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BUT! before you write... check the previous Q&As on your left to see if the expert has already answered your question (no lines, no waiting!)

*NEW* - The Pie Expert's Guide to Freezing and Storing PIE!

PIE EXPERT Q&A

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Why does my pumpkin pie pull away from the crust after one day?  Thank you!

-Jean

Hi Jean,

You're probably overcooking your custard a little bit. Overheating the eggs in a custard will cause the proteins to shrink as they cool… this shrinkage sometimes results in a big crack down the middle of your pie, or else as the whole thing shrinking and pulling away from the edges. You should remove a pumpkin (or any custard) pie from the oven as soon it is not soupy, but still is kind of jiggly like a jell-O… it will continue to cook and set up firmer as it cools.

Good Luck,

The Pie Expert

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I've been trying to get a perfect apple pie for years. There's just always a problem. The crust is to crumbly, the filling is to stiff or to runny. I just finished make a apple pie and I'm disappointed with the results. I read that using tapioca was the way to go so that the filling would come out perfect. It's as if I didn't put any thing at all. I cut into the pie and the juices ran like water. I've gotten the crust down now but I can't get a good filling. I used 3 delicious apples, 2 washingtons and 2 gala apples. With that I mixed in 2 tablespoons of the tapioca, 1 lemon juice, 3 cups of sugar, cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg and mace. Baked the pie at 450 for 10 min. and turned it down to 350 for an hour. Please tell me what  went wrong.

-Letti

Hi Letti,

Sounds very annoying. First of all… just want to make sure we are talking about cutting a cooled pie and not a warm one? The filling you describe would be still pretty runny if you cut it when it was warm.

So I'm not personally crazy about tapioca as a thickener in apple pies, I rarely thicken apple pies at all actually, because I sort of like that juiciness, personally… but I know this is not the common preference. Since it's not what you're looking for, I would think that tapioca would be a great way to go. I'm not sure what happened with your pie though. Some ideas:

1. did you really use 3 cups of sugar? This is about 3x what normal recipes call for? Maybe that is a typo? If not, that would surely impact your outcome.

2. increase the tapioca to 3 TB and make sure you let it sit for 15 min or so before baking to soften the tapioca. This will ensure that it thickens at it's maximum power.

3. I would suggest substituting one type of apple for something that cooks softer, like a Jonathan or Macintosh. They will basically cook into applesauce in your pie, and that result in a thicker filling than you'll get with harder apples that retain their shape when cooked (like delicious and gala). A good combination of both kinds of apples will ensure that you get some good thick filler and also have nice distinct slices intact.

Good Luck,

The Pie Expert


Wednesday, October 19

We need to bake several pecan and pumpkin pies. It would be easier to prepare them and freeze them UNBAKED.

Then the day we need them we can bake them.

Will they turn out this way?
- Styraxi

Hi Styraxi,

Sorry took so long to get back to you... just totally backlogged these days!
if it isn't too late, here is my freezing advice.
Custard pies will NOT freeze well unbaked, this includes pumpkin and pecan.
They would freeze ok once they are baked, is there a reason you couldn't
bake first and then freeze? You can just thaw out to room temp to serve
then?
You could also try just making and freezing unbaked crusts, and making up
some batches of filling unbaked and sticking them in the fridge in
containers, but they'd only last a couple days in that condition.

Good Luck!
- The Pie Expert

 

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I prefer when using a canned product to use Thank you! brand pie filling, and have not been able to find it recently or find it online, the search engines keep referring me to ask the expert.

If you could give me information on the company of this product that I might contact them via internet or snail mail it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you
Lia

 

Hi Lia
Sorry I am so late getting back to you... just been totally swamped with letters this month!
So the company making Thank You! was acquired by Birdseye foods and the brand was merged with the Comstock & Wilderness brands.
I don't know how they compare with the original Thank You! formula... .but you will maybe just have to try it and see if you this it's similar, or email/mail Birdseye/Comstock and see what they say about the formula.
http://www.birdseyefoods.com/comstock/flavors.asp

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

Dear Pie Expert,

I used to live in Southern California and had the best chicken pot pie that I ever tasted from a restaurant called Moffet's. It is a family owned restaurant and I was wondering if you've seen or have their chicken pot pie recipe. I would like to have a bite of the wonderful pot pie but I live in Kentucky now; so I figured the next best thing would be to make the pie myself. If you have any information I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you,
Christina

Hi Christina,
I called my brother, who lives just down the street from Moffett’s Chicken Pies, and asked him to do a little research.
He wasn’t able to extract a recipe from them, but he made a good suggestion:
“The LA times food section has a column called SOS that handles requests like this one - they seem to get recipies for whatever menu item someone wants to recreate at home.”
I’d suggest trying that route… I bet the LA Times could do it for you.
Good Luck,
The Pie Expert


Monday, October 24, 2005

When I made my Appple pie the filling was great not to ruuning. The rest of the filling was frozen to be used at a latter date. When it was used after being frozen the filling was runney. Can you tell me what happened. Did I need to rethicken the mixture before reusing?

- Candace

Hi Candace,
If you’re freezing uncooked fruit pies (or filling) you need to increase the amount of thickening agent (cornstarch or flour or tapioca etc.) by 1½ times. Please refer to the freezing guide below for more tips on freezing pies or fillings. Check out the new Handy Dandy Freezing Guide

Cheers
- The Pie Expert

Friday, October 28, 2005

Could you please tell me why when I cut my Coconut Cream pie there is a runny sugary syrup that has formed at the bottom of the pie. I have tried making sure the filling is hot when putting the meringue on top, any suggestions?

-Elayne

Hi Elayne,

The runny syrup *could* be from your coconut custard, but I’ll bet it is actually from the meringue. I’d first try using a more stable meringue, read the advice to “Creampie” for a recipe to try. Although Creampie’s problem is slightly different. The solution could be the same:
http://www.pieofthemonth.org/expert/expert_index.html#meringue
if that doesn’t work, then it is probably your custard. A custard will weep like that when it is either over or undercooked (pain the neck, I know), but the weepy stuff from custard is not typically sugary like the weeping from a meringue. Just make sure you carefully follow directions and even use a thermometer if needed when you’re preparing the custard.
Good Luck,
The Pie expert

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Do you freeze a fruit pie before or after you bake it?
- Jacqueline

Hi.
Check out the new PIE FREEZING GUIDE

Good Luck
The Pie Expert

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Why is my pie dough crust so hard and not soft when the dough is all well mixed? i seen my cousins dough is soft when shes done mixing it...easy to roll out and mine isnt like that its tough and hard
please help me

-Laura

Hi Laura,

Well… are you using the same recipe? The difference could be in the type of fat you are using. Butter crusts (when properly made and chilly) are much stiffer than your average shortening crust… but they are also generally more flakey and more tasty. Do your crusts turn out when they are baked? Are they flakier than your cousin’s crusts? You could make a crust that is softer and easier to work with when rolling by using shortening, cutting the shortening in very finely, working the pie crust at room temperature and possibly adding more water than you currently do. But you might find that the result is a ‘shorter’ crust (which means that the texture of the baked crust will be more crumbly than flakey). You could also try some of the crust recipes that include egg. These, again, are less flakey, but the dough is easier to work. Just do a google search for a pie crust recipe with egg.
Try this one, which was the Best in Show Winner at the National Pie Bake-Off this year in Celebration Florida:
Best of Show Winner
Jeanne Ely
Mulberry, FL

Pie Crust:

3 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
½ Cup Butter Flavored Crisco shortening
¾ Cup Regular Flavored Crisco shortening
1 egg
5 Tablespoons cold water
1 Tablespoon vinegar

Cut together flour, salt and shortening until oatmeal-like consistency. Beat egg in cup, add water and vinegar. Beat all and pour into flour mixture. Blend well.

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

I've been making pecan pies for years. Now all the sudden when I make one, about half way through baking the filling penetrates through the sides and bottom of the crust and turns the crust brown and soggy/sticky, etc. I have no idea what I'm doing any different than I ever did. Same recipe, etc. I've done an egg wash to try to take care of the seeping problem. I beat an egg white and a tiny amount of water and after brushing it on, put it in the fridge for 15 minutes before filling. What am I doing wrong?
Thanks.
Eliene

Hi Eliene,
Wow, what a pain in the neck. The only two suggestions I can think of are that:
1. you might be much better at rolling out a nice thin pie crust now, after all this practice, and that you are just rolling too thin… and that happened over time so you didn’t notice the change ?
2. You want to make sure that your crust is well chilled well before you fill it. Sounds like you are already doing that. Hmm.
3. with a pecan pie you could actually try partially prebaking the crust, that could help… bake it 5-11 minutes before you fill it… but then you’ll definitely want to shield the edges with foil to keep them from over-browning.
4. are you overfilling the pie? Maybe it’s bubbling over the sides and down inside the edge of the pan, rather than seeping through your crust?

Good Luck
-The Pie Expert

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Dear Pie expert,

I have been looking for the large granular sugar that is used on top of pie crusts and cookies. How do you get that?

Thanks,
Joe K.

Hi Joe-
You can get that online at www.bakerscatalog.com

(or any number of baking supply sites, just google “coarse sugar”)

Also, you can usually you can get it at any specialty baking shop in your town (like someplace that sells cake decorating supplies).
I have also used Turbinado (or Sugar in the Raw), which is big granular like that, but has more of a molasses flavor.
Good Luck
-The Pie Expert


Friday, November 4, 2005

I need help for making sure my crust is golden
brown on the bottom as well as the sides. I have tried medal, corning ware and glass pie plates and they never seem to be brown. I dislike a pale pie crust.
Mary

Hi Mary,
Maybe try cooking your pies hotter for the first 15 minutes (like cook them 15 minutes at 450° F, and then turn down to lower temp like 350°F to bake remainder to bake the remainder of the time. Also you can try prebaking, and also try brushing the crust before you bake it with a milk or egg glaze.
Cheers
The Pie Expert

Friday, November 4, 2005

I am wanting to sell pies. Is there a special way to mix up several pies at the same time. Like if I need to make 3 coconut pies, can I make the filling for all 3 at the same time in the same pan? Someone said when mixing more than one pie that you have to alter the recipe.

Sandra

Hi Sandra,
In most cases you can triple the recipe with no problem if you have pots and bowls large enough to mix thoroughly.
Cheers
The Pie Expert

Saturday, November 5, 2005

I cannot find a good butterscotch recipe anywear.. i couldnt even find a single butterscotch pie recipe on your site.. could you e-mial me a butterscotch pie recipe?

