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Help for soupy pie

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  • mocro Jun 8, 2009 09:49 PM
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I made a blueberry pie according to the recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Pie book - flour and cornstarch added to fresh berries - and it turned out too soupy. Should I add more cornstarch or tapioca which I've never worked with? I believe you need to cook the tapioca w/the fruit before you make the pie but I've never pre-baked the fruit in a pie.

I don't want the pie to be solid but this was more pie soup. Thanks so much.!

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  1. If your filling is too runny, use cornstarch, tapioca flour, arrowroot, or all-purpose flour to thicken it up. Depending on the juiciness of the blueberry, use about 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, or 2 tablespoons cornstarch, tapioca flour, or arrowroot.

    Also, if you're adding any sugar to your pie filling, don’t mix the sugar with the fruit until you are ready to put the fruit in the pastry and the pie in the oven.

    1. Probably not the issue here, but the pie does need to cool completely for the starch to gel.

      Another possibility is that the pie did not get hot enough to gel--you should see the filling bubbling nicely (and *thickly*--watery bubbles don't count!).

      Getting the right amount of thickener for just the right texture is tricky because it depends on the water content of the fruit, which obviously does vary. Over time you get a sense of how much the fruit will need depending on they type, how fresh it is, etc.

      For apple pie, I use Ruth Levy Berenbaum's approach of macerating the apples with the sugar for 30+ minutes, draining them, and boiling down the collected juices, which are then mixed back in with the fruit and thickener. Same approach would probably work with blueberries, but you would probably need to bruise the fruit a bit first.

      I haven't noticed much difference in the texture of the finished pie depending on the type of starch used (e.g., tapioca, potato starch, etc.); the only different I see is that flour will generally result in an opaque (cloudy) result, whereas the others are clear. Arrowroot leads to a particularly glossy finish. All starches will work but their thickening power does vary a bit, so I would recommend picking one and sticking with it. Flour tends to have about 1/2 of the thickening power as the others in my experience.

      With tapioca it is best to use tapioca flour rather than granules, which may not hydrate fully. If you do use the instant granules, you will need to let the filling sit for at least 30 minutes or so to hydrate them (or you may get runny pie with crunchy bits of tapioca). I don't like this approach because the filling gets so wet in sitting that it is hard to prevent the bottom crust from getting soggy.

      How much thickener did you use, how much fruit was there, and where did the berries come from?

      Hope this helps!

      7 Replies
      1. re: zamorski

        Thanks to you both for your help. I can immediately see I did 2 things wrong. I mixed the fruit, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice - placed in the pie crust - and had it sit for 2 hours in the refridgerator before I baked. And then I served it about a half hour after I took out of the oven. So I'll make those 2 fixes.

        I used 4 cups and a smidge of gorgeous blueberries from Costco, 1 tbls lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar, 3 tbls cornstarch, a pinch of salt/cinnamon'lemon zest and slivers of butter.

        I have some nice peaches so am going to try for a peach pie this weekend and appreciate any additional advice.

        1. re: mocro

          Your cornstarch should have been plenty adequate for that amount of berries, so likely one or more of the other factors discussed above.

          Peach pie is especially challenging because peaches tend to be very, very moist and because really tasty peaches are hard to come by. Bland peaches result in bland pie that is not worth the effort (to me, anyway). Some ideas:

          1) I strongly advise you use the macerate/drain/boil down juices process noted above. Mix the lemon juice, sugar, peaches, and a pinch of salt and place in a colander and allow to sit for 30 to 60 minutes, collecting the juices. Boil juices down to about 1/3 of a cup, or until syrupy and lightly caramelized. Toss the peaches with the cornstarch (use less here--only like 4 tsp for 6 cups of peaches since you have removed quite a lot of fluid already). Put fruit/cornstarch mixture into the crust and toss the reduced juices over the top (they may solidify--don't worry about that) and proceed as usual.

          2) Try adding a little almond extract to the fruit (1/4 to 1/2 tsp, depending on how delicious the peaches are on their own).

          3) Some people always use a lattice crust for super juicy fruit like peaches--this allows better concentration and may help with crispness. But I use the above approach with a regular top crust (with some nice vents) with good success.

          4) Cooling a pie takes longer than you might imagine, especially if you bake in Pyrex. I allow at least 4 hours. Plan accordingly!

          5) Resist the temptation to use too much fruit, which can mess things up. I use 6 cups for a 9 inch pie.

          All of the tips above come from Ruth Levy Berenbaum's "Pie and Pastry Bible," which is phenomenal: Her philosophy is: "If the crust isn't crisp, I'd just assume not have it at all." I concur!

          1. re: zamorski

            Just a small correction. It's Rose Levy Beranbaum, not Ruth.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Thank you!

        2. re: zamorski

          I sometimes use minute tapioca, sometimes I whir it in a coffee mill first. I macerate apple pie (in fact, I do exactly what Bernebaum suggests, but had no idea that was part of her recipe -- I could have saved a lot of trial and error), but not blueberry.

          As for soggy crust, I melt a little chocolate (white or dark, depending on the pie) with some butter, then quickly give a light coat to the entire bottom crust. Crust will stay crispy for days.

          1. re: sbp

            Painting the unfilled, unbaked bottom crust with egg white does the same thing.

            1. re: greygarious

              I know, but I find the chocolate does create a tighter seal. When I really want no hint of chocolate, I'll go with the egg white wash.

        3. I think your main culprit was the pie filling was cold and it probably didn't reach a full boil which cornstarch needs to get to in order to thicken.

          Look at my icon, that's an apple pie "singing" meaning the filling is boiling and bursting through the crust. That's what needs to happen.

          I prefer using minute tapioca to thicken fruit pies, even apple. It keeps the filling clear which I like. Although I use cornstarch or flour when I need to.

          With tapioca (Just read the back of the package to get the amount you need), you place the fruit in a bowl with the sugar and tapioca and let the juices ooze (okay, macerate) for about 15 minutes. Juices and all go in the pie shell. Again, room temp. fruit is better than chilled.

          2 Replies
          1. re: TrishUntrapped

            Probably an obvious point, but don't try reducing the juices if you put the thickener in the maceration mixture.

            1. re: zamorski

              Agreed Zamroski. I don't reduce the juices.

          2. Even a soupy homemade pie is miles better than a commercial one. Serve it with pride, and keep experimenting.

            7 Replies
            1. re: pikawicca

              Thank you all so much for going to the trouble to give me this specific advice which I will take. Even my slightly soupy blueberry pie was delicious. I served it in a bowl w/lots of vanilla ice creme and a spoon. I think the secret to successful dinners is serving people who love you! Thanks again.

              1. re: mocro

                I find that Instant Tapioca is the very best thickener.

              2. re: pikawicca

                Pikawicca: Good advice that I should keep in mind. It can be hard to lose track of that important message as we strive for "perfection" in our dishes.

                1. re: zamorski

                  I've made many pies over the last 45 years of my baking career. Many have been perfect, many more not. A homemade pie is a paean to food for the ones we love. If it's not perfect, so what.

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    Absolutely. A wet pie is something you should never feel badly about. No two pies ever come out exactly alike, and getting EXACTLY the right consistency is really a matter of chance.

                    1. re: sbp

                      Thanks everyone for your fantastic advice. I used instant tapioca, whirred it in the blender first, didn't pre-chill the pie, and let it cool down completely before serving. Perfection! And there's one piece left for me for breakfast.

                      1. re: mocro

                        Really appreciate the feedback--glad it turned out nicely.