Making A Pie...The Fear Factor

November 3, 2008

Uh, oh! The holidays are fast approaching as evidenced by the endless Christmas music piped into department stores already. That means it is time to get serious about holiday baking . . . especially pies!

This time of year strikes fear into many a baker. One thing that always seems to stump novice pie makers is the pie crust. Will it be flaky? How to I prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin, and me? How to I know if the pie is cooked and how do I get a perfect wedge to come out of the pie pan?

These are certainly tough questions, but they should not cause panic, sweating, or downright terror. Here are ten commandments for making a pie crust without fear:

1) All of the ingredients should be cold: the flour, the butter or shortening, and the water. This is what will result in a flaky crust. Keep open bags of flour in the refrigerator.

2) Use pastry or all purpose flour. Bread flour has too much gluten, cake flour not enough.

3)Blend the ingredients in Number 1 just until the dough begins to come together. Handle the dough as little as possible or you will work the gluten too much and heat from your hands will cause the butter or shortening to soften too much.

4) Chill the dough for 30 minutes before using. Roll the crust on a cold marble board or the back side of a baking sheet between lightly floured sheets of parchment paper. This will make it easier to transfer to the pie dish.

5) To prevent a soggy pie, brush the crust with an egg white before adding the pie filling.

6) To prevent a mess in the oven while the pie is baking, place it on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.

7) Fruit pies can be prepared ahead, sealed tightly, and frozen BEFORE baking. Then, to bake place the frozen pie in a preheated, 425F oven

8) For a shiny top crust brush with a little Half and Half

9) Always make a slit or x in the top pie crust to allow steam to escape and to prevent a soggyness from occurring.

10) Cool pies on wire racks. Use a sharp knife or pie cutter dipped in ice water for 5 minutes, and then towel dried to help make a clean first cut.

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