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Pie help

I'm still working on mastering pie crust.

About a year ago there was an LA Times article that said that Thomas Keller's pate brisee recipe from Bouchon changed the author's life, by making reliably flaky pie a consistent reality.

I tried this for the first time for 4th of July Strawberry/Rhubarb pie. The interesting part of the all-butter crust recipe is that you first amalgamate half the flour and all the butter in the blender, then slowly blend in the second half of the flour until just incorporated. Raw, the dough looked great, filled with little pods of butter.

I rolled the dough and assembled the pie, put the pie in the oven at 450, which I immediately reduced to about 400. After only about 30 minutes the edges were getting dark, so I covered them with foil and lowered the temp. to about 350. After another 10-15 minutes I took the pie out because the top was golden-brown, although the inside wasn't quite bubbling.

Several hours later, all my guests ate and raved about the pie, but as the chef I am always more exacting, and I will say that truthfully the bottom layer of crust seemed undercooked and was not flaky. The top was wonderful; not as flaky as some pies I've had, but quite good. The interior was fine.

My question is: how to get both top and bottom crisp and flaky? Should I have baked the whole thing at a lower temperature? Should I have covered the entire top with foil once it was getting brown after only 30 minutes? Should I somehow have blind-baked the bottom, then filled it and baked the whole thing? How would I know if the bottom were cooked anyway? Although I can guess that the answer to that question is to look through the bottom, since I baked it in a pyrex plate.

Thank you all so much to those who respond!!!!

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  1. Generally I blind-bake the crust for that reason.... I'm not such an expert so I can't speak to the other issues...

    5 Replies
    1. re: laurendlewis

      Lauren, it is only possible to blind-bake open-faced pies. When they need a cover, it is really hard (if not impossible) to attach the raw dough top to a pre-cooked bottom.

      Jono, I would heartily recommend getting a pizza stone. If you pre-heat the oven for at least an hour, there will be considerable heat from the stone that will cook through the pyrex a bit better and get you a crisper, browner bottom crust.

      1. re: Carrie 218

        Wow! I hadn't thought of that. I actually have a pizza stone, but never thought about placing the pie on it. Thanks!

        1. re: jono37

          Just be careful, because I've had a few pyrex pans explode on me in the oven when they hit something hot. Make sure your pie plate is at room temperature and not cold when you put it in.

          1. re: jono37

            yes, a pizza stone really does a great job in cooking the bottom crust at a speed similar to the rest. Highly recommend it.

            By the way, do you happen to have a link to that LA times recipe from Keller? I'm still on the quest to find the perfect all butter crust...

            1. re: adamclyde

              It's funny - I have a copy of the article and know it was written by Russ Parsons and published on February 28, 2007, but I can't seem to get it in the LATimes find function.

      2. I'll blind bake for certain pies. Usually with a fruit pie, I won't. But for something such as pecan or pumpkin, I will.
        Here's my method (or, should I say, Bittman's method):
        Roll out crust, place in pie plate. Butter one side of folded aluminum foil, place buttered side down in pan, press onto pie crust. Fill aluminum foil with beans/rice/chain...whatever you use to weigh it down. Bake at 425 for 12 minutes. Remove from oven, drop temp to 350. Take out aluminum foil and weights. Bake crust again, for 10-15 minutes until evenly golden brown.

        1. Your oven was too hot. As a general rule, bake fruit pies at 375 F for about 40-45 min; if the edges begin to brown too much, cover them with foil or one of those handy pie protectors. An all-butter crust (which I only make for fruit tarts with pastry cream or lemon pies) will always brown more quickly than any other crust; it also will be LEAST flakey. My own preference is for a combination of lard and butter, or all lard for certain fruit pies.

          3 Replies
          1. re: janeer

            I don't eat lard, so I haven't tried that in pie. I have used shortening, but did not find it to be especially flakier than the all-butter recipe. But, I did not use the dough technique described above when I used shortening.

            Will definitely cook at lower temperature next time.

