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Pie Troubleshooting Guide

Don't we al love home made pie! It's one of the most versatile desserts ever, and just about anyone who has ever made dessert before has tried their hand at pie ~ baking. All of us, from the first ~ timer to the seasoned veteran, have run into our share of unexpected pie pitfalls and pastry problems, though. To make pie ~ baking a more satisfying experience for you, we've compiled a troubleshooting guide to address some of the most common difficulties that all of us can run into when we turn out our pastry ~ clad masterpieces.

The Dough cracks when you try to roll it out?
The dough is either too dry or too cold. If it seems to be crumbling apart, work a few sprinkles of water into it ~ just try to handle it as little as possible. If it just cracks at the edges when you run the rolling pin over it, it probably just needs to warm up a little. Allow it to sit on the counter for a few minutes, but don't let it get too warm, or the layers of fat will melt together and your crust will not be flaky.

The Crust sticks to the rolling pin?
Chill the dough before trying to roll it out. Lightly flour the countertop and the top of the dough. You can also buy a pastry cloth and a rolling pin cover. These are made from thin cotton, and they will help prevent the dough from getting stuck. Be sure to lightly flour the cloth and the cover before using them.

The Crust doesn't brown on bottom?
Place the pie on the bottom oven rack, and begin baking at a relatively high temperature { 425 to 450 degrees F/220 to 230 degrees C }, then reduce it after 20 minutes or so. The initial high temperature will help the crust to brown, and reducing the temperature will allow the filling to cook thoroughly before the crust burns.

The Crust is soggy?
Brush the bottom crust with beaten egg white or heated jelly before pouring in filling. Or, try partially or fully baking crust before pouring in filling. Partially baking the bottom crust can be a challenge if you're making a double ~ crust pie, but it can be done. Many people find it easier in this case to make a lattice top crust. You can use beaten egg to help seal the top crust to the partially baked bottom crust, since you won't be able to pinch the two crusts together like usual.

I pre ~ baked my pie crust, and it came out shrunken, puffy, and misshapen?
Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator both before and after rolling it out.
Also be sure that you never pull or stretch the dough when fitting it into the pan.

These measures will keep the crust from shrinking.
Use a fork to poke the crust in several places to allow steam to escape without forcing crust to puff up. However, if you're baking a custard pie where the filling is baked in the crust { as opposed to a cream pie, where the filling is cooked on the stovetop then poured into a pre ~ baked crust } do not poke holes in the bottom crust, or the custard will seep through the holes. Instead, you can use weights in the bottom of the crust to keep it in place: either pie weights, which are specifically made for this purpose, or dry beans or rice. Be sure to line the crust with parchment paper, wax paper or foil before putting in the weights.

The Crust is too pale?
Increase the oven temperature. You can also brush the top crust with beaten egg or milk for a golden, glossy appearance ~ but remember to do this BEFORE you cut the steam vents in the top, or you will seal them shut. If your crust recipe contains vinegar or lemon juice, this could be the culprit as well: these ingredients are used to make the crust tender, but they can also prevent browning. Counteract it by adding about 1 teaspoon of sugar to your dry ingredients before mixing in the butter, margarine or shortening.

The Crust edges are burnt?
Cover crust edges with pie crust shields or strips of foil before putting pie in oven { this is easier than taking the pie out of the oven halfway through baking and trying to cover the crust without burning yourself }. About 20 minutes before the end of baking time, remove the foil and allow the edges to brown to perfection.

The Crust is tough?
;Mix the dough just barely enough to combine all ingredients to form a ball. Once liquid comes in contact with the flour, it begins to form gluten. The more you knead the liquid and flour together, the more the gluten forms. The more gluten forms, the tougher the pastry will be. Another thing you can try is substituting 1 teaspoon of the water called for in the recipe with vinegar or lemon juice. The acidity will keep gluten from forming a strong structure, and the crust will not be as tough.

