back to the pie expert page

ASK THE EXPERT:
CRUST CONUNDRUMS!
problems with your crust? check below for the answers to all your problems

(hint* try the "find" option in your browser to search for specific terms)

 

11/17/06

My graham cracker crust falls apart.  What am I doing wrong?  Do I need to add more melted butter or less?

Jeanie

Hi Jeanie,
more.  and possibly a little more sugar too.
then you have to make sure it chills completely before you prebake
it... long enough that the melted butter you mix into the crumbs can
set up solid again.
then bake it fast (hot oven).

Good Luck
The Pie expert

11/14/06
I was wondering which premade pie crust is most like a homemade one.  We love pies though with twin boys around it is easier for me to fill a ready-made one than to make one.  Or if you have a super easy & fast homemade one I can make I'd be open to that too.

Thanks in advance.
MomOfTwinBoys


Hi Momoftwinboys,

Sounds like you're doing your part to train the next generation of pie lovers!
Here is the scoop; honestly I think all the frozen and refrigerated
pie crusts are awful.  When I'm in a hurry I use boxed pie crust mixes
(I like Betty Crocker, Krusteaz and Robin Hood (if you are in Canada)
all equally well,  but Jiffy is inedible).
You just have to mix in a few tablespoons of water and mix with a fork
then roll out.
it's really a trillion times better (possibly more) than frozen, but
you do have to roll it out and get a bowl dirty.  I have often
secretly used boxed mix crusts for guests and they rave about it and
are completely shocked that it isn't homemade... sounds like a
commercial, I know.  But it's just my experience.

So i understand that this is maybe more of a pain the neck than a busy
mother can always deal with... so I'd say in a pinch that the best
tasting and flakiest of the frozen pie crusts is Marie Callendar's...
if you can find it.
They have it here in the midwest, and I know they have it in the west,
but I'm not sure about the East Coast.

Good Luck!
The Pie Expert

11/12/06

I use some wonderful crust recipes, most are all butter vs. shorenting and/or oil.  My favorites were discovered on Leite's Culineria and in Thomas Keller's Bouchon Cookbook.
Since they are only two of us, we really don't need to have an aboundance of tarts and quiches
hanging around so I normally make half a recipe and reduce (as close to as possible) the pan size.  What often happens is there must be cracks in the crust I don't see, the liquid filling seeps out, and a fair portion of a  dynamic crust is damaged (soggy or baked on).  I've tried sealing the pastry interior with a wash of the filling for say 5 minutes, then addng the rest of the filling.  That doesn't seem to work.  This occurs with more fluid fillings that are egg/milk/cream based.  
Any ideas for improvement?

Loretta

Hi Loretta,

What a strange problem!
Well,  so for quiche and tarts, I'd do an egg white wash and pre-bake
(you didn't say if you're doing that already?) for 10 min or so
before filling.
THe prebaking should help a lot.
Also, it might be that in order to stretch out the 1/2 recipe that
you're rolling the crust thinner than you did in the past?
you could always make a whole recipe of crust and use what you need
to, to insure you get a solid crust, and then wrap the rest of the
ball of dough and freeze for later?

Good Luck
The Pie Expert

December 24, 2005

Can you tell me how to convert a pie recipe that calls for a 9 inch regular crust to a 9 inch deep dish, Do I double the recipe or what? Thank you very much
From Janice  
El Paso, Texas

Hi Janice,

Well, you really only need to add half again as much, or not even that... If you can manage the math. I sometimes will just make a regular batch for a double crust 9" pie, and then only do a lattice top crust, so i don't need to use as much for the top crust as usual.
But to be safe, just multiply all your ingredients by 1.5

Good Luck
The Pie Expert

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I'm making 20 quiches a week at our cafe. I prefer the pillsbury crust results to the preformed aluminum crusts..but would be happy to try making my own if it weren't for the unpredictable results..it's important not to have the edges break off when serving..i have been using a slopesided pie tin but maybe I should switch to tart pan with removable bottom to give strength to the sides? Then i prebake..but could I skip this step? I have got to streamline the labor part of this all ..a pastry chef suggested a melted butter crust which you press into the pan but it's too dry by the time it's formed..thanks..
Michelle.

Hi Michelle,
My experience with commercially-available crust options is that the powdered mixes (Betty Crocker, Krusteez, or Robin Hood—NOT Jiffy) are far superior to the frozen or refrigerated crusts in flavor, flake, and homemade taste. You might try those first and if you are comfortable with that, move up to your own recipe. Here at the Pie of the Month Club, we often secretly use boxed powdered mixes because they are so close to homemade. Even some of our self-professed “pastry snobs” begrudgingly admit that they are delicious.

Good Luck and bring a quiche by anytime,
The Pie Expert


Friday, January 27, 2006

I have a pie crust question to ask you....Didn't get the answer I was looking for in the 'ask the expert' section....so here it is.
 
