5 Tips for Pie-MakingI love all the luscious fruit popping up in the market right now and can't get enough of eating juicy, floral peaches, wine-y cherries, and delicate blueberries straight up, but there are few things as satisfyingly decadent as baking them into a gorgeous, show-stopping pie.
Sure, a pie takes a little more work than, say, a cobbler or crisp, but every once in awhile, that bit of extra effort results in a welcome challenge and a delicious reward.
Related: Tastiest Prepared Pie Crusts
Here are a few tips to make the road to pie paradise a little less bumpy:
Shortening vs. Butter: When looking at a recipe, know that those using only shortening will typically be easier to handle and manage. They are not as sensitive to heat and stretching as all-butter crusts are; however, they lack the deep nutty flavor that butter brings. All-butter crusts have the best flavor, but are tricky. They can start melting on you pretty quickly (especially in the summer heat, just pop it in the fridge until it cooperates) and are prone to shrinkage, but they taste fantastic. One of our all-time favorite pies here in the GH Test Kitchen is our buttery blueberry pie, a tricky one to master, but even the less-than-perfect tests of that recipe had us reaching for another slice. Another option is a crust that combines butter and shortening. It's a little easier to handle and still has some toasty buttery flavor.
Just Add Water: The step of adding ice water to your pie crust is critical and many people are unsure when they've added enough water. Too much and your crust is pasty and flabby-tasting, too little and you've got a crumbly, impossible-to-work-with mess on your hands. The key is to add the water a tablespoon at a time. You can always add more water, but you can't take it away. Sometimes, when I know I'm close, I'll start adding it just a teaspoon at a time. You'll know you've added enough water when you grab a small handful of dough and squeeze it. If it stays together in a clump without falling apart or crumbling, you've added enough.
Rock n' Unroll: If all this talk of pie crust making gives you the shakes, go ahead and use a store-bought crust. In a pinch, we've called for the refrigerated ready-to-unroll kind in the dairy aisle, which is our favorite of all the pre-made types.
Thickeners: There are often debates over how to thicken the fruit filling for your pie. Here at Good Housekeeping we're big fans of cornstarch since it heats up into a clear thickener and doesn't taste like much. Other thickeners, like flour can make the filling murky and wind up tasting like, well, flour.
Related: Top-Notch Pie-Making Tools
Spill-Over: Once your crust is in your pan, your filling is in your crust, and your top crust is on your filling, don't forget the all important step of cutting steam vents in the top of your pie. Some fruit juice and filling might bubble up and over as the pie bakes. Just place the pie on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan before baking. Since I've started working here in the GH Test Kitchen 3 years ago, we've made dozens of double-crust fruit pies and, even amongst us professionals, about 75% rate of the time, the juices bubble up through the vents and spill over onto the crust, staining it. Don't worry about it. Trust me when I say these slightly messy concoctions have gotten no less attention from our eager forks.
What are your tricks to get the best pie? Let me know in the comments!
- by Sherry Rujikarn
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