Baking the Perfect Pie

For many of us, the fall and winter holidays signal that it’s time to bake pies.

By FamilyTime


When the holidays approach, many of us decide it’s time to make pies. Trouble is, many of us aren’t too good at baking them. Here are some tips for success.

The Crust
A good pie begins with a good crust.There’s a reason old-fashioned pie crust recipes call for lard. It results in a flaky crust. Of course, nowadays, most folks don’t like to use lard, but instead rely on vegetable shortening, such as Crisco, butter, or margarine.

All these fats (also called shortenings) result in delicious-tasting pie crust. Lard and vegetable shortening produce the flakiest crusts; butter makes full-flavored, tender crusts. Don't cut back on the fat; the crust just won't be good unless there's enough of it.

When adding shortening to the flour, make sure the fat is chilled. This is crucial. The butter or margarine should come straight from the refrigerator, should feel cold, and offer no resistance when touched.

Vegetable shortening should chilled after you spoon it into the measuring cup. Don’t store the shortening in the fridge – store it in a cupboard but then chill it just before using.

Regardless of the shortening you're using, if it gets too soft when you are making the dough, return it to the refrigerator for about 15 minutes – or put it in the freezer for about five minutes.

The Filling
This is the fun part. Choose your favorite pie filling and make it with the best ingredients you can find.

A single nine-inch pie easily serves six or eight people – and if you cut the wedges smaller, you can get more servings.

Why scrimp on ingredients for one pie? Buy the best and treat them with care.

Look for crisp, firm apples, sweet pears, quality shelled nuts, fresh cranberries, juicy lemons, organic eggs, thick heavy cream, fresh spices, top-notch chocolate, unsalted creamery butter, and plump dried fruits.

Assembling the Pie
After you have draped the pie crust in the pie plate, use your palm to press it gently against the sides and over the bottom. The crust should have a two-inch overhang. This makes it possible to make an attractive crimped edge.

Before you fill the pie, put the pie plate lined with the pastry in the refrigerator for five or 10 minutes. This will allow the pastry to relax and there will be less chance of tearing.

Spoon the filling into the lined pie plate, mounding it slightly in the middle if it’s chunky, such as apple or another fruit. If you are making a custard pie, pour the filling into the crust and then smooth it with a rubber spatula.

Once the filling is in place, you can bake the pie as a single-crust pie. If you want to make it a double-crust, lay the top crust over the filling or fashion a lattice top over it before you put it in the oven.

If you put a top crust over the filling, roll the overhang from the bottom crust up and over the edge of the top crust. Use your knuckle or a fork to crimp the two crusts together around the rim of the pie.

Cut a few steam vents in top crust. This will prevent the crust from splitting as it bakes.

Baking the Pie
Be sure to preheat the oven to the correct temperature. This usually takes about 15 minutes, so time your baking accordingly.

Bake the pie until the crust is golden and firm and the fruit in the filling is bubbling hot. Unless the recipe specifies otherwise, custard pies are baked only until the center just sets but still jiggles a little.

It’s likely the crust around the edge of the pie will brown faster than the rest of the crust. If this happens, shield the edges with foil or a metal pie shield.

Pie shields are inexpensive and widely available in kitchen shops and some supermarkets. They may seem silly at first, but are far less frustrating than foil.

Let the pies cool before serving them with whipped cream, ice cream, custard sauce, slices of sharp Cheddar cheese, or just as they are!