            1. re: jono37

              hee--I have to jump in and say I like to cook my pies at least at 425 degrees. O/w they take forever and never get as done as I like--and I like a well-cooked pie. Not burnt of course, but so many pies are pallid and underdone. After about 25-30 minutes I usually need to put some foil on the edges--sometimes more, but the pie still needs a good 20-30 minutes before it's done. I find the higher heat works with the butter to create steam and flakiness, though I also use a bit of shortening to keep it tender. I use the pate brisee recipe from Julia Child's Way to Cook and it does not fail me.

              Last caution--have you checked your oven with a thermometer? In several areas? I have learned the hard way that there are hot and cool spots in mine--I bet the pizza stone would help with that too.

              I read a while ago of a perforated tin pie plate which I am eager to try as I think that could go a long way to a crisper bottom crust. Anyone have any experience or sources?

              1. re: dct

                I just bought 2 perforated pie tins from Williams Sonoma for $10 total. They are sturdy metal and I am looking forward to using them!

          2. I agree with previous posters. For a two crust fruit pie, I start it as high as 425, but drop the temp to 350 after 10 minutes. That seems to get the pastry off to a good start, but yet not burn it during the time you're trying to get the insides done. All my old-timey recipes have this instruction (and that's all I use for pies).

            Blind baking just plain won't work in this situation.

            1. What sort of pie pan did you use? I have gotten a much more nicely browned crust on fruit pies with the Pryex (or equiv, heat safe clear glass) pans. Second best is the super park "blue steel" pans. Shiny pans (including heavy & expensive one) and those coated with anything never give a nice crust for me.

              1. Congratulations on your most noble of quests. Too often, bakers give in to the idea that the bottom crust must be soggy crap.

                Some thoughts.........

                If it is a one-crust pie, you can and should prebake it and brush it with egg white or a tablespoon or two of jam.

                If it is a two-crust pie, this approach won't work. Some people roll pie crust out on cookie crumbs (i.e. gingersnaps) to absorb fruit juices but the disadvantage of this is that it changes the flavor of the pie and for a fruit pie, there aren't many good choices for cookies to be used in this manner.

                Also, the most reliable way seems to be to bake the pie on the floor of the oven or alternately on a baking stone set on the floor of the oven for about 1 hour before raising it to a higher shelf. If this does not work in your oven due to size/design issues, baking it on the lowest shelf can help. Also, you can try freezing the pie before you bake it. The crust is closer to the pan than the filling so it bakes before the filling defrosts. This takes longer but produces a flaky bottom crust. I usually bake a pie at 425 F.

                If money is no object and you really want to persue the dream of a flaky bottom crust, get a convection oven which solves all baking problems at once.

                5 Replies
                1. re: ohromujici

                  I have a GE convection oven, and while it's good, it won't automatically give you a brown bottom crust. After baking hundreds of pies, I've found the most reliable techniques, as previously stated by others to be: preheat oven for an hour, use a pizza stone, bake on the bottom of the oven, 450 degrees for the first 20 min, turn it down to 350 or 375 thereafter, depending on how brown the crust has gotten (each pie is different). I use Pyrex, perforated tin, and regular tin - all to great success. I also prefer half butter, half lard - the best taste/flake combo, IMHO.

                  1. re: Claudette

                    Hi all,

                    Can you take a chilled Pyrex dish from fridge and bake on stone? After I assemble a pie, I always feel like I should chill it b/c the dough gets soft (espeically in weather like this!) What would you do after chilling? Place on lowest rack or oven floor and avoid stone, or can you use stone?

                    Many thanks!

                    1. re: sljones

                      That's a good question. I've not had any problem with my Pyrex going from fridge to stone, but I know from postings on other boards that some have exploded. I suspect it depends on how cold the dish is, and how old it is, and if it has any flaws (from manuf. or aging). If in doubt, just use pie tins, which work just as well, in my experience. I'm not a lawyer, so I'd hedge my bet!

                      1. re: Claudette

                        Okay...where are y'all finding these perofrated tins for pies??????

