Pie Baking Practice Makes Perfect

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Keep moving forward. It’s a great MANTRA that I’ve used time and time again, and one, that I picked up from an a animated film, and family favorite in the home – Meet The Robinsons. The quote was used throughout the film, which originated with none other than Walt Disney. It essentially means, through thick and thin, through challenges and turmoil, through absolute screw-ups in the kitchen…KEEP MOVING FORWARD. Well tonight, this was my guiding light as I used what little free time I had to practice on some things I needed practice on. Let the Pie Baking begin!

Nobody’s perfect and even the great cooks and bakers online, more times than I can count, often explain in great detail their screw ups, mess ups, and mishaps in the kitchen, that they tend to make but learn from. Every baker has to contend with these ‘demons’ and every baker’s demons are different in some respect. For me, my demons baking pie have been revolved around – thickening.

A few weeks ago my mother informed me that she had purchased both she and I another pie baking book – The Art of The Pie, by Kate McDermott – a FANTASTIC book by the way, hefty in pages, recipes and the photos – oh my Lord! Yesterday the book arrived on my doorstep and I couldn’t wait to tear through it.

I maybe only got 20 pages in, before I came upon a couple small THICKENING tips that I couldn’t wait to incorporate into my next pie.

I had until next weekend to practice since we had a big, end of the summer BBQ coming up with a group of family friends. Can you say PORK CARNITAS? And since I managed to find some free time this Saturday evening, I decided now would be as good as time as any to ‘try my hand’ at some of these VERY SUBTLE, but potentially game changing tips, to help me thicken up my pie fillings.

I choose a REALLY simple Triple Berry Pie recipe on KNEAD TO COOK, to practice with, one because it was simple, but also because I had the ingredients already on-hand. Another HUGE plus!

FILLING

Pie filling. I love to really ‘stuff’ my pies with every ounce of pie filling that I can, It doesn’t matter if I’m making a blackberry pie, raspberry pie, triple berry pie or apple pie, I stuff every last piece of fruit ‘under the DOUGH hood.’ If there’s anything leftover in the bowl above and beyond what the recipe called for, I find a way to add them to the party. But I was going about this all wrong, or so I thought.

In Art of the Pie, Kate mentions on more than one occasion that when she spoons in the pie filling, she doesn’t pile it up to the rim the of the pie dish as I ALWAYS seem to do. She instead only fills up the pie dish a half inch below the rim of the pie dish.

When I read this, my first thought was – that doesn’t seem like a lot of pie filling? A half inch below the rim?

But who was I to question a baking aficionado like Kate. So like a good little ‘padawan’ learner (pardon my Geekness in using a Star Wars term…), I followed in step, only filling up my pie dish to below the rim.

THICKENING

My pie fillings are sometimes runny. Not super runny, but ‘runnier’ than I would like. It’s one of my pet peeves and one in which I constantly struggle to resolve, on a consistent basis. Sometimes a pie comes out after cooling, near perfect, and other times I shake my hand in bewilderment as to what went wrong. My ‘PIE GAME’ isn’t consistent and THAT ladies and gents is why I continue to lose what little hair I still have left!

When pie baking, I have made pies using frozen fruits and fresh fruit. The fresh fruit seem to be juicer than the frozen, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. The frozen fruit I like to thaw and then use in my pies, and have had mixed results with those as well.

What I haven’t tried was using frozen fruit, without thawing first. I read that it is better to use frozen fruit, as is, and place it in the pie dish just after mixing in whatever other ingredients the recipe called for. Using frozen fruit in this manner was said to keep the juiciness of the pie under check. Sounded like a plan to me.

PIE CRUST

I tend to roll out my homemade pie pastry just a little too thin. I try not to, but when I roll, the pastry just never seems large enough to cover the pie dish and leave some overhang for forming the edges. So, I roll and I roll big.

Well, I shouldn’t be doing that. So I rolled out tonight’s pie pastry about a 1/4 inch thick (more or less). Anxious and very curious to see how this bakes out while also HOPEFULLY helping to keep my pie filling juices in check.

PIE BAKING RESULT

The finished product was….not what I expected.

pie baking

When I removed the pie from the oven, I could see through through the glass pie plate that my bottom crust was browned, as was the top crust. I did have concern when I saw that the juice bubbling on top was a little ‘thin’, and that concern was rightfully so. I let the pie cool and rest through the evening.

Morning came, and I was eager to see the results. With a hot cup of joe in hand I excitedly cut into the pie, the juice bubbling up around the knife. I lifted a good portioned slice to my plate and I could see right away that the juice wasn’t thickened hardly at all. This pie baking exercise was already starting off on the wrong foot. UGH!

The flavor was good, and the thickened crust definitely was a plus, and one that I will repeat again, but the pie filling was as juicy as ever and not what I intended. Maybe I didn’t put in enough corn starch? Maybe I should have thawed the frozen fruit and drained off as much as the juice as possible? Maybe, maybe, maybe….

Oh well, definitely some things to take away from this pie baking experiment, and nothing to get down on, that’s for sure. Every exercise like this is a learning lesson and makes me that much better the next go-round. You’ll see! Here’s to THE NEXT PIE! Cheers!

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

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5 Responses
  • Robin
    October 26, 2016

    Thinking that thawing the fruit and draining would definitely be a bonus to remove some liquid but your pie looks good to me 🙂 Robin from Knead to Cook

    • David Lawyer
      October 26, 2016

      Thank you Robin. I’m always looking at ways and methods to help improve my consistency, so if you have any tips or advice on methods that have worked for you or someone you know, please share! 🙂

  • Elmer Anderson
    November 17, 2016

    I remember when I was new in baking,it was a mess but now I know how to bake without making mistakes.Proud baker here!

    • David Lawyer
      November 18, 2016

      I STILL make a mess so I’ve still got a way to go! hehehehe

  • Kate McDermott
    December 8, 2016

    Hi David- I just found your blog saying you had had a filling that was too runny. I suggest that you use quick cooking tapioca and make sure that you are seeing steady bubbling coming through the vents. Then let the pie cool. Hopefully you will have better results than with the cornstarch. Kate

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