-Candace

Hi Candace,
Actually I haven’t found a butterscotch pie recipe that I have been crazy about either. This is the next one I was going to try, but I haven’t tried it yet.

BUTTERSCOTCH PIE

9-inch prebaked, cooled pie shell

1/4 c. butter
1 1/4 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 c. plus 2 tbsp. milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. firm butter

FILLING: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in half of the brown sugar and stir over medium heat until a smooth, thick liquid forms. Boil 1 minute and remove from heat. Blend the remaining brown sugar with the salt, flour, and cornstarch. Stir this mixture into the hot liquid. Slowly stir in half of the milk, keeping the mixture smooth. Then add the rest of the milk.

Place over medium heat and cook with stirring, until thickened, 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat. Beat the yolks well, then quickly stir in about 1/2 cup of the hot mixture. Return this mixture to the saucepan. Cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and tablespoon of butter until melted. Cool this mixture.

Pour into crust. Top with meringue (see below for a recipe)
Bake at 300 degrees 15-20 minutes until meringue is browned. Cool about 2 hours at room temperature before serving.

NOTE: Melting the butter with part of the sugar, until a smooth liquid is formed is the trick that gives this Butterscotch Pie the old-time flavor.

Monday, November 7, 2005

where can I purchase 9" and approximately 1" frozen pie shells?

-Audrey

Hi Audrey,
You know? I have no idea. I haven’t ever seen a pre-made frozen crust that is actually 9”… even if they *say* they are 9” on the package, they never are. Sorry.

The Pie Expert.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Whenever I bake a two-crust pie the top comes out perfect but the bottom is only half cooked. I use standard aluminum pie plates. If I place the pie on the bottom rack the bottom burns and the filling (ie apples) only half cooked. I recently heard that new aluminum pie plates need to be "tempered" before use - I have no idea what they mean - do you?

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Also, meringue problems are easily solved. Just use a pinch of cream of tarter ( makes the meringue shinier or add "unflavoured gelatin". I have used both at the same time and have no problems with weapy or flat meringue. Also, when cutting meringue dip your knife in hot water before cutting.

Also, "unflavoured gelatin" is great for keeping real whipped cream from going watery which means no more last minute whipping.

Thank you.
Cheryl

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

I've read your comments on freezing an unbaked apple pie and freezing apples. In the freezing apples comments, you said the apples would break down and become mushy. Will this happen to the pie as well? Not sure what would make the difference. I'm hoping to bake some pies before hand surgery and freeze them. Thanks.
-Map

Hi Map,

If you are going to bake the pies before you freeze them, you won’t have a problem. If you are planning to freeze the pies unbaked, follow the directions below I the freezing guide.

Good luck with the hand surgery!
The Pie Expert.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I'm looking for a milk pie that my great grandmother used to make. She was of Pa. Dutch decent. Any help would be appreciated

Hi,
Was it this recipe?
http://www.pieofthemonth.org/archives/arch_6_thick.html
this is the only Pennsylvania Dutch “Milk Pie” recipe I have.
Cheers
The Pie Expert.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

My Mom would always have pie crust in the frig in a coffee can she would just take out what she needed and add water, does anyone know how this is done?

- Jacquie

Hi Jacquie,

I do have a pie crust mix recipe, from an old “make-a-mix” cookbook. I usually keep it in the freezer, but you could also keep it in the fridge, if you are going to use it up fast enough (should keep in the fridge for 10 weeks or so).

here it is:

Flaky Pie Crust Mix

12 ½ cups flour
2 Tb. salt
3 cups regular shortening
2 cups butter-flavored shortening (you could use 5 cups of regular, but I like a little of the butter flavor)

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl (or bowl of a large food processor). Whisk or pulse processor to mix. By hand, cut in shortening until evenly distributed or with the processor pulse several time until shortening is in pieces the size of peas and mixture resembles coarse meal in texture.
Put in a large airtight container. Label/date. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 10 to 12 weeks. Or put about 2 ½ cups mixture each into 6 freezer bags. Seal and label bags. Freeze. Use within 12 months. Makes about 16 cups of mix, enough for 6 double-crust pies or 12 single-crust pies.

How to use:

Flaky Pie Crust

2 ½ cups flaky pie crust mix
1/3 cup ice water
2 Tb. white vinegar

Crumble pie crust mix, if frozen. Put mix in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine ice water and vinegar. Sprinkle a spoonful of water mixture at a time over the mix and toss with a fork until the dough barely clings together in the bowl. Roll out dough to desired thickness between 2 sheets of lightly floured wax paper.

Good Luck
-The Pie Expert

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

can you freeze lemon merigue pie?
-Peggy

Hi Peggy,
I don’t recommend it. Please refer to the “Pie Expert’s Handy Dandy Pie Freezing Guide”

Cheers
The Pie Expert

October 10, 2005

Just like everyone else, my crust are delicious and the top is wonderful, but my apple pie comes out completely sogging.  The dough doesn't seem to cook on the bottom.  I usually bake at 375. Is that too high temp? Any help with be greatly appreciated.
-Pat

Hi Pat,

No, 375 is an OK temp. Here are some things you can try:

  1. chill your crust before you fill it (after you line the pan, stick it back in the fridge for 15 minutes). This keeps the filling from soaking in before the bottom crust can cook.
  2. preheat the oven to 425, then cook it for about 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 375 or 350 and bake the remaining 35-45 minutes
  3. bake your pie on the lowest rack in the oven. Some people even bake their pie right on the floor of the oven (if that is possible for your oven).

OK Good Luck!
The Pie Expert

October 9, 2005

why do i read about people baking a pie crust with beans or rice on top? does this make for a better crust?
-Kelly

Hi Kelly,
I think what you were reading about is blind baking crusts. When you want to bake a pie shell with nothing in it, to fill with, say, a cool cream pie filling, you have to prebake the crust. When blind baking like this, the crust tends to balloon up or sag down the sides. You can prevent this bulging up by weighing the crust down with something like dry rice or beans. They even make ceramic pie weights (that look like little marbles) and metal pie chains for the same purpose.

Cheers
The Pie Expert

October 5, 2005

Hi!

I have a question concerning runny Jello pie filling. I had this problem with a chocolate chip Jello pie filling that I made this weekend. I used a normal, ready-to-use, graham cracker crust (unbaked) and the filling just oozed liquid. It was rather disgusting but fairly flavorful. I used the instant variety pudding and pie filling variety. I measured the ingredients carefully so I'm confident that's not the problem. However, I used skim milk could that be the reason? If so, what can I add or do differently if all I have is skim milk in the house next time?

Thanks,
Vanessa

 

Hi Vanessa,

Ok well according to the pudding instructions from Jell-O, skim milk should be fine. Did you notice on the side of the instant pudding box that they tell you to use less milk for a pie, than when you are making pudding? My suggestion is that you use less milk (especially if you used the pudding instructions rather than the pie filling instructions). This will make the pudding set up firmer.

Good Luck

The Pie Expert

October 4, 2005
do you have a pie crust recipe that uses oil instead of shortening?
-Liz

Hi Liz,

Well yes, as a matter of fact, I do. Here you go:

Oil Crust
Makes a double crust 9” pie:
2 cups flour
½ C. vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1/8 C ice cold water
1/8 cup ice cold skim or 2% milk

Combine flour and salt in large bowl. Add wet ingredients together in a bowl or measuring cup (but don't mix them) and then all at once to the flour mixture and stir with a fork to combine. Divide the dough in two. Roll out each half between layers of wax paper. This crust is flakier if you can roll it quite thin.

September 30, 2005

When I bake a custard pie it looks delicious,but as it cools it starts to get watery and causes the crust to get soggy if not eaten the same day. It also will sag and not cut clean. The taste of the pie is good.

-Junie

--And--

October 8, 2005

What causes pumpkin pie to get moisture on the top after baking?

- Ma G

Hello Junie and Ma G,

You're both writing with the same question, since a pumpkin pie is basically a custard pie (with just an addition of pumpkin for a little extra flavor).

OK. Well custards will weep (ooze liquid) when over cooked. You should take your custard and pumpkin pies out of the oven when a knife inserted just an inch from the center comes out clean. If you want to get more precise, you can use an instant read thermometer:

Custard without starch: Done at 160°F in the middle

Custard with starch: Done at 212°F middle.

Also, you might want to try adding a little starch to your custard mixture if you don't already. So for an egg custard pie, you might mix in 2-3 tablespoons of flour with your sugar and spices. Same goes with the pumpkin. Try adding a couple tablespoons of flour (Damon's mom Lucille Lockett used tell me this was “for good luck”)

So Good Luck
The Pie Expert

September 26, 2005

How do I double a pecan pie recipe to make more than one pie?  I am trying to make 4 pecan pies.
-Amy

Hi Amy,

Well… I'm not sure what the question is… to make two pies, you add twice as much of each ingredient and then split it evenly between two crusts. For four pies you need four times each measurement. If you're unsure about multiplying fractions just measure each ingredient four times. With a pecan pie you'd want to have your four crusts ready and then measure the pecans for each pie into each crust individually. Then you can mix the liquid part all together and divvy it up equally into the four crusts.

September 23, 2005

I made a peach pie the other night and the filling came out very runny.  I've used this recipe before and it didn't come out that runny.  My pies do not come out consistent and they are always usually runny.  I have the same problem with my apple pies too.  Please Help!

- Jeanne

Hi Jeanne,

Well, you know what I was just reading? That the pectin levels in fruit varies from variety to variety, year to year and depending on how ripe it is. Pectin is the natural thickening agent present in fruit. This might have something to do with why your pies are not consistent.

I have had the best luck with peach pies using quick cooking tapioca as thickener. I'd say give that a try. The recommended amount is ¼ Cup Minute tapioca to 4 cups sliced peeled peaches and 3/4 cup sugar.

September 23, 2005

I'm wondering why the meringue on a lemon pie flattens and becomes tough?
Carol

Hi Carol,

Well…. I'm not sure when or in what situation your meringue is flattening out. But here are some general guidelines that take care of most sources of this problem.

  1. meringue- topped pies are best consumed the day you make them. The longer they sit around, the more flattened and tough the meringue becomes
  2. Don't refrigerate your meringue pies, the meringue will get either weepy or tough… they should be stored at room temperature
  3. If it is particularly humid, try using a stabilizer. There is a recipe for no-weep meringue below (click here)

September 20, 2005

When following instructions, can I substitute an aluminum pan instead of a glass pan. It's the Million dollar pillsbury pie and I don't want to mess up just because of the pan! Help me, as you can tell, I don't bake much!