How do I get my frozen pie crust once its baked to not shrink up. I have a problem because the edge of the pie crust sometimes shrinks up so much it doesn't reach the top......

I have a homebaked pie business and have trouble with these.  I want a nice fluted edge but it shrinks up so much that it barely reaches the top.....
 
I have the frozen pie crust reach room temp before placing in the oven...at about 375 - 400 degrees.  Is this too hot oven.....lower temp have melted the edge so to speak.....so what am i doing wrong....
 
Terrie

Hi Terrie,

First of all, do not allow your pie crust to reach room temperature before placing it in the oven. Defrosted pie crust will shrink because the fat melts before the heat of the oven has been able to create some structure in the crust. If you bake your crusts frozen or nearly frozen the structure will develop before the fat fully melts. Also, if you are baking the crusts and then filling them, you should definitely line the pie crust with foil and then fill with pie weights (You can use dried beans, dried rice, or store-bought weights…visiting pie-expert Brian Stucki even uses pennies. If you use dried beans or rice, you cannot use them to cook with again, so just keep them in a container as your official “pie weights” from then on).

Good Luck,

The Pie Expert

Comment = WHEN I MAKE ( CHOCOLATE MERINGUE AND COCONUT CREAM PIES )AND THEN REFRIGERATE THEM, THE CRUST ALWAYS COMES OUT VERY SOGGY. WHAT AM I DOING WRONG ? THANK'S /// DEBORAH

Hey Deborah,

Check out these tips for non-soggy crusts: (link to soggy)

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

Comment = what do you do to keep a pie crust from getting too dark when baking a pie?
- Brenda

Hi Brenda,

Well, the easiest thing is to cover the parts that are over-browning with aluminum foil once a light browning has occurred. Another way is to change the crust recipe (recipes with milk, eggs, or sugar brown faster and darker than other crust recipes.

Good Luck
the Pie Expert

Comment = I have made a pie crust for the second time and the only problem I am having is how to measure the thickness and how do you get it flushed.
- Aliceia

Hi Aliceia,
Well, I saw some guy on a cooking show once put several layer of rubber bands on the outer edges of his rolling pin... building the thickness of the rubber bands up to about 1/4 inch (or however thick he wanted to roll out his crust. Then the rubber bands acted as bumpers so that he couldn't roll it any thinner than the thickness of the bands.
I thought that was a pretty cool/clever way for novices to get good at rolling out crusts that are even and not too thin.

Good Luck,
THe Pie Expert

Comment = When my fruit pies sit overnight, sometimes the beautiful crispy crust gets soggy. Can I fix it?  I don't cover it tightly but merely lay a paper towel or a sheet of foil over it to prevent dust from blowing on it.  Thank you so much!!
Bobbie

Hey Bobbie,

The only things you can do is eat your pie the day you make it, and/or learn to still love your pies when the crust is a day old and slightly soft...

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

Crust problem
Using refrigerated Pillsbury Pie Crusts, my pies are exceedingly leaky completely around the pie.  No. 1 pie last week - I made the bottom crust larger and No. 2 pie this week, I made the top crust bigger.   In either case, after 20 min of baking, it began to leak and by completion of the baking time, the entire pie had disengaged itself from its crusts.    The crusts were of course stuck like glue to the glass baking dish making serving almost impossible.    Very messy.
Any suggestions you may have will be appreciated.
Thank you.  
Anne Santino

Hi Anne,

I'd make sure you get the top and bottom crust really sealed together. So brush some water on the edge of the bottom crust before you apply the top. Then pinch the two together and fold them under as diagrammed below (click here!).

Good Luck,
The Pie Expert

Comment = How might one prevent or minimize the soaking bottom crusts of custard and fruit pies during baking
-Sera

Hi Sera,
You can try a couple differnt things to prevent soggy bottom crusts. See "soggy bottom crust" here: soggy crusts

good luck!
the Pie Expert


Crust Problem = I buy the store ones just thaw and use, But my top crust spilts all over, Every time I make apple pie, HELP.... Is it cause I put to much apple in??
Thanks,
Brenda


Hey Brenda,
The problem is that those frozen pie crusts are too thick and too “short” to be easy to work with. For double crust pies the way to prevent leaking is to pop both the bottom and top crusts out of the pans onto your countertop (make sure it is COMPLETELY thawed out) and roll it out so it's about 2 inches bigger in diameter.

Then line the pie pan with the now thinner, wider bottom crust… so it should hang over the edge of your pan about an inch all the way around. Then fill with your apple filling (you can mound the apples up as high as you want!). Now lay the rolled out top crust over the top of the filling, and fold the edges of the top and bottom crust over (see drawing) and pinch together. This way you properly seal the filling into the crust, and it won't spill out all over the place.

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

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

 

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

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

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 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 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 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

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 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

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 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

 

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

back to top

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

back to top

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

back to top

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

back to top

 

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

back to top

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

back to top

 

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

back to top

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

back to top