It is a rare person who does not enjoy a good
piece of pie for dessert. Making pie, however, can have some unexpected problems
to those new at it - or even not so new.
are some tips for specific and very common problems we all run into making pies:
My dough cracks while rolling.
The dough is either too dry or too cold. If it crumbles, add a
few sprinkles of water into it but try to handle as little as possible. If it
just cracks at the edges when you run the rolling pin over it, it probably just
needs to warm up a little. Allow it to sit on the counter for a few minutes. You
do not want it to get too warm, however or the crust will not come out flaky.
My crust keeps
sticking to the rolling pin.
Be sure to chill the dough at least one hour before trying to
roll it out. Lightly flour your working area as well as the top of the dough. If
you constantly run into this problem and are not using a pastry cloth, perhaps
you would want to invest in one. They are not expensive and truly are a
tremendous help rolling all types of dough. Most pastry cloths will come with a
rolling pin cover. This combination will help with all the sticking problems and
is well worth the investment. Pastry cloths are made from thin cotton. You do
still need to lightly flour the cloth and the cover before using them.
My crust will not
brown on bottom.
Try placing your pie on the bottom oven rack. Begin baking the
pie at a high temperature (425º to 450º), then reduce the heat after 20
minutes or so. The initial high temperature will help the crust to brown while
reducing the temperature will allow the filling to cook thoroughly before the
My crust is always
Before you pour your filling into your pie crust, brush the
bottom of it with beaten egg whites or if you wish, heated jelly. You could also
try baking the crust prior to pouring in the filling. Alternatively, you could
partially bake it prior to pouring in the filling, however, this can be
difficult if you are making a double-crust pie. Many cooks find it helps to make
a lattice top crust in this instance. What you will need to do, is use beaten
egg to help seal the top crust to the partially baked bottom crust, because you
do not have the two crusts to pinch together as you do with a full top crust.
You pre-baked your
crust but it became shrunken and misshapen.
Before you begin to roll your dough AND after rolling the dough,
allow it to "rest" in the refrigerator. In addition, while you are
fitting the dough into your pie pan, do your best not to pull or stretch the
dough. This should prevent the dough from shrinking. When you have the crust
placed into the pan, use a fork and poke the crust in several places. This
allows any steam to escape which, in turn, prevents the crust from puffing up.
Now we come to the "but"! If you are baking a custard pie where the
filling is baked in the crust (as opposed to a cream pie, where the filling is
cooked on the stovetop then poured into a pre-baked crust) do not poke holes in
the bottom crust, or the custard will seep through the holes. Instead, you can
use weights in the bottom of the crust to keep it in place: either pie weights,
which are specifically made for this purpose, or dry beans or rice. Be sure to
line the crust with parchment paper or foil before putting in the weights.
My crust comes out
The first and easiest solution to this would be to increase your
oven temperature. You can also brush the top crust with beaten egg or milk for a
glossy look. Just be sure to do this before you cut steam vents in the top crust
or you will seal them shut. If the ingredients in your crust include vinegar or
lemon juice, that could be your problem as well. To counter-attack any negative
effect to your crust from these ingredients, add about 1-teaspoon of sugar to
your dry ingredients before you mix in the fat. Vinegar and lemon juice prevent
Crust edges are burnt.
Consider investing in some pie crust shields. These truly do
wonders. You can use strips of foil if you wish, but it can be difficult to get
that foil to stay put where you want it to! The pie crust shields are so easy to
use and should pretty much solve this problem for you. About 20 minutes before
the end of baking time, remove the shield - or foil if you are using it - and
allow the edges to brown to perfection.
My crust is tough.
This is where minimal mixing comes into play. When liquids are
incorporated into the flour, it begins to create gluten. The more this gluten
forms, the tougher the crust will be. If you over-mix your dough, you are
helping it form more gluten - you don't want that! In addition, the above tip
regarding lemon juice and vinegar can apply here as well.
I cannot get my crust
Be sure you use your fat ingredient after it is thoroughly
chilled. If you have any liquids in your recipe, chill those as well. When you
rub your fat into your flour, you should do so until it has a sandy texture and
some larger pieces as these will separate the layers while slowly melting during
cooking. This process is what makes a crust flaky. To create a crust both flaky
and tender, use half chilled butter and half room temperature shortening. Leave
the butter in pieces about the size of a pea.
My filling always
leaks all over the oven.
This is where the steam vents are so important. When the fruit is
cooking it emits steam. If this steam has no place to go, it leaks! (And makes
one heck of a mess in your oven! I know, I did it with blueberries once!). If
you did remember your steam vents and are still experiencing some leaking, it
could be because the filling is very sweet and sugary. In this case, the filling
bubbles up which in turn, seals the vents shut. Finally, some leakage may be
unavoidable. Protect your oven by covering a baking sheet with foil and setting
the pie on top of it.
My fruit filling is
Most often this means you cooked your pie too long. You could
either increase your oven temperature or cut your fruit into larger pieces.
My pie has a big gap
between the top crust and the fruit filling.
This can happen when the fruit loses water volume, in the form of
steam, as it cooks. To prevent the gap, partially cook your filling before
putting it into your pie crust. If you do try this however, you will need to use
more fruit than your recipe requires. Place the fruit into a large saucepan
along with the remaining filling ingredients. Cook over a low heat until your
fruit is softer and loses some volume. Next, fill your pie and bake at a higher
temperature. Cover it loosely with foil during the first part of baking so the
top crust does not burn.
My cream filling
This is usually an indication your eggs became too hot in custard
or cream pies. Tempering eggs helps with this problem. To do this, place your
eggs into a bowl; whisk them thoroughly. Slowly pour about a cup of the heated
pie ingredient mixture into the whisked egg(s) and whisk constantly. This will
gently warm your eggs. Next, slowly whisk this mixture into the saucepan
containing the rest of the milk mixture. Another thing that can cause curdling
is if your recipe ingredients does not include any type of starch and you bring
the mixture to a boil. It is a good idea to always put into practice constant
stirring of your filling while it is on the stove. If none of this helps solve
your problem, try using a double-boiler for cooking your cream filling.
My filling gets runny.
For fruit fillings, use cornstarch, tapioca flour, arrowroot, or
all-purpose flour to thicken it up. Depending on the juiciness of the fruit, use
about 1/4-cup all-purpose flour, or 2-tablespoons cornstarch, tapioca flour, or
arrowroot. For cream fillings, cook the filling long enough after adding your
eggs. If your eggs were not cooked long enough, your filling can break down
after it cools. Cook and stir the mixture for at least two full minutes after
you whisk the eggs in to it. If you have an instant pudding filling, serve it
within a few hours. Instant pudding will separate and get watery if allowed to
sit for too long. If you want filling with more staying power as well a richer,
creamier taste, use cook and serve pudding, or make the filling from scratch.
Freezing your pie.
You can freeze a fruit pie raw or baked. To prepare an unbaked frozen pie, do
not defrost it first. Preheat the oven to 400º and bake for about 50 to 60
minutes. Cut steam vents in the top crust. To prepare a baked frozen pie, allow
it to thaw at room temperature for an hour, then bake it at 375º for 30 to 40
minutes, until heated through. Freezing custard or cream pies is not a good