Needhelp

Dear Needhelp,
I'm not sure which million dollar recipe you're trying to make (isn't there one every year?) but here is the standard answer. You can, in general, use any pan but you might have to adjust cooking times slightly, and you might find differences in how browned your crust gets in each. The aluminum pans that are disposable are thinner and reflect more heat than the glass ones. So if you are going to use a thin aluminum pan I'd either double it up (if you have a second) or cook it slightly (~5-10 min) shorter than you would in the glass pan.

Good luck!
The Pie Expert

September 20, 2005

Can I freeze uncooked apple slices, with sugar and spices added? or do I have to cook it first?
Thanks

Hi,
Here is the short answer: No.
Here is the longer answer: You can't freeze uncooked apple slices because when the water expands as it freezes, it breaks the cell walls and then when you thaw the apples they turn into a watery mushy mess.
However, you can blanch the apples first for 2 minutes. Peel and core and slice, then soak for a few mintues in a water bath with lemon juice or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to prevent discoloration, then drop the sliced apples into boiling water bath for 2 minutes. Then run under cold water to stop the cooking and mix with your spices and sugar and freeze. Go for it.

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

September 19, 2005

I've never had a chocolate pie.  Do you have a recipe I could try?  Thanks you

- Lucie

Hi Lucie,

My favorite chocolate pie is a chocolate chess pie. It's simple but really delicious I prefer baked chocolate pies to chocolate cream pies, which are too pudding-like for me.
Here's my favorite recipe for a chocolate chess pie. It's an older recipe so it makes an 8” pie. The trick is to bake is rather long at a lower temperature, and the result is a nice crunchy chocolaty top and a soft fudgey center. De-lish!

Chocolate Chess Pie

3 eggs
¼ c. evaporated milk or cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick margarine
2 heaping TB cocoa
1 ½ C. sugar
2 TB cornmeal

Blend eggs, vanilla and milk well in a bowl. Put sugar, cocoa, cornmeal and margarine stick together in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 1 minute, or until margarine melts. Stir this mixture well and stick back in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. Stir again until smooth. Pour cocoa mixture slowly into egg mixture while beating.

Stir to combine thoroughly. Pour into unbaked 8” pie shell.
Bake at 325°F for 1 hour. Top should be puffed and crusty looking.

Good luck!
The Pie Expert

September 16, 2005

At what temperature and how long do you bake a frozen homemade apple pie?
- Suzie

Hi Suzie,
here's a standard answer... you may have to modify to your particular oven
to get it just right.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake frozen pie until golden
brown, about 60- 70 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Good Luck
The Pie Expert

 

September 12, 2005

I am making a Lemon Merigue Pie for a friend. How do I keep the crust from getting soggy?
I read somewhere that when you bake an empty crust you should brush it with egg whites and the crust won't get soggy.  Is this true....then if so, do you prick the crust so it doesn't bubble?

Carol

Hello Carol

Brushing the crust with egg whites before prebaking is one good way to keep
it crispy. when you do that you should indeed prick the crust.
Another way to keep it crispy is to put a layer of cookie crumbs (graham
crackers, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, etc) on the bottom of the crust
when you're prebaking it.  Kinda press them lightly into the crust before
you bake.  That second method works a little better if you prefer to blind
bake with pie weights than the egg white method (which requires some partial
baking without the weights until the egg sets some).

Good Luck
The Pie Expert

 

September 4, 2005

Hi,

With apple pies I often find that after I bake them, there is a big gap between the filling and the crust.  The filling shrinks and the crust stays exactly the way it was formed, thereby causing the gap, I believe.  Do you know how I can remedy this, or if it even should be remedied?
Thanks so much,
Reisa

 

Hi Reisa,

sounds like you and " Christine" need to get together... she has the opposite problem:

July 6, 2005

Why do my apple pies “deflate” as they cool? They look picture-perfect when they come out of the oven but as they cool the crust slowly collapses down onto the filling.

Christine

Hi Christine,

So, would you rather have a dome of crust with a pocket of air underneath? I usually feel like it's a sign that my crust is too tough if it doesn't fall. If you'd like your crust not to fall, you just need to make it stronger/tougher. You could do that by maybe switching to a butter or lard crust if you're using shortening or oil now, and working to make sure you have a long flake (so when you roll out your dough you should see lots of striations from the fat, if it looks mottled like that it's a good sign that your dough will be flaky). But basically, if your crust is tender (even if it is flaky) it will probably fall as the apples cook down, and if you want it to retain it's shape try experimenting with different fats, mixing it more or less and see if you can find a happy medium (keeps its shape, but is not too tough to be unpleasant to eat).

Good Luck
-Pie Expert

So Reisa, sounds like your crust is too tough. Most likely you are overworking it.  Try using some shortening in your recipe, if your recipe is an all butter crust, and try messing with it as little as possible. Keep all your ingredients cold and just mix the crust as little as necessary for it to hold together. You should be able to see streaks of fat in your dough when rolling it out.  A more tender crust will stay with the filling when it bakes.

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

September 1, 2005

When I bake a double crusted pie the first day the top crust is crisp and flakey, but the next day it is soft.  I have tried covering and not covered, putting in the fridge or on counter top. Nothing seems to help. 

Thank you,

Betty from Texas

 

Hi Betty,
Sorry to take so long to get back to you!   Well, about your problem... I
guess I think that just sounds pretty normal. When the pastry is in contact
with the moist filling, it will unavoidably absorb some of the moisture over
time.  What i'd do if this condition really bugs you, and you can't eat
through a whole pie the first day is to recrisp the top crust in the oven
the second day just before serving.  Place the pie on one of the middle -
upper shelves in the oven and bake 10-20 minutes at 350, until the top is
crispy again. You won't be able to do this more than once though, or your
crust will get too dark.

Good Luck
The Pie Expert

 

August 23, 2005

I have quite a few baked pie crusts put away in the freezer
So I don't want to make any more. Question is. Can I use
These for a pie that calls for a unbaked pie shell. If
So will I have to lower the oven temp . I'm thinking of
Apple pies. I have a good harvest and want to use up
These pie shells.

Thanks Heather

Hi Heather!

Ok, short answer is... no. 
The long answer is that you can use them for apple pies if you pre-cook the apples on the stovetop and then use a crumb top.  That way you wouldn't have to bake the pie longer than just the amount of time it would take to brown/crisp the crumb top, and reheat the precooked filling.

If you tried to cook the apples in the precooked shell, you'd end up overcooking the crusts pretty considerably... and you couldn't do a pastry top crust. 

Good Luck,
- The Pie Expert

August 18, 2005

My mom made a graham cracker crust, cherry, no bake pie for us as kids in the 60's. It was very rich and used condensed milk in the filling. She no longer has the recipe and I have searched endlessly for it. The only recipes I have found on the internet use pineapple as an ingredient. It did not contain pineapple. Can you help?

-Katie

 

Hi Katie,
Sorry to take so long getting back to you...  So OK I have done a search of
my vast old pie recipe collection and didn't find anything that is exactly
what you describe.  However, what you describe sounds like a variation of
the traditional Millionaire Pie.  I wonder if your mother (or whoever gave
her the recipe) adapted a Millionaire Pie recipe by replacing the can of
pineapple with a second can of cherries.... maybe if she (or her family)
didn't really like pineapple? maybe?  anyway... give this a try and see if
it's close (makes two pies).

2 bottles maraschino cherries
1 (14 oz.) can condensed milk
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 env. unflavored gelatin
1/4 c. water
1 (12 oz.) carton whipped topping
1 c. chopped pecans (optional)
2 graham cracker crusts

Drain cherries, but reserve liquid. Cut cherries in quarters. Soften gelatin
in cold water. Heat cherry liquid, add gelatin, stir until dissolved. Cool
to room temperature. Add lemon juice. Mix condensed milk with cherries. Add
gelatin mixture. (You can cool the gelatin mix for a bit in refrigerator
until it begins to thicken).  Fold in topping and nuts. Pour into 2 regular
size graham cracker crusts

 

August 12, 2005

Hi There Expert,
I have been making pies for a loooooooooooong time but still cannot get the
right consistency for my blueberry pie filling.  I usually use flour to
thicken it and I add some lemon juice to the blueberry mixture.  I also dab
butter on the top before placing the top crust on the pie.  The last time I
made one I used 2 quarts of blueberries and 1/3 of a cup of flour.  The
taste was excellent but the pie was very runny.  I waited for it to cool
before cutting it so that was not the problem, but I would like the filling
to run a little bit but not so that you have to use a spoon!!!  I would
value your opinion.
Thanks for your help,
Joanne J.

Hello Joanne,
Sorry to be so long getting back to you! OK, so although it's past the
blueberry season (sorry), maybe this can help you with next seasons pies.

Ok, here is what I know. Fresh blueberry skins contain an acid which breaks
down many starches when uncooked. So that plus the lemon juice makes
thickeners behave erratically. There are two things you could try to make
your pies consistently thickened. One of  the most sure-fire (but slightly
more time consuming) way is to pre-cook some of the berries (maybe like a
third of them) on the stovetop with the thickener. That mixture will be
*very* thick, since it will have all the thickener for your whole pie.  But
then you mix the thickened stuff back in with the rest of your berry
mixture, and then bake as usual. For 2 pints of berries, I'd use 3 TB
cornstarch in 3 TB water (mix them together cold and then pour into the
cooking berries (with your sugar and a little liquid)
The second thing you can try (if you can find it) is a thickener more
resistant to the oxalic acid in the berry skins, tapioca flour.  I buy
tapioca (aka cassava) flour in the Asian grocery store for about 99 cents a
pound. If you can't find that, you can use minute tapioca that you grind up
a little with a food processor or spice grinder. For tapioca flour it is
important to let it sit with the wet berry mixture for 15 minutes or so to
let it dissolve completely before you stick it in the oven. Use 1/4 cup
tapioca with 2 pints blueberries.
Good Luck
The Pie Expert

August 8, 2005

My girlfriend says she has pans she puts her pies in to protect racks from overflow of blueberry pies. Where do I find these?

-Dorothy

Hi Dorothy,

Hmm, you mean the pie pans themselves prevent the spills, or it's a different pan that the pie pans sit inside? I haven't heard of that... but there are many things that Anyway, I just bake mine sittin on (or a rack above) a cookie sheet lined with a non-stick silicone mat or parchment paper. If that doesn't work for you, i can also recommend these non-stick oven liners from Bakers Catalog:

http://shop.bakerscatalogue.com/items/Non_Stick_Oven_Mat___Liner.html

Good luck!
The Pie Expert

August 3, 2005

How do I prevent my Cheesecake Crust from becoming soggy in the summer? Please help.

