MN/WI bakeries do an incredible version of the triple berry. If you're ever driving along the Mississippi River north of La Crosse stop into Stockholm Pie. If you're North of Duluth along Hwy 61 look for Betty's Pies.

Recipe calls for 6c. Berries (blackberry, blueberry, strawberry), 1/2c. Sugar, 2tbsp. Lemon Curd, 5tbsp. Tapioca Flour, 1pinch. Salt

Super easy to have walmart pull all the ingredients with the new grocery pickup... here's a link to $10 off.

Step 3: The Topping

Dough vs crumble topping... If you are new to pie making the best way to manage the liquid of the fruit is to use a crumble topping. The crumble allows for the pie to vent evenly and absorbs some liquid as it bakes.

  1. Butter - Melt butter in a mixing bowl
  2. Flour - Add
  3. Baking Powder - Add
  4. Salt - Add
  5. Mix + Crumble - Mix with your fingers carefully, with a fork or a pastry blender

Recipe calls for 1/2c. Unsalted Butter, 6tbsp. granulated sugar, 1tsp. Baking Powder, 1-1/3c. All-Purpose Flour, 2pinch Salt

Step 4: The Bake

We are looking for a crispy, flaky crust. To manage the water content of the crust we pre-bake. Not 100% necessary but a good way to give the crust a head-start.
Covering is useful. It allows for a longer cooking time. If you figure the topping can only be exposed to heat for a fixed period before it burns best to start with foil... that allows the filling to come to temp and a longer exposure while water is evaporating.

  1. Preheat - Crust was first baked at 400F. Reduce temp to 375F for final bake.
  2. Bake Covered - Reuse the foil from the Par-Baking stage of the crust. Start the final bake with the pie covered and remove after 20-30min.
  3. Uncover + Finish Bake - Remove the foil at roughly the halfway point. Assume another 25-30min to finish the pie.

When are you done? When you see bubbles coming up from the juices - you're done!

Step 5: Pie Perfection

Takeaway... The trick is mastering how to manage water content. Baking is much more an art than a science. To really master pie making you have to feel the moisture content of your ingredients all along the way. By feel a baker varies ingredients and cook times as needed.

Recipes. This is a family recipe shared from my gf's best college friend. Classic Mediterranean. These three cookbooks are our standard reference material.
Our Dream. One day we'd like to have a cafe. Here's our new instagram @cafeoneday!

Happy Baking! Here are a few other baking Instructables I've put together:

The recipe used for this instructable is a modified version of one of Deb Perelman's from Smitten Kitchen. My gf's go to recipes are anything Smitten Kitchen's Everyday and Joanne Chang's Flour

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