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Mar 29, 2012 08:05 AM

Favorite fruit pie thickener

What is your favorite thickener when making fruit pies and why? Flour, cornstarch, tapioca, something else?

I'm trying to perfect blueberry/raspberry pie filing. Want it firm enough so the filling doesn't just fall apart when you cut a slice, but don't want it thick and gummy either.

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  1. I prefer cornstarch because in my experience used judiciously it actually enhances the flavor of the fruit.

    But any starch will eventually mute the fresh fruit flavor and can make the texture gummy.

    So try this compromise.

    With blueberries or raspberries, cook them as you usually would. Then drain the syrup that forms, and in a separate saucepan reduce that syrup until it's very thick -- using just a bit of cornstarch slurry to help it thicken -- and then add it back to your fruit filling.

    1. I use instant tapioca, either purchased as a powder or ground to a powder, because it gives me the most consistent results. I used to use cornstarch and it was fine, but not quite as dependable. This is for berry/cherry pies only - for apple pies I use flour/butter.

      1. ClearJel® This is a modified cornstarch. Unlike ordinary cornstarch, ClearJel® works well with acidic ingredients, tolerates high temperatures, and doesn't cause pie fillings to "weep" during storage.
        One downside is that products thickened with ClearJel® tend to break down if they're frozen and thawed. If you plan to freeze what you're making, use Instant ClearJel® or tapioca starch.
        Instant Clearjel® Instant ClearJel® thickens without cooking, works well with acidic ingredients, tolerates high temperatures, is freezer-stable, and doesn't cause pie fillings to "weep" during storage.

        tapioca starch = tapioca flour Tapioca is a good choice for thickening pie fillings, since it thickens at a lower temperature than cornstarch, remains stable when frozen, and imparts a glossy sheen. Many pie recipes call for instant tapioca instead of tapioca starch, but instant tapioca doesn't dissolve completely and leaves small gelatinous blobs suspended in the liquid. s. Tapioca starch is finely ground so that it dissolves completely, eliminating the gelatinous blob problem. It does result in a chewier texture.
        cornstarch Cornstarch requires simmering the liquid to thicken. Cornstarch doesn't stand up to freezing or prolonged cooking, and it doesn't thicken well when mixed with acidic liquids.

        If you can get it, I would recommend clearjel but any of the above thickeners will do the job. Clearjel is much more expensive than cornstarch.

        1. Tapioca or arrowroot. Cornstarch leaves a starchy taste and lacks the sheen of tapioca or arrowroot. I'd use cornstarch for something like a pot pie, but never for fruit.

          1. Try Nick Malgieri's method for blueberry pie filling, which I have also used most successfully with sour cherry pie. I would use it for any berry, it works so well. Take about 1 cup of the fruit and all of the sugar you will use in the filling, and cook, stirring. Dissolve 3 tablespoons of cornstarch in some of the juice that the fruit has released, and then add that back to the berries that are in the pot. Cook until the cornstarch becomes clear and the juices are very thick. Add this to the rest of the fruit, put into your pie shell, and bake as usual. The pie will set up perfectly and cut lovely slices. If you are using previously frozen fruit, I have found that it's necessary to let he fruit defrost completely and to render any further liquid. Here's my recent sour cherry pie.