Sincerely
Gwendolyn Dillions

Hi Gwendolyn,
Welllllll, technically cheesecake isn’t pie, and since I am only the PIE expert, I’m going to refer you to someone else. Please check out the advice on this topic by the cheesecake expert at Baking 911,

http://www.baking911.com/asksarahbb/viewtopic.php?p=683&

Cheers!
The Pie Expert

August 2, 2005

I am searching for the recipe that once appeared on the box of Nabisco Graham Crackers for a no bake pie. It wasn't lemon, but a sort of custard filling. Nabisco no longer displays the recipe on the box. The recipe dates back to probably the 1940's.

Thanks for your help.

Kathy

Hi Kathy,

OK I got my hands on a cookbook published by Nabisco Biscuit Co. in (I think late 1930s - early 1940s) called "75 delicious Desserts". The first pie in the pie session seems like it could be what you are looking for. Here it is:

Graham Cracker Cream Pie

¼ C sugar
2 TB cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
2 C milk, scalded
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 9” NABISCO GRAHAM CRACKER crumb crust
3 egg whites
6 TB sugar

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in top of a double boiler. Gradually add milk, mixing until smooth. Place over boiling water and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Cover and continue cooking 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Do NOT remove from heat. Stir a small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks, immediately pour back into remaining hot mixture over boiling water; blend thoroughly. Cook 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add vanilla. Cool to room temperature.
Pour into a 9” crumb crust. Beat egg whites stiff but not dry; gradually add the (6 TB) sugar. Spread meringue over filling. Bake in a hot oven (425 degrees F) 5 minutes until delicately browned

Sound like the right one?

- The Pie Expert

July 31, 2005

Dear Pie Expert,

I have a friend who has a bias against any form of sweet potato pie.
Do you have a recipe for such a pie that is sure to tempt even the
most stubborn of pie eaters?

With many thanks,
Jenny

Hi Jenny,

Well, in most cases those fanatics that hate sweet potatoes (but like pumpkin) really have a bias against the texture. I also have a friend who isn’t a big fan of the sweet potato, but he *has* tried it on occasion in my presence, so doesn’t seem irrationally close-minded… yet.
So anyway, here are my suggestions:
1. try this sweet potato chiffon pie (recipe below), that is fluffy and mousse-like, and therefore eliminates the offending texture
2. (this one is the key) tell him it’s a pumpkin chiffon. He’ll never know the difference.

However, if your friend happens to be someone who is regularly reading the Pie Expert column, this little trick may not work, and in fact could potentially backfire.
But… Good Luck!

Sweet Potato Chiffon Pie (so light and fluffy!)
3/4 C sugar
1 envelope plain gelatin
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 C milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 C cooked mashed sweet potatoes
3 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
1 baked deep dish 9” pie crust (or a baked deep dish graham cracker crust would work)

In saucepan combine sugar, gelatin, salt, egg yolks and milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to boil. Remove from heat, stir in mashed sweet potatoes and spices. Chill.
Meanwhile: Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and gradually add 1/3 C sugar and beat until stiff.
Fold potato mixture into whites and then mound into baked pie crust. Chill until firm.

August 1, 2005

I am looking for a recipe for a sugar free pecan pie that doesn't not call for maple syrup. I am looking for something that tastes more like pecan pie not pecan pancakes. I also do not want one that calls for pineapple juice, that came out horrible.
Do you know of any?

Hey,

Well… I have one that has low sugar, but isn’t totally sugar free. Have you tried that recipe with the syrup with another type of syrup, that isn’t maple flavored? Pecan pies are a little different than other sugar free pies, in that besides contributing sweetness, the sugar/syrup in the recipe is important for structure. So to get that pecan pie-like sticky custardy goo in your pie, you’ll need to have a syrup to replace the standard corn syrup (the pineapple juice recipe does the same thing… makes a sugar free syrup using fruit juice as a base). There are a couple different brands of sugar-free syrups you can find online (DaVinci, for one, makes a “simple syrup” that is sugar free and not flavored like anything besides “sweet”)
Let me know how it goes.

The Pie Expert

July 30, 2005

Hello,

I'm having a problem with my top crust on apple pie after it has been baked and refrigerated. It is very hard to cut without falling apart and the crust loses it flakiness and tastes soft and dough like. What I am trying to do is to have it come out like commercial restaurant apple pie crust. Can you help?

Steve

Hi Steve,

First of all, do you *need* to refrigerate? If you don’t refrigerate, does your crust get all soft? The fridge will make it more soft because of the humidity in there… so if you are eating it fast enough to not refrigerate (couple days, covered) I’d firstly recommend that option.
But, sounds to me like your pie crusts need more structure, and/or are under-baked. You can read about increasing the strength/structure of your crust <here>. I’d also try leaving it in the oven a little longer.

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

 

July 27, 2005

Why is it that I can make the filling, say for a chocolate cream pie, and it's nice and firm when it's poured in the crust, but after refrigeration it breaks down and becomes soupy?

Another dilemma is presentation. I don't want my cream fillings to be rubbery, but I do want to be able to make a clean slice. Adding gelatin would not be an option for me.

-Susan

Hi Susan,

Hey, so I hope this answer doesn’t discourage you… But this custard seepage could be from both under OR overcooking. You don’t say what you use for thickeners, so I’m assuming you’re using a regular pastry cream base with eggs (?).
Eggs yolks that aren't cooked enough have an enzyme (alpha-amylase) that feeds on starches like cornstarch and flour. If your custard was not cooked long enough, after it was set, the enzyme in the yolks would start breaking down the custard and you’d get soup. Make sure you cook it to almost boiling (just under 212 degrees F).

Alternatively, if you overcook eggs you can get curdling. When this happens your custard will look curdled (lumpy, scrambled looking). This over-coagulating of the custard causes a squeezing out of the water (again… soup). So.. here’s some advice. Cook your custard slowly until it’s thick and bubbling and then cook one minute longer. Maybe keep track of how long you cooked it and whether it breaks down or not until you’ve got it pegged.

Another suggestion from custard expert Brian Stucki is that with custards, you need to be careful not to disturb the filling once it's set past a certain point or the starch bonds will break. So if you pour in your filling or add other flavorings after it's cold the structure will be compromised and voila- soupy filling. He recommends pouring the filling in when it's warm, not hot as hot filling will settle and pull away from the crust. Warm filling will mound nicely when poured in and will result in an aesthetically appealing pie.

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

July 20, 2005

I make probably 2 to 3 fresh strawberry pies when strawberries are in season in my area. Most of the time the made from scratch pies gel well, but often, my filling is runny and doesn't seem to gel properly. I follow the same recipe each time. What could I be doing wrong? I combine and microwave 3/4 C. sugar, 2 T. cornstarch and 3/4 C water according to instructions. When I remove this mixture I add 2 T. strawberry jello, let cool, then pour over the berries in the cooled pie shell. HELP!

Thanks.

Leona

Hi Leona,

Sounds like if you’re using the same recipe every time, that your problem could be as simple as cooking time. Especially in a microwave relatively small differences in time can have a big impact on how much water evaporates, or how hot your concoction gets… and both of these will affect gelling…either because you have too much water for the jello and cornstarch to properly thicken.. or because the jell-o wasn’t hot enough long enough to dissolve. Does it always look the same when you take it out of the microwave? The sugar and cornstarch should be dissolved and transparent. Maybe you’ll need to increase the cooking time if the ingredients aren’t dissolved at each step.

Good luck,
The Pie Expert

July 6, 2005

Why do some recipes call for using an unbaked pie crust and some call for using a baked? How can I decide for myself on which ones to use?

Mike

Hi Mike,

Interesting question! So let me add a little to your question, just for completeness: "...and what about 'partially baked' crusts? why would I ever want to use one of those?". OK well here is the answer. The goal in pie baking is to get a perfectly done crust, still crisp and flaky on the bottom, not over- or under-cooked, and also to have a perfectly cooked filling. So sometimes in order to achieve that goal, you will need to cook the filling and the crust different amounts. So here is a good set of rules of how to decide. For any filling that is precooked on the stovetop or is cold (like puddings etc.), you will need to use a crust that is completely prebaked, since the crust won't get any more baking with the filling.

If you have a filling that you'll cook inside the crust but needs less time than, say, 30 minutes, to cook AND is only a single crust pie recipe (including some tarts or fruit pies with fillings that are partially cooked already, and typically quiches too). So with the partially baked bottom crust you won't be able to pinch on a top crust, so you can't partially bake a two-crust pie crust.

Finally with pies that have double crusts or will be in the oven long enough to bake the bottom crust fully (most baked pies like fruit, pecan, pumpkin etc), you can just bake the crust with the filing.

If you have a recipe (say a pumpkin pie) that you like, but the crust is coming out underdone... you can just try to prebake it for 10 - 12 minutes before filling.

Good Luck
-The Pie Expert



July 6, 2005

Why do my apple pies “deflate” as they cool? They look picture-perfect when they come out of the oven but as they cool the crust slowly collapses down onto the filling.

Christine

Hi Christine,

So, would you rather have a dome of crust with a pocket of air underneath? I usually feel like it's a sign that my crust is too tough if it doesn't fall. If you'd like your crust not to fall, you just need to make it stronger/tougher. You could do that by maybe switching to a butter or lard crust if you're using shortening or oil now, and working to make sure you have a long flake (so when you roll out your dough you should see lots of striations from the fat, if it looks mottled like that it's a good sign that your dough will be flaky). But basically, if your crust is tender (even if it is flaky) it will probably fall as the apples cook down, and if you want it to retain it's shape try experimenting with different fats, mixing it more or less and see if you can find a happy medium (keeps its shape, but is not too tough to be unpleasant to eat).

Good Luck
-Pie Expert

July 1, 2005

What causes a pecan pie filling to become thicker than usual, I have made the recipe for many years, and have never encountered this problem.

Beth

Hi Beth,

Hmm. I'm thinking your problem is with temperature. If you haven't changed anything about your recipe, perhaps your oven thermostat is off. Do you have an oven thermometer? If its really cooking longer or faster than you think it would result in thicker custard. The only other thing I can think of is maybe if you typically use large eggs but then this time used jumbo, your custard would set up harder.

Good Luck!
The Pie Expert

July 1, 2005

How long can a lemon meringue pie set out before it goes bad? and does it have to be put in the fridge if it is going to have to set for 24 hours before eating?
Thank you,
Crissy

Hi Crissy,

So first off, don't refrigerate, it will ruin your meringue. So, in the ideal case, lemon meringue pie is best eaten the same day, but 24 hours at room temp shouldn't kill it. If you live someplace humid, you might want to try some of the suggestions below for stabilizing your meringue. I imagine you could get away with a pie in ideal room temp conditions for several days, but you might get some weeping or breaking apart of the meringue as time goes by. If you see some furry mold it's definitely past it's prime (kidding, kidding).