                        1. re: Alice Letseat

                          Sorry, I can't help you - mine are about 15 years old, and I can't remember.

                2. Can I broaden the discussion a little bit? What about all-butter vs. all-shortening vs. a mix. I don't use lard, so let's forget about that option. Does shortening lead to a flakier crust, and if so, why? Is Harold McGee out there???!!!!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: jono37

                    For your all-butter crust, try grating frozen butter on the large holes of that old-fashioned 4-sided grater. Makes for a flakey crust.

                    or, here's a food processor recipe for a 2-crust pie:
                    2 cups all-purpose flour
                    1/2 tsp. salt
                    2/3 cup + 2 Tbl. very cold butter
                    1/2 cup iced water
                    With steel blade, whirl flour and salt to blend. Add cold butter chunks to flour and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. While processor is running, add ice-cold water through feed tube to form ball of dough (10 to 20 seconds). Divide in half for 2-crust pie. Roll and fit in pie plate/dish; add filling, top with rolled dough, flute and cut vents, brush with cream or milk, sprinkle with sugar - I use 1/4 tsp. raw sugar - Bake at 400°F

                    1. re: Cynsa

                      You are really "stretching it" using just 2 cups of flour for a two crust 9" pie. I would recommend 2 1/2 cups.

                      And I believe that 1/2 cup (8 tbls) of water may be too much. I used to add the water to the food processor bowl but based on a CI tip, I now put the dough in a bowl and then add the water. It's much easier to control and the dough doesn't get overworked.

                    2. re: jono37

                      My grandma's recipe:

                      3 c. flour
                      1 1/4 c. shortening
                      1 1/2 tsp. salt
                      1 egg
                      1 tsp. vinegar
                      4-5 Tbsp. cold water

                      Mix flour & salt together, then cut in shortening until particles are the size of small peas. Beat egg, water and vinegar, then sprinkle over flour mixture. Toss with fork and let rest for 10 minutes before rolling out as needed. When I make a 2-crust fruit pie I bake it at 425 for about 30 minutes. I put foil around the outside of the crust for the first few minutes of that. This recipe has never failed for me, and I think the resting for ten minutes is a big part of that. it allows the gluten to relax so you can roll the crust out thin without it tearing.

                      Having grown up eating shortening crust I don't like the taste of crust made with lard. But I did make this crust once using butter. The texture was about the same, but the flavor was absolutely wonderful.

                    3. I have found that most pies (fruit, double crust) need to bake way longer than often stated in the recipe. I always start the pie out completly covered with foil, after about 45 min. to 1 hour, I uncover it and bake it until it bubbles and looks nicely browned. I also always keep a pizza stone in the oven and bake the pie plate on it, but I think the foil trick helps a lot.

                      1. This Rhubarb-Strawberry is my specialty...actually it's Saveur Magazine's and the woman from the Iowa State Fair who won yet another blue ribbon for this delectable amazing wonder of a pie. I just made it for July 4th crowd of pie eaters, and had to make another one today just so I could have some!

                        This pie crust is so easy....
                        2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
                        1 tsp salt
                        2/3 cup vegetable oil
                        6 tbsp. cold milk

                        For the filling:
                        1 1/4 cups plus 2 tsp sugar
                        1/3 cup flour
                        1/4 tsp nutmeg
                        1/4 tsp cinnamon
                        3 cups halved and hilled strawberries
                        2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
                        2 tbsp. butter , cut inot small pieces
                        2 tsp. milk

                        1)Preheat oven to 400. For the piecrust: Sift together flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Measure oil inot a measuring cup, then add milk, but don't stir together. ( secret recipe) Pour oil and milk into flour mixture. Stir until dough just holds together. Divide dough in half, shape into 2 balls, and flatten slightly. Roll out each ball between two sheets of wax paper into 12" rounds. Transfer one round (discarding wax paper of course) into a 9" pie plate, and fill it!

                        If you can't find the recipe on Saveur on line, let me know and I'll post the rest.
                        Soooooo goooood!