The Crust isn't flaky?
Chill the fat and the liquid before adding them to the flour. When combining the fat with the flour, you can crumble some of it finely, but make sure to leave some larger pieces as well. Fat that is rubbed into the flour until it has a sandy texture will promote tenderness, but it's the larger pieces that separate the layers and slowly melt in the oven, that promote flakiness. For a piecrust that is both tender and flaky, use half chilled butter and half room temperature shortening. The shortening will add tenderness; the butter, flakiness. Just be sure to leave the butter in pieces at least as large as peas.

Filling leaks all over oven?
Did you remember to cut steam vents in the top crust? As fruit cooks, it gives off steam, and if the steam doesn't have any place to go, it will blow holes randomly in the sides of the crust and leak pie filling all over the oven. Sometimes leaks happen even when we do cut steam vents in the crust. This can occur when we brush a glaze of beaten egg or sugar over the pie after we have cut the vents, thus effectively sealing the vents shut again. Or, if the pie filling is extremely sugary, the filling can bubble up and seal the vents shut on its own. Sometimes, leakage is just unavoidable. To avoid big messes, cover a baking sheet with foil and place the pie on top of it before putting it in the oven. The pie may still leak, but at least it will be easy to clean up.

Fruit filling is mushy?

The fruit has been cooked too long. You should either increase oven temperature so the crust will cook quickly before the filling has a chance to get mushy, or cut the fruit in larger chunks so it will not turn to mush before the pie is done.

There's a big gap between the top crust and the fruit filling?
You piled your pie high with fruit and covered it up carefully with pastry, but now that it's done, the filling has shrunk and there's a huge space between the top crust and the filling! This happens because the fruit loses water { and therefore loses volume }, in the form of steam, as it cooks. By the time the fruit has cooked down, though, the top crust is already firm and it holds its original shape, even though the fruit is no longer there to hold it up. If you want to prevent the crust ~ gap problem, you can partially cook your filling before you put it in the pie. If you do this, you'll need to start off with more fruit that your original recipe calls for. Place it in a large saucepan along with the other filling ingredients such as cornstarch, sugar, and spices, and cook it over low heat until the fruit gets softer and loses some of its volume. Fill the pie as you normally would, then bake it at a high temperature to keep the fruit from getting mushy before the crust is done. Just remember to cover it loosely with foil during the first part of baking so the top won't burn.

Cream filling is curdled?

Cream filling can curdle when the eggs get too hot. It's essential that you temper your eggs before combining them with other hot ingredients. The idea is to slowly bring up the temperature of the eggs-if you heat them up too fast, they will scramble! To temper your eggs, first place them in a bowl and whisk them thoroughly. Next, SLOWLY pour about a cup of the heated milk mixture into the eggs while you whisk constantly. Now that the eggs have been gently warmed up, you can slowly whisk this mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the milk. If your filling recipe contains flour or cornstarch, it's okay to let the mixture come to a boil on the stovetop. Just don't let it boil rapidly or for too long, or it will burn. However, if your recipe does not contain any starch, boiling will cause the mixture to curdle. No matter what recipe you're using, remember to stir, stir, stir for as long as your filling is on the stove! If you still have curdling troubles, try making your cream filling in a double boiler.

The Pie Filling is runny?

For fruit filling: use cornstarch, tapioca flour, arrowroot, or all ~ purpose flour to thicken it up. Depending on the juiciness of the fruit, use about 1/4 cup all ~ purpose flour, or 2 tablespoons cornstarch, tapioca flour, or arrowroot.
For cream filling: make sure you cook the filling long enough after you've added the eggs. If the eggs haven't been cooked long enough, the filling can break down after it's cooled. Cook and stir the mixture for at least 2 full minutes after the eggs have been whisked in. If you have used instant pudding to fill your pie, serve it within a few hours. Instant pudding will separate and get watery if allowed to sit for too long. If you want filling with more staying power { and a richer, creamier taste } use cook and serve pudding, or make the filling from scratch.

I want to freeze a pie?

You can freeze a fruit pie raw or baked. To prepare an unbaked frozen pie, do not defrost it first. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F{ 200 degrees C } and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes. Don't forget to cut steam vents in the top crust! To prepare a baked frozen pie, allow it to thaw at room temperature for an hour, then bake it at 375 degrees F { 190 degrees C } for 30 to 40 minutes, until heated through. We do not recommend freezing custard or cream pies.

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