June 30, 2005

Hi! Hope you can help me! After a pie shell that has been pricked,baked and cooled. What would cause the pie crust to break or fall apart when touched or filled with pudding?

- John

Hi John,

Sounds to me like you have either too much fat and/or you're not mixing properly. Basically, you need a longer, stronger flake in your crust... so if you cut the shortening (i assume you're using shortening since butter and lard usually give a tougher crust) in too fine, or if you use too much, you will end up with a crust lacking structure. I'd suggest either switching to a half butter/half shortening crust, or being careful to leave larger (at least pea-sized) pieces of shortening in your dough. Keeping the fat very cold when you're cutting it in will also help give you a flakier, stronger crust.

Good Luck
The Pie Expert

June 20, 2005

I have been making apple pies for a few years now, and when I first started making them, they turned out great, but now they keep turning out runny!  My husband cut into his Father's Day apple pie, and it was more like apple soup - embarrassing, but of course he still ate it! What am I doing that my apple pies are so runny?  Help!

Annie
Vancouver, WA

Hi Annie,

Hmm. strange. Did you switch apple varieties? This runny apple pie problem is common if you use hard, tart apples, like Granny Smiths. Because those varieties of apples don't really break down in the baking process, but taste good, it's nice to use them half and half with something that cooks down a lot, like McIntosh. Then you have some saucy apple thick stuff from those McIntoshes, but some intact tart apple slices from the granny smiths. Alternatively, you could try finding a more well balanced apple variety like Winesap, Empires, Cortlands, etc.

I rarely use thickeners with apple pies, I prefer a little runny juice, and if you choose apples wisely, then you can just toss a little arrowroot or flour or cornstarch (like a tablespoon or so) in with the apples when you're mixing in the sugar and spices.

Good Luck,
the Pie Expert

June 18, 2005

Hello,

Any suggestions on a Rhubarb pie? I would like to know how to make one with strawberries that is not runny. Thanks a million.

Brandli

Hi !

I just went on a little rhubarb pie kick recently, actually... there was really good looking rhubarb in the market this spring. So OK. with rhubarb or berries I always use tapioca for thickening. With really juicy fruits like berries, tapioca is great for thickening because it sets up without getting all pasty or gooey like flour or cornstarch. A good ratio for a strawberry-rhubarb pie with instant tapioca would be 2 cups sliced strawberries, 2 cups sliced rhubarb, 1/4 cup minute (c) tapioca and 1 1/4 cups sugar. Then you can spice it up a little with a teaspoon of cinnamon or grated orange rind or a little orange juice and 1/2 tsp cardamom.

Good luck!
-The Pie Expert


June 15, 2005

I was thinking about starting a pie shop. If I use frozen pie crust what methods are the best for preparing the crust and what brand would you suggest using? One more question- If I did make my own crust using the disposable pans what would be the best recipe?

-Maria

Hi Maria, Since I myself have never opened a pie shop, I asked advice from Jeanne, who just opened a successful pie shop in Olympia Washington called Boston Harbor Pies, who freezes her pies and here is what she says:

Well, here is my "for what it is worth advice."  It's all in the crust!  Our future pie shop owner needs to test crust recipes.  Ask people who make good crust for their recipe.  I use a vegetable oil (soy) based crust because it freezes well and it makes people happy they are not eating shortening, butter or lard.  Different brands will make a difference in how a recipe turns out so ask for specifics.  (I don't give out my recipe...sorry.) 
I think it would work better to make the pies, freeze them and take them from freezer to oven.  Hot oven/cold pastry = flaky crust.  Don't use a sweet pie crust recipe.  You need the balance of a salty crust with the sweet filling to satisfy the taste buds.  Don't cut corners.  The world is already filled with mediocre pies.   Convert  recipes to weight and purchase a good digital scale.  I use two aluminum pies pans for each pie as one pan is not strong enough to hold the boiling hot pie.  You can remove the bottom pan after the pie has cooled and use again.  Always taste your fruit for sweetness and adjust your sugar.   Be prepared for a huge learning curve if you purchase a large commercial convection oven.  I've had mine for seven months and am still consulting with the factory expert!  A good test market for your pies to determine if people will buy them at the price you need to sell them is a farmer's market.  If you can find a commercial kitchen to share, you can get started for little money.  If your pies are good, charge a lot.  I charge $16 for a whole baked or frozen fruit pie and $18 for a whole frozen chicken pie.  I charge $3 for a slice of fruit pie and $4 for a slice of chicken pie.  I've had no complaints. You can sell your pies frozen (I gift wrap mine) or baked.  Always try to make every pie a PERFECT PIE! This was probably way more information than they wanted!
- Jeanne

June 1, 2005

Can you tell me if buttermilk, pecan, and/or cherry pies can be frozen after baked. We
are going to a family reunion and I have to bake them and then place
them in an ice chest to carry them there.

Tommy

Hi Tommy,

Ok here's the skinny... you can totally freeze pies. You can freeze just the crust, you can freeze unbaked pies, you can freeze baked pies. For baked pies here's what you should do with your baked, then frozen whole pies. For the buttermilk, you should thaw it out in the fridge and eat it slightly cold.
and for the pecan thaw it at room temp and then reheating for
10-20 min in the oven at 350.
Now, cherry is a little different, since it's much wetter... but no problem. if you defrost it in the fridge and then stick it in the oven a bit to crisp up the crust again.

May 26, 2005

 


Firstly I am scared to over beat my egg white and I am looking for a sure fire time line on getting the best Meringue. I have a Kitchen Aid and it works great and I tried there book but still want to see if there is a full proof
Secondly my Meringue weeps in my Lemon Meringue Pie. How do I rectify that??????

Thanks so much as I have my own lemon tree and love making these pies for family and friends.

Yolanda

Hi Yolanda,

Thanks for your question. First of all, my mouth is watering thinking of fresh lemons... yum.
OK. so, you should check below for tips on weepy meringue prevention (click here). But let me give you a few tips on making meringue... To master meringue, you will have to learn what to look for. You can't just rely on time, since the time it takes to whip the egg whites to perfection will change. So what you want is stiff, glossy, dense, wet looking whites. So think "shaving cream".

If you overbeat the egg whites they start to look drier, and will be less glossy and will kind of fall apart if you tried to sculpt it with a spatula. Another trick is that perfectly beaten whites should support a whole uncooked egg if you set it on top of the pile... if you over beat them, they actually will get too much air and start to look more foamy.

Just stop your mixer every minute and tilt the head back... when the whisk pulls out of the whites, it should leave a stiff peak that doesn't fall over or ooze back into the pile. As soon as that happens, you're ready to go.

Cheers!
-The Pie Expert

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May 21 , 2005

Hi -

I'm looking for the famous pie crust recipe that Marie Calendar's uses for their fresh strawberry pies. The consistency and taste is very similar to a cookie. I've searched & searched on the internet & no one seems to know, or tried to make it with success.
Do you have any ideas or know where I can find this awesome recipe?
Someone mentioned that Marie Calendar's has ready-made pie crusts in the frozen food section
that may be the one I'm talking about - but I haven't checked into that yet. Please let me know - thanks.
- JK

Hey there,

Well, we don't have Marie Callender's restaurants out here in the midwest, so i can't say that I know exactly what you're talking about. I have, however, tried their brand of frozen pie crusts and it is your standard salty, flakey frozen pie crust (not bad though, if you MUST go with frozen crusts for some reason. ;-)

What you describe sounds more like a tart crust, which has a "shorter" texture (more cookie-like) due to (typically) inclusion of some egg and/or other leavening and more sugar. I have a recipe which is probably very similar (well at least similar to what I'm picturing from your description):

1 1/2 C. flour
1/4 C. powdered sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1 egg
8 TB cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

In a bowl, sift together flour, sugar and baking powder.
Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter. Add the egg and mix until the dough forms a ball.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Line a 9" pie pan, chill. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. line crust with foil, fill with weights (pie weights, dry beans etc) and bake for 10 minutes, remove foil and weights and continue to bake until golden (about 5 more minutes). cool before filling.

Good Luck!
-The Pie Expert

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April 21, 2005

I roll out my pie crust on wax paper. I then fold wax paper in half and lift off crust. While placing crust in plate the dough breaks. I am able to fix with some difficulty but this never use to happen and I cannot find my problem. Can you help?

Thank you
-MJ

Hi MJ-

Here's what I think.
1.you either need more water or to let it warm up a little more (if you've had it chilled before you roll out) so your dough is more pliable. Now, you'll have to play with that a little because too warm OR too wet and it will stick to your wax paper and you'll lose some flakiness.

2. have you tried just rolling out on a floured board and then folding it and moving without the wax paper? Or even switching to plastic wrap? Sometimes when you use the wax paper, some of the paper gets folded into the crust when you stick it into the pan, and so when you try and peel it off, you can easily rip the dough in the process. I found this didn't happen when I used the thinner, more stretchy plastic wrap... or when i just use a lightly dusted board and no paper at all

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April 21, 2005

Hello Pie Expert,
my problem is, I made lemon meringue pie, no problem with the meringue, it stayed in place and did not weep, however, the filling appears to be breaking down. It is delicious tasting but a little runny, the filling that is. Please help.

Un-certain

Hi Un-certain, i got a question from David below, who is basically having the same problem... so I'm going to answer you both in the same response... keep reading:

Pie Expert,
How do I get my lemon pie filling firm?  Sometimes it comes out OK other times it is actually soupy.  I use the same recipe each time.

David

Hi you two.
OK, i think both of your problems stem from too little thickener (cornstarch is probably what you are using?) or not cooking the custard long enough. Here's a pretty fool-proof lemon pie filling recipe... if you want to keep using yours, just compare how long you cook yours to this recipe, and also the ratio of liquids and eggs and cornstarch, and try to amend your recipes or cooking times slightly until you nail it.

Lemon Filling
1 C sugar
1/4 C cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 C cold water
6 egg yolks
1 TB lemon zest
1/2 C lemon juice
2 TB butter
Mix first four ingredients in a large. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally at beginning and more frequently as mixture starts to get thick.
When mixture starts to simmer and turn translucent, whisk in egg yolks, one at a time.
Whisk in zest, then lemon juice, and then butter.
Bring mixture again to a good simmer, whisking constantly.
Remove from heat, place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling to keep hot and prevent skin from forming.
OK THEN!! very important... spoon into crust and top with meringue while the filling is still hot/warm, and that will cook the bottom layer of the meringe and kind of glue it all together.

