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Jul 5, 2007 08:24 AM

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.