Soggy pumpkin pie crust--do you blind bake?
The past few Thanksgivings I've not made traditional pumpkin pie. Last year I made little tarts in muffin tins, using Carol Walters lovely sweet pastry which is not baked before filling and comes out crisp and brown (I assume the high sugar content helps). So this afternoon I made the pie from the Libby's can, and following the instrux, used an unbaked pie shell, tho' not a packaged one, but rather one I made myself--a pate brisee with just a pinch of sugar, rolled quite thin. I baked it in a 7-inch fluted tart shell for 15 minutes at 425 and 50 minutes at 350. Filling delicious, shell undercooked.
So--do you people blind bake contrary to instuctions? (Jean Anderson and others I trust also use unbaked flaky pie shells...). The filling, by the way, to which I added a few things, was delicious.
To blind bake means to prebake the pie crust before putting the filling goes in. You blind bake a crust if you use an uncooked filling (as for a chiffon pie, made with gelatin, or a cream pie), a filling with a short baking time (as with lemon meringue), or to crisp the crust before baking with a very wet filling (as is being discussed here). The usual method is to line the unbaked pie shell with foil or parchment paper and fill with ceramic or metal "pie weights" or dried beans, to keep the crust from puffing up. How long it's baked depends on whether you need it fully cooked or will be baking it again after it's filled. All the basic cookbooks, like Joy of Cooking, etc., give specific instructions in their pastry sections.
b"Baking blind" means to pre-bake the crust in part or whole. Fit the dough into the tart or pie pan, forming completely, then line with foil or parchment paper to contain the beans, rice, or pie weights that you use to keep the dough from puffing up. You then bake it so that it is either completely baked for a filling that doesn't require any baking or you take it out after 10-20 minutes (depending on temperature) so that it can have a filling added and continue baking.
Another issue is sealing the bottom of the tart/pie before adding the filling. When using prebaked shells for, say, a summer fruit tart, many seal the crust against moisture with chocolate or a fruit glaze. When using partially baked shells for a custard pie where the filling must be cooked, many will seal the crust either with egg or with fruit glaze. The purpose of these sealants is to allow the base of the crust to fully bake without getting soggy and not cooking fully.
While I do all these things, I do two more things to achieve a flaky tender crust on the bottom as well as the top:
Firstly, I preheat my oven to about 25 degrees higher than the recipe calls for. This compensates for the heat loss when you put the pie/tart in the oven.
Secondly, I bake on a pizza stone that lives on the floor of the oven. For something like a rustic tart or pissaladiere that bakes in 30 minutes or less, I may leave it on the stone for the entire procedure. For something like a pumpkin pie that cooks so much longer, I would begin on the stone and then move it to a shelf to keep the base from getting overcooked. When I plan to move it, I put the tart on a baking sheet which can go directly on the stone so that it is easy to move.
I find Rose Beranbaum's Pie Bible a great resource on the techniques and materials for pie making. If you plan to do much pie-making, get the book (most libraries have it).b Many people find her exactitude overwhelming, even annoying, but for me it is just that completeness that makes it such a great resource on materials and technique. I confess, though, that I haven't used her recipes so much as taken the information to use when making up my own pies.
Forget what the instructions say--I always blind bake my pumpkin pie crusts. It makes a huge difference--between a mushy, forgettable crust and a nice crisp buttery one.
For many pies baked without a top crust it is often preferable to blind bake the crust. However it is NOT necessary. To combat a soggy pumpkin pie crust without blind baking I humbly offer two suggestions:
1) 1 oz of gingersnaps & 1 oz of pecans, finely ground & then pressed into the dough to coat the bottom & 1/2 inch of the sides of the unbaked crust will help absorb moisture & are a nice compliment to the taste of the pumpkin (full credit for this goes to Rose Beranbaum & her amazing bible).
2) Bake your pie on the bottom of the oven, hopefully on a pizza stone or quarry tiles. Try to do this using a pyrex pan so you can see if the crust is browning too much. If it is, raise the pie higher in the oven.
As mentioned by a previous poster, Rose Beranbaum's Pie Bible is an indispensible source of not just recipes but UNDERSTANDING of the art & science of fine baking.
Yes, I blind bake as well.
How thin do you roll out your crust? It does not need to be that thin - about 2 to 3 mm. And a good crust will only enhance your pie/tart experience.