Good LUCK!
THe Pie Expert

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April 4, 2005

Hello Pie Expert,
I don't know what's happened to my crumb topping. I have been making pies for 40 yrs and have created a recipe for a triple berry pie with a crumb topping. I use the old Betty Crocker recipe (1/2 c butter, 1/2 c brown sugar and 1 c flour.) and even though the top gets crunchy, the mixture on top of the fruit turns to this gooey mess. No matter how long I bake it, it never seems to 'dry out.' Help!
S Morice
St Paul, MN

Hi St Paul MN,

Hey, so here are a couple suggestions. First off I guess your problem is just that your filling is too juicy. Usually you find crumb tops on less juicy fillings (like apples which are not as juicy as berries).
BUT! never fear, I think you can get it to work. Try any or all combinations of these tips:

1. I think you'd do best to thicken your berries some before baking. This will make your filling less juicy and allow your crumb topping less opportunity to get soggy. But if you do this, you may also want to prebake the bottom crust partially too. By putting together your pie with the ingredients partially cooked, you can make sure each component of the pie cooks the optimal amount of time.

2. Change the ratio of the fat:sugar:flour in your topping so that it's higher fat and sugar... I suggest about 1 1/4 c. flour, 7-8 TB butter, melted, 1/3 C. brown sugar, 1/3 C. Sugar and just for a little extra crunch try 1 TB cornmeal.

3. Try mixing the melted butter with the dry ingredients roughly, so that you have some rather large chunks of streusel (like raspberry size) and then the rest of the mixture is about pea-sized.

4. Try spreading out the crumb topping on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pre-baking it for about 5 minutes at 425 degrees before you put it on your pie.

Good luck!

-The Pie Expert

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March 21, 2005

Hello Pie Expert,

I am an intermediate cook, and trying to challenge myself. Recently, I have been on a chocolate meringue pie blurge. I am trying to perfect my hand at making it. The only problem I am encountering is my meringue is getting sticky around unbrowned areas after cooling, and the pie will not hold together after cutting. Please tell me how to fix my problem!!! I imagine my family is tired of eating the same old same old chocolate meringue pie, so please hurry!!!

Thnx,
Problems in pie paradise!!!

Dear Problems in pie paradise,

Never fear. The sticky meringue is a problem that can easily be fixed (does it look like little droplets of liquid sitting on the outside of the meringue?). That stickiness (related to what we call'weeping' in some pie circles) used to be the bane of my cream pie existence... but i have several tips that should end all your weepy woes. Weeping is a more extreme problem that just the stickiness (in weeping, you get some watery stuff leaking out all over the place.), but the same steps can prevent both:

1. use egg white stabilizers. either use the cornstarch method i describe below or else a commercial meringue stabilizer (look in the baking aisle of the grocery store and follow directions)
2. make sure you seal the edges of the pie with the meringue (so make sure it touches the edge of the crust all the way around
3. don't refrigerate... makes the weeping worse. eat 'em up fast and store them covered (under a cake dome or inverted bowl) at room temp
4. don't overbeat the eggs... if they get too "dry" and stiff they will break down more readily than slightly softer wetter meringue

Good LUCK!
-The pie expert

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March 21, 2005

Why does my sugar free pecan pie filling always look like
scrambled eggs?
Thank you.
-Mary

Hi Mary,
Seems to me that your problem is likely the same as "Lumpy Goo's" problem (click here for lumpy goo's Q&A). The artificial sweetners shouldn't be an issue.
Good Luck!
-The Pie Expert

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March 19, 2005

Hello,

My mother uses the refrigerated Pillsbury dough pie shells. Everything seems to be dry and the crust is very dry. She heats up the crust in a Pyrex pie pan for 20 minutes before cooking her quiche. They come out dry and a very dry crust. She is going to make a sweet pie and how does she avoid a dry pie and even drier pie crust. She has made her own, she has made flako, and now Pillsbury. I have been telling her to use the frozen ones in the grocery store, but she doesn't want to hear that one. Please help!
ps. I forgot to tell you that she cooks 2 (9") pies on the same shelf.  And it is an electric oven also.  

Thank you,
Nancy

Hi Nancy,

Well, I suspect there are several things going on:
1. Those refrigerated pie crusts are pretty dry and flakey anyway (which some folks think is a good thing)
2. She should try prebaking for only 10-12 minutes if (like with quiche) she is going to keep baking it once the filling goes in.... she may not need to prebake the crust at all, tell her to play around with that.
3. Try cooking your pies faster (so shorter time on slightly higher heat
4. quiche is a drier filling than most pie... especially fruit pies, so depending on what kind of dessert pie she is planning, it may not be a problem.

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

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March 18, 2005

Hello,

From an 84 year old friend, I have been asked to check if an old "Good Luck" Lemon Pie filling Brand is still available anywhere, this goes back to the 1940's.

Do you have any alternate quality lemon pie suggestions, filling or ready made?

Thank you for your assistance.
John

Hi John,

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but "Good Luck" Lemon Pie Filling is no longer in production.

I haven't ever tried "Good Luck" so I can't say if this is similar or not, but you could give Durkee's lemon pie filling a try... they sell it at "hometown favorites" for cheap: click here to go to their store.

Let me know if it works out for you,

Cheers
The Pie Expert

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March 17, 2005

I've been reading all the pie comments, and ,Well, I have never made a pie in my life I am 73.
I have however made comments about other peoples pies, and now find myself in a " well the next one you can make" situation.
Can you please help me out with a recipe I can follow  and can Say "There and thats how I want it from now on." I am talking Steak & Kidney. Enough for 6 Portions
It Could be a matter of life or death!! Like you could save mine
In Anticipation
yours sincerely
Don Walker

Dear Don,

I suspect you must be an Englishman because a) you want to make a Steak and Kidney pie and b) you were not scared to ask me for help despite my asssertion that only British people think meat pies count as pie (click here to see what I'm talking about). Well, assuming you are an Englishman, I will attempt to help you... but seeing as I am an American, and therefore not commonly a meat pie maker, I can't really give you the benefit of any personal experience with S&K pie. I did a little research for you and reccomend that you try this good old English pie recipe from your very own source of all things newsworthy... the BBC.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/print/steakandkidneypie_10931.shtml

Sorry that I can't give you a personal tried and true recipe... If any of our English pie club members out there have suggestions, please send them in!
Don, let us know how it goes then... and good for you for starting your pie baking career!!

Cheers!
-The Pie Expert

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March 16, 2005

looking for a pecan pie recipe which has a thin filling with a very thick pecan topping which is hard and crunchy

-Phillip

Hi Phillip,

The closest thing I've tried to what you describe is this recipe in martha stewart's Pies and Tarts book (from back in the days before she was a billionaire)... but the filling of this pie is more like chewy caramel, and less like the traditional pecan pie filling.... you could also try just making a pecan pie from a standard recipe and just making it in a tart pan, and so you would only put in about half the goo.

good luck!
-the pie expert

Caramel Pecan Tart (this is adapted from martha stewart's recipe)

Makes a 9" tart (in a shallow, straight sided pan)

Pastry for a 9" pie.
1/2 C. butter (1 stick)
1/2 C. packed brown sugar
1/8 C. sugar
3/8 C. honey
1/8 C. heavy cream
1/2 lb pecans, toasted
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Heat oven to 375°. Roll out dough 1/4" thick. Roll dough onto rolling pin, and unroll over one of the tart pans. Press pastry into place, being careful not to stretch dough; use a paring knife to trim any overhanging dough. Chill for 30 minutes.

2. Line empty pastry with parchment or foil, fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until pastry begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights; continue baking or until light golden brown all over, about 10 min. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Wrap in plastic; set aside.

3. Reduce oven to 325°. Place butter, both sugars, honey, and heavy cream in a large saucepan set over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 5 minutes. Stir in nuts and vanilla; remove pan from heat. Pour filling into reserved tart shells.

4. Bake tarts on the center rack until the filling bubbles, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer tarts to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container up to 2 days.

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March 11, 2005

Please give me a good coconut cream pie recipe also how do you keep the filling from getting runny.

Thank you, Jeanie

Hi Jeanie,

THe best coconut cream pie recipe I've tried is from the editor's of Cook's Illustrated (although I think coconut cream pies should have meringue on top... so i always top with meringue rather than whipped cream... see below for a good meringue recipe). Check out their recipe database (you have to register for access, but it's free):

http://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipe.asp?recipeids=1583&iSeason=4

Cheers-
the pie expert

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February 27, 2005

Subject: HELP!

I have always used frozen pie crusts for pies & quiche & never had any
problems. All of a sudden, the bottom crust is coming out raw. Any
suggestions? I'm using the same recipes, same brand of pie crust. Makes no
sense to me.
Thanks, Janet

Hi Janet-

Hmm. My first guess is that your oven thermostat is busted... do you have an oven thermometer? If you have tested the oven and are sure the temperature is correct, have you inadvertently changed the rack in the oven so it is one notch higher than it used to be? It might help to bake your pies lower in the oven. You can even try starting out the pie on the very bottom rack for the first 10 minutes and/or starting the oven out hotter (like 425° F) for 10 minutes and then reduce to your normal baking temperature and/or moving the pie back to the middle rack.

Or... perhaps you have become speedier at preparing your fillings and so your crusts are still pretty frozen when you pop them in the oven, so you might need to thaw them out for a bit first, or else even start to prebake them for 5 min. or so before you fill them (this would only work for single crust pies...).

Another thought I had is that your favorite pie crust brand could have changed their composition... so perhaps if they switched from lard to vegetable shortening or oil in order to make a lower cholesterol product, and you hadn't noticed the switch, this could potentially change the way they behave in your standard recipes.

Happy Baking
-The Pie Expert

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February 26 , 2005

Subject: chocolate pie and coconut cream pie

These are my families favorite pies. I have tried to make the coconut cream pie and instead of pouring the filling in hot and covering it with meringue, I let it cool and then fill the pie and sometimes that works to prevent a soggy crust and sometimes it doesn’t. I would like to get a good fail-proof recipe where the crust stays flaky and the meringue doesn’t slide off the filling. I have even used lard for the crust but can’t stand that bacon flavor. I would like to know if you ever use an egg-white stabilizer for your meringue and if so, which brand works good for you, and also if you ever use egg substitute or powdered egg-whites for the meringue. I would like to make the best cream pie around. Help me please.

