Double-crust pies require small slits or holes to allow steam to escape
By Carole Bloom, CCP, Epicurious.com
There are several types of fillings for pies and tarts, including fruit, nut, custard, and cream. The type of pie or tart and its filling tend to determine how it is baked. Some fillings are baked in the oven with the pastry shell, while others are added to an already baked pastry shell. Your recipe will provide specific instructions, but here are some basic guidelines.
Fruit pies such as apple, cherry, or peach tend to have a double crust or a lattice top and are usually fully assembled, then baked. Some fruit pies only have a single crust but are fully assembled before being baked. Most nut pies, such as pecan, are single-crust pies where the filling is baked in the shell.
Related: Epicurious's Guide to Making Perfect Pies
Some pies, including many fresh-fruit pies, require you to pre-bake (or blind bake) the pie shell partially or entirely before adding the filling. It is often required for pies with a custard or cream filling, such as chocolate pudding or banana cream, which is cooked on the stove-top then poured into a cooled, fully baked pie shell. (Lemon meringue is another example, but it differs slightly because it has a meringue topping baked on top of the cooked custard filling.) Other custard pies, such as pumpkin or sweet potato, require the filling to be cooked with the shell in the oven.
For a double-crust pie, roll out a second round of dough at least an inch larger than the bottom crust. Roll it around the rolling pin, then unroll it over the filling. Or fold the dough into quarters, place it over the center of the filling and unfold it. Brush the edges of the bottom dough with an egg wash (see the section on egg washes for details) to help the top and bottom dough stick together. Tuck the top edge over the bottom and pinch together to seal them, and then make a decorative edge using the guidelines below.
Video: When making cutouts, lightly flour the cookie cutter and keep the dough well chilled.
Since a double-crust pie is sealed shut, you need to cut some slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Use a small, sharp knife to cut one-inch-long slits from the center to the outer edge of the pie, preferably in a decorative pattern. For a more unique look, use a cookie cutter or a small, sharp knife to cut shapes out of the top-crust dough before placing it atop the filling-for best results, lightly flour the cookie cutter and keep the dough well chilled. If you use cutouts, be careful not to stretch them when transferring the dough to the pan.
Regardless of the type of pie you're making, before you put it in the oven, place it in the freezer for 15 minutes. This helps relax the dough, which adds to the flakiness and helps prevent the dough from shrinking too much as it bakes.
Whether your pie has a double or single crust, a simple decorative edge will make it look unique and special. The simplest method is crimping: use the tines of a fork or a crimping tool to gently press into the outer edges of the dough, creating an even, rippled trim. To create a fluted edge, place the index finger of one hand on the inside rim of your crust and the thumb and index finger of your other hand on the outside rim. Press the fingers toward each other to form the dough into a 'v', repeating all around the edge. You can also create an eye-catching border using cutouts of leaves or other shapes. Use a lightly floured cookie cutter or a small, sharp knife to cut shapes out of well-chilled dough, then brush the edge of the top crust with an egg wash glaze and apply the cutouts, pressing lightly to make sure they stick. Dough cutouts can also be used to create an attractive pattern on top of a double crust.
Video: Use your fingertips to give your pie a simple, decorative edge.
Lattice TopsFor juicy pies, a lattice top works best because it allows steam to escape during baking.
For pies with very juicy fillings, such as berry or peach pies, it's best to use a lattice top instead of a regular top crust because it provides more room for steam to escape during baking.
To create a lattice top, roll out the dough for the top crust then cut it into 1/2-inch wide strips using a sharp knife or a plain or fluted-edge cutter. If the dough strips are soft at this point, transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill until firm, about 15 minutes. After the pie shell is filled, use an offset spatula to gently arrange half of the strips over the top of the pan, spacing them evenly in one direction. Turn the pan 90 degrees and arrange the remaining strips of dough spacing them evenly over the first layer of strips. The dough strips can also be twisted before placing them on top to create a twisted lattice. For a woven lattice, place a strip in one direction, then place another at a 90-degree angle to it. Working back and forth, weave the strips through each other by folding them back, then unfold them over the new strip.
Instead of a lattice top, you can use cutouts of leaves or other shapes to create a decorative pattern on top of a pie. As mentioned earlier, use a lightly floured cookie cutter or small, sharp knife to cut shapes into chilled dough. Arrange the dough cutouts so that they overlap slightly, but also leave space for steam to escape during baking.
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Some pies have a streusel topping in place of a top crust. This is a crunchy, crumbly topping, often made with toasted, chopped nuts or oats that adds extra texture and flavor to the pie. Beside chopped nuts or oats, streusel is made with sugar (granulated and/or light brown), flour, salt, butter, and spices that are pulsed together in the bowl of a food processor until crumbly. Streusel is not rolled out, but is sprinkled on top of a pie before baking.
Egg glazes are brushed on top of pie dough before baking to give the surface a beautiful golden sheen. A glaze can also be brushed on an empty pie shell to seal the dough from moisture and keep it from getting soggy-brush the glaze on as soon as the crust comes out of the oven.
To make an egg glaze, whisk a whole egg with a tablespoon or two of water, milk, or cream. You can also make a glaze by combining an egg white with water, which makes a firm glaze that gives the dough a more crisp texture. Occasionally, bakers like to brush the top of the dough with milk only. This gives dough a dull rather than glossy finish. Another glaze combines an egg with melted butter and warm milk. This version has an even, soft texture and isn't as firm as an egg-white glaze. To add texture and a bit of sparkle, a teaspoon of two or granulated sugar can be sprinkled over the top of a glaze before baking.
Glazes made of fruit preserves are brushed onto the inside of cool, baked pie shells to seal them from moisture, or brushed on top of fresh fruit to give it a glossy look. Melted chocolate can also be brushed over the inside of a baked pie or tart shell to seal it from moisture, as long as the filling is compatible.
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Double-crust pies require small slits or holes to allow steam to escape