-TH

Howdy Cream Pie,

Well, first off... it's important for the filling to be piping hot when you cover it with the meringue or else the meringue will be undercooked... and will more likely slide off your pie.
One of my favorite ways to keep the bottom crust on a cream pie from getting soggy is to sprinkle a layer of cookie crumbs (graham cracker, vanilla wafer, animal cracker) on the bottom after you bake it. Try that out... bake the crust fully, sprinkle in a layer of crumbs then pour in the filling while hot.

If you need to, you can leave the filling in the pan while you get the meringue ready (put a layer of plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming on the top). Then, right when you are ready to put the meringue on top... you can stick the pan of filling in the oven for a few minutes to bring it back up to temperature (take the plastic wrap off first!).

I haven't used commercial meringue stabilizers, but I have used the homemade equivalent.. here is a recipe:

meringue for a single pie:
1 TB cornstarch
1/3 C. water
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 C. sugar
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Mix cornstarch and water in a small saucepan. Simmer on med-low heat whisking until thick and translucent. Remove from heat
Set the rack in your over to middle. Preheat oven to 325° F.
Mix cream of tartar and sugar.
Beat white until they are just frothy. Beat in sugar mixture a little at a time until mixed in and soft peaks form. Add cornstarch mixture one tablespoon at a time, while beating.
Beat to stiff peaks

Make sure filling is piping hot when you spread meringue on top
Make sure the meringue is completely covering all the filling and touching the crust to form a complete seal all the way around.

Bake at 325° F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

I also haven't tried using meringue powder.. anyone tried that who can comment??

Happy Baking!
-The Pie Expert

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February 16, 2005

Hello there,

I was wondering if you could help me? I don't know how to explain to a 14 yr old girl how to make her first pumpkin pie, can you email me back on what you might tell her.

Thank you,
Cheryl


Hey There!

This email made me so happy, i love to hear about people making their first pies, brings a tear to my eye. Awwww.
Hey, so does she also want to make the crust? or is she going to use a pre-made one? I'll deal with the crust issue at the end.
So, pumpkin pies are relatively easy pies, if you use canned pumpkin. The only wierd/annoying thing is that the cans of pumpkin are usually larger than you need for one pie. I usually just measure out the amount I need and freeze the rest in a zipper bag for later... others always make two pies at a time.
Here is a very basic, easy and classic pumpkin pie:

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin (or cooked/mashed fresh pumpkin)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup. evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed milk)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked 9" pie crust

Mix all ingredients together in order given.
Mix well with a wooden spoon.
Pour into prepared pie crust.

Bake: at 425 degrees on the middle rack in the oven for 15 minutes
THEN: Reduce heat to 350 degrees and
Bake: 45 minutes more.

OK well, if she wants to make her own crust that is a whole other can of worms. Contrary to public opinion, it's not that hard to make a pie crust but there are tons of opinions on the best way to do it, and many things that could go awry.
Recently I've been using a recipe that you whip up in your food processor in seconds. But I don't know what kinds of tools your 14 year old friend has at her disposal.
I'm going to suggest you check out some of these pie crust recipes and have her pick one that seems doable:

this one is my favorite because it has good, step-by-step photos and instructions:
http://www.newhomemaker.com/cooking/piecrust.html

or try one of these:
http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,easy_pie_crust,FF.html
http://www.ochef.com/r38.htm

GOOD LUCK!

-The Pie Expert

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February 9, 2005

Hello,

I have a problem with my pecan pie filling always being runny. I’ve tried to cook the pie longer but then the pecans get too toasted and taste burnt. Please help!

Thanks~

Sad over a runny pie

Dear Sad,

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you! So this again is a common problem, and one with many potential sources. The reason pecan pies set up in the first place has to do with the egg and sugar to liquid ratio. Cooking the egg/sugar/liquid mixture makes a custard, and so if one of these custard components is off, you'll have a problem. Some pecan pies have fillings that are cooked beforehand on the stovetop. I've read that during this step it's important that you let that cook slowly without stirring, or the filling will be runny. I am not sure on the science there... and kind of think that is superstition... but it can't hurt to try it.
If you are using a recipe that *doesn't* precook the filling, you might try out a recipe which does... because then you do some of the thickening before
A second thing to try is to adjust the liquid, so that the liquid:egg ratio is heavier on the egg. So if you are adding any liquids (like bourbon), try reducing the quantity... or using larger eggs (so if you usually buy large eggs, switch to jumbo.
A third source of runny-ness could be your oven. If it is cooler than you think (you could test this with a thermometer) you could have problems. If you are cooking longer at lower temps you might have problems getting that custard to set.

finally, you could try this recipe out:

1 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
3 large eggs
pinch salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups pecans (i like using whole pecan halfs, but you could also use 2 cups chopped)
9" unbaked pie crust

Place rack in lowest 3rd of oven, preheat oven to 350 F

Filling: combine corn syrup and sugar in a saucepan and stir to mix. Place over low heat and bring it to a boil, without stirring. Remove from heat, add butter and stir gently to melt butter. In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs to break up and whisk in salt and vanilla. Whisk in syrup and butter mixture, being careful not to overmix (to avoid getting air into the filling which will result in a foamy layer on top of your pie during baking). Let cool.

Assemble: spread the pecans into the bottom of the crust. Skim any foam from the top of your filling and then pour it over the nuts. With a fork I usually arrange the pecans so they are all coated with some filling and right-side up.

Bake: Place the pie on a cookie sheet and stick it in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the filling is set (if you grab the sides (use potholders!) and twist the pie back and forth gently, the sides should stay put, but the center should jiggle a little) and the center will be puffed up. Remove from the oven, remember that the pie will continue to cook for a while after you take it out, so the middle will set up. Also, it's normal for the pie's center to deflate a little. Serve warm or at room temp.

good luck!
- the Pie Expert

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January 26, 2005

Dear Pie Expert:

i need a recipe for a crust that you put over a meat pie.thanks!

-IL

Dear IL,

So... did you read my little diatribe below about meat pies, and how they don't count in the POTMC? Just checking. OK well since I AM the pie expert, I can help you out. I'm not sure what your normal sweet pie crust is like, and why you don't want to use that recipe on your meat pies. Often the crusts on sweet pies have some sugar in them, so perhaps that is your case?
Regardless, here are some ideas for you. It sounds like your meat pie will only have a top crust? or is it also baking inside a pie shell? I will assume the former from the way you worded your question.
You know I really like using puff pastry as a top crust for a meat pie... the premade frozen sheets are great, just set you pie pan on top and cut a circle just a little larger than the pan, cut a couple slits in the middle and slap it on top before you bake. But for a more traditional flakey pie crust on top try this recipe (it only makes enough for the top crust, so if you want a double crust, double the recipe):

basic single pie crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, COLD and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or even overnight).
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Place crust in pie plate. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate.

Good Luck!
- The Pie Expert

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January 6, 2005

Dear PieExpert:

I am a Type 2 Diabetic, and I miss my pies! I wonder if you could pass
on some really good pie recipes for low/no sugar pies. I have a few,
but I'm always looking for something that is reminiscent of my youth.
(My mother was a fabulous baker, even if she couldn't make coffee, tea,
or Cream of Wheat to save her life. According to her, we didn't have
pie that often when I was a kid, 'no more than once a week.')

Thanks

Pie Aficianado
Toronto, ON

Hey There Pie Aficianado,

We have diabetes in my family too, so I was recently looking for low/no sugar recipes to share with my mother. My favorite that I've found are from none other than R&B superstar Patti LaBelle. She has some really great recipes (I think about 5 or 6) for pie in her Lite Cuisine cookbook. She's diabetic too, and so she really is writing this book for people just like you who are diabetic and also love soul food/home cooking. The recipes in her book are approved by the American Diabetes Association and diabetic exchanges are included for each recipe.

So basically I thought if you look at how she makes pies, you can use this info as a general guide for converting your existing non-lite pie recipes into lite or low sugar recipes (generally she does this by using Splenda or DiabetiSweet as sweeteners, by using sugar free "oreo" cookies to make cookie crumb crusts and stuff like that). I'd recommend checking it out at your local public library.
Or you can find it pretty cheap on Amazon in paperback form. She has a recipe for blueberry pie that you could adapt to work for any berry or peaches, and likewise she has an apple pie recipe that you could use for a pear pie. She also has recipes that look good for pumpkin pie, white chocolate and chocolate cream pies (the last two using sugar free pudding mixes etc).

Finally, I thought it was interesting that she says she likes to use frozen pie crusts, because they are thinner than you or I could make them at home and since thinner = less fat per serving she thinks they are healthier. Just make sure you pick good ones if you are going frozen... I like marie calendars frozen crusts. My friend Sandy thaws them and then actually pops them out on the counter and rolls them out even thinner!

Good Luck and stay healthy!!
-The Pie Expert

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December 13, 2004

Why do my pecan pie crust always stick to the pan. You cannot take a piece out without tearing it apart. I have tried everything and cannot get this right.
Thank you
- CH -

Hey There CH,

Ugh, I hate getting emails with pie questions that I don't know the answer to. There are so many potential sources for this problem, so I'll just run through a bunch of them, and hopefully one will be the answer to your pie prayers. But first let me say a few words about the theory... OK, so pie crust is made from fat and flour. This combination is notoriously non-sticky. In fact, you may recognize this combination of ingredients as the pre-PAM, pre-silpat, pre-teflon non-stick mixture of choice for baking (remember: "grease the pan, flour the pan, what a mess!"?) So if your pie crust is sticking there must be something besides the crust involved. Lets think of these potential somethings:

1. your pan. There are many types of pie pans, have you tried your pecan pie in other types of pans? If you are using a "non-stick" pie pan, is the surface old or abraded or gunked up with stuff? If it is only gunked up with baked-on stuff, you can scrub the teflon surface with a soft rag and softscrub (c) or flat cooktop cleaner and this will often restore it's nonstickness. BUT I don't like the dark metal non-stick pans. I wouldn't normally recommend them because they absorb more heat and so brown your crust more quickly... but lets get back to that later. My pan of choice is the classic pyrex 9", one of the nice features of this pan is that you can look at the bottom of the crust and see if it is browning nicely. Whatever pan you are using, make sure it is clean (even clean from burnt on residue) on the inside, that it is smooth and the integrity of the surface is unblemished (so no scratches, rust or whatever). I would also tend to avoid these fancy ceramic pie pans until you figure out your problem, save them for your apple pies since you don't seem to have crust problems with anything but the pecan

2. your crust. What kind of crust recipe are you using? what kind of fat is it? Are you using some crazy low-fat crust?? OK, is it the whole crust sticking or just in some areas? What my gut instinct told me when I read your email was that some of the sugary goo from the pie is seeping through the crust and that sticky sugar is the source of your sticky problems. You can avoid this problem by 1. making sure your crust doesn't have holes or thin spots in it. 2. making sure the crust cooks quickly!! maybe you SHOULD get a dark metal pan, because it will heat faster and crisp up the bottom of your crust before the seepage happens. 3. Protect your crust from seepage with a thin layer of flour or cake crumbs (see section below on "soggy bottoms". OK. well. good luck.

Good Luck!
The Pie Expert

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December 3, 2004

help pie expert!

i need my pies to stay put after cutting. how do i thicken store bought pie filling? i love to make deep dish pies but the filling oozes all over after the first piece is removed.

thanks
-ooze on down the road

Hey There Ooze,

Hmm, Runny pie fillings. That is a classic problem, I'm glad you wrote.
So, you are using store-bought pie fillings but they aren't thick enough to hold shape? I assume that you are talking about canned fruit pie fillings like cherry filling?
I have a couple of thoughts. Are you cutting the pies when they are hot, or do you wait until they have cooled to room temperature? Hot pies will be runny in almost any situation, so your solution may be as simple as being more patient.
However, if you want the make the fillings even thicker than they are at room temperature you can add a tablespoon or two of Minute Tapioca (c), like my mother does. You can play around with how much to add to get a consistency that you are happy with, but I'd guess that 1 Tablespoon per two cans would be a good place to start since those canned fillings are pretty thick to begin with.
Tapioca is a great thickener for fruit pies because unlike cornstarch or (shudder to think) flour it doesn't make the filling all pasty or gooey.

Good Luck!
The Pie Expert

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November 24, 2004

Dear Pie Expert,

I have tried several recipes for pecan pie and during the baking process, a "foamy" top forms on the pie.  I have been placing a piece of aluminum foil on top after the "foam" appears and then pulling it off carefully in order to get the "foam" thing off.  But, I would really like to know what I am doing that causes the problem so I can fix it.
-TR


Hey There TR,

So, The problem you describe is common, and age-old. In some southern cookbooks I have from the early 1910's instruct you to scrape off the foam from the filling before pouring it in the crust. In my own experience, I have only had 'trouble' with foam when using the type of pecan pie recipe that requires the stovetop cooking of some of the filling ingredients prior to baking them in the pie... so when you heat the corn syrup, brown sugar, butter together in a pan before you pour them over the pecans. In this case you can just skim the foam (which is a result of heating process creating steam from water in the ingredients... the steam escapes to the top of the liquid in bubbles) off with a fork before you pour it over the pecans. Another potential source for foam is mixing too much air into the filling during preparation. To avoid this, you should mix your ingredients with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula (rather than a whisk or fork) and try to mix gently. Also, whacking the bowl on the counter several times, and/or letting it sit and rest for a spell after mixing tends to force those air bubbles to the top, getting them out of the mixture before you bake.

It's tricky to figure out what is going on with your pies without seeing the recipes you've used. But in your case, if you aren't getting the foam until the baking process and the filling looks smooth and foamless when you pour it over the pecans, then I suspect that the same process (steam formation) is occurring in your pie filling while you are baking it. Have you tried one of these recipes that ask you to precook some of the filling? that might take care of the problem by getting rid of the steam before baking (but still requires some scum scraping). The food network has a recipe like this you might try, assuming you haven't the precooked filling type before. Notice that they instruct you to not stir the sugars while you are cooking, this both helps keep down the foam and also prevents any crystallization of the sugars while cooking.
Hmm, well, I hope one of these suggestions works... any pie club members out there have other suggestions??

Happy Thanksgiving!
The Pie Expert

Addendum: Here is another tip on pecan pie foam from pie champ Beth Montour... she writes:

Dear Pie Expert,

I have an answer for the pecan pie question. I have always used the Karo (c) Syrup recipe for pecan pie because that's what Mom used, and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The holidays are not the holidays without my pecan pie, and I have never in 29 years gone without it, to my knowledge (possibly excluding infancy, but maybe not even then). Anyway, I decided one year to beat up the recipe using a handheld electric mixer, and got foam and bubbles galore. It didn't affect the taste, but it sure made the sucker overflow in the oven, and make a candified chewy mess of the texture. Since then, I have always slightly beaten my eggs (amazing what following the recipe will do for ya), and then just stirred in the remaining ingredients. This may or may not be helpful, but I thought I'd pass it on.

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August 28, 2004

Hey Pie Expert,

I was talking to a friend today and she mentioned that her sister had a problem with soggy bottom crusts. Contrary to what it may sound like, this isn't exclusively a female problem. I occasionally get soggy bottom crusts as well. Generally my pies turn out ok, it is the tarts that end up with the end being mushy. Since you are the "pie expert" what are the reasons a bottom crust would go soggy? Can you help me with my friends crust? What about my tarts?

Waiting with antici-pie-tion

The soggy bottom boy

Hey There Soggy,

I've seen some boys with some pretty soggy bottoms, so I understand your problem completely. Fortunately, I have a lot of expertise in this area... my own dear sister has, on occasion, been plagued with soggy bottom crusts.
So, Soggy, your question is complex, involving both crusts for pies and tarts (pie's saucy first cousin)
Let's address pies first, since pies always come first here at POTMC. If you think about it, it is logical that bottom crusts may become soggy, since they are just soft flour pastry filled with wet filling, the moisture in the filling is absorbed by the crust. On top of that, steam is produced when the pie filling and crust is heated, so if that steam has no where to go, it will sog up the crust! So with that in mind, there are many tricks which may help prevent soggy bottom crusts... try one or all of these:

-- If your pie is only going to have a bottom crust, you can blind-bake the crust first (see some blind baking tips below)

-- moisture-proof your crusts (moist fillings in single or double crust pies) by coating bottom crust with egg white and then chill for 15 minutes before filling and baking.

-- Be sure to make slits in the top crust so the steam can escape as the pie is baking.

-- Bake your pies on the lowest oven rack and a higher temperature for 10 - 15 min, then move it to the middle or 2nd to bottom rack for the remainder of the cooking time. This will help the bottom crust cook quickly before it can absorb moisture from the filling. (Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of the Pie and Pastry Bible starts her pies right on the floor of her oven... but obviously that will only work for your friend if she has a flat oven bottom)

-- Try sprinkling a thin layer of toasted ground nuts or dry cake crumbs on the bottom crust before filling, press them into dough with back of a spoon.

OK, well lastly, lets talk tarts, mister soggy britches. I love a good tart (just had a lovely lemon tart made by my pal Sam Prekop, in fact). A tart is different from a pie these days. The Oxford English Dictionary describes a tart like this:

b. In current use restricted to a flat, usually small, piece of pastry, with no crust on the top (so distinguished from a pie), filled with fruit preserve or other sweet confection;

Typically tarts are made in short straight sided pans rather than the sloping-sided pans of a pie. Tart crusts are typically made of a denser, sweeter, crumblier dough, more like a sugar cookie than the classic pie crusts. Because of the difference in crust texture, most tarts call for the crust to be cooked completely or partially before baking. So... you shouldn't have as many problems with soggy tart crusts. Some suggestions would be to:

-- prebake the crust, then brush the inside of the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven with egg whites... the hot crust will cook the whites and form a hard moisture-proof barrier
-- don't fill your crust until right before you serve the tart. Often tart crusts become soggy after a day or more sitting around...
-- if your tart contains fresh fruits, use a thicker filling or layer of boiled, strained fruit preserves between the fruit and the crust. This will prevent the liquid from the fruits from reaching the crust and sogging it up.

OK Soggy. I think this should solve all your problems. All of them.

With Love,
The Pie EXPERT

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August 15, 2004

Dear Pie Expert,

My family is from England and as a child I ate meat pies all the time. I am having trouble finding recipes for savory pies here in the states.

Please Help.

Steak and Kidney Pie

Dear Steak and Kidney Pie,

I'm sorry, but... savory pies just don't count. Who wants a pie full of meat, when there are sweet and delicious pies around? It's just so unamerican.

Well... OK sorry. I don't mean to be harsh, but a gal has to have standards. But since you ask, and since I AM the expert of all pies let me just direct you to some informative savory pie information.
Here is a little something about the history of pies: (click)
I can assure you that the meat "pies" brought to the New World by the English is a far cry from the "real pie" we know and love now here in America.
Secondly... i know a recipe for a delicious pie made with a pound of ground beef and two cans of vegetarian vegetable soup (the one with the letters in it, you know). I think it's called ABC pie. It's so good. If properly persuaded, i may include the recipe here at POTMC central... then again, maybe not

Love,
The Pie Expert

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August 16, 2004

Dear Pie Hypocrite (expert ha),

It is funny you are so quick to condemn savory pies then sent me to a website that has the following quote to define pie:
Pie: any crust with something in it. -- Samuel Johnson

I am now going to close this email, as I just realized that your whole website was a joke, and you don't take anything seriously at all.

Steak and Kidney


Dear Steak and Kidney,

Is samuel johnson an American?
No.
Is his statement anti-American slander by a confused English meat pie eater?
Yes.
THAT is the whole point.
of COURSE the British hacks would claim this to be true.
You're just too much of an Anglophile to see it.

Love,
The Pie Expert

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March 9, 2004

dear pie expert,

every time I try to make a pecan pie, the filling (that delicious goo) turns
out looking curdled... like scrambled eggs.  I even tried two different
recipes.  What should I do?

lumpy goo.

Dear Lumpy Goo,

Sounds like your pecan pies are overcooked. You should remove the pie from the oven when it is still a little jiggly in the middle. If you tap on the top of the pie it should feel set, but soft... like jell-O. It will set up further once cool. This should give you smooth velvety pecan pies.

Do you have an oven thermometer? Perhaps your oven is hotter than you think it is and so your pie is cooking faster than you think?

Love,
The Pie Expert

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March 8, 2004

Dear Pie Expert,

When I try to pre-bake my crusts, they always droop or slide down the edges of the pan. Why does this always happen to me? what's wrong with me?

Droopy sides

 

Dear Droopy Sides,

Try two things. After you roll-out the dough and line your tin, flute the edges as desired.. then stick it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to1 hour.
Chilling the dough will relax the gluten in the dough and minimize shrinkage. Then stick it in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
Take it out and quickly line the crust with parchment paper or a coffee filter, and then fill it with pie weights or dry beans or rice (you can't use the beans or rice afterward... so just keep a sack of dedicated pie beans).

Have a preheated oven ready at 425F. Bake till the edges brown ever so slightly. Open the oven and remove paper and weighs and continue to bake 'til golden brown. You will have a perfect pie crust every time.

Love,
The Pie Expert

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