KITCHEN TIP | BLIND BAKING A PIE SHELL

Pies with especially wet fillings like quiches and custard pies as well as pies to be filled with pre-cooked fillings (such as chocolate cream pie) require the pie shell to be baked prior to filling. You'll often see this referred to as "blind baking". 

The process is pretty straightforward and simple and only requires some advanced planning and extra time worked into your baking process.

GENERAL PIE DOUGH TIPS

If your dough has been refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes to make it more workable. Frozen dough should be thawed in the refrigerator over night then at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. 

If you start rolling your dough and it cracks, let it rest longer to warm up a bit. If your dough seems too soft, pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes. 

TO BLIND BAKE A PIE SHELL

Roll your pie dough out into a circle about 1/8" thick on a well floured surface. Fit into your pie plate.

Using kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife, trim the edge of the pie dough to be about 1" to 1.5" bigger than the outer rim of your pie plate. Tuck the overhanging pie dough under so that there is a double layer of dough at the edge.

Crimp the edge all the way around using the thumb and forefinger on your left hand and thumb on your right hand (or vice versa if you're a lefty).

 

Using a fork, "dock" or pierce the pie shell all over the bottom and sides. The holes created allow steam to escape and will help prevent the pie dough from puffing up as it bakes. 

Refrigerate your crimped and docked pie shell for at least an hour. Don't be tempted to skip this step - it is crucial to the pie shell maintaining its shape and lovely crimped edge when baked.

 

Line your pie shell with parchment paper and fill to the top with dried beans, rice or ceramic pie weights. (Beans or rice can be used over and over again as pie weights. Let cool after use then store in a jar for the next time you bake a pie.)

Bake pie shell in a 350F oven for 20-25 minutes.* Carefully remove the parchment paper and the weights. Return the pie shell to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before filling.

*Or bake according to your specific recipe. 

 

PRESERVE THE HARVEST | FRUIT PIES

The final weeks of Summer, when harvests are their peak, are the ideal time to plan for the wintry months ahead and preserve fruits and vegetables. 

Your "future-self" will thank you come January when your pantry is filled with jams and sauces and your freezer is stuffed with berries, corn and even dessert.

With a 20 pound case of Smallwood Farms peaches in my kitchen needing to be dealt with, I was looking for ways to preserve them beyond just slicing and freezing. 

Thankfully, I remembered how my mother-in-law deals with the hundreds of pounds of apples she harvests from her yard in Upstate New York. In addition to all the applesauce and apple muffins and apple crisps, she makes apple pie filling that can easily be pulled from the freezer and slipped into a pie shell months later. The ingenious part to her method is how she freezes the pie filling.

Here's what she does::

After mixing up the fruit, sugar, spices, etc. as you would if baking the pie that day, pour the mixture into a parchment paper lined pie plate (try not to pour too much accumulated liquid in). 

Layer another sheet of parchment paper on top, secure with a rubber band and freeze (still in the pie plate) until just solid.

Remove the pie plate from the freezer and slip the frozen mass of fruit out of the pan.  Wrap in additional parchment then foil or newspaper and slip into a freezer bag.

When you're ready for a fruit pie this winter, prepare your bottom crust as you normally would and fit it into the same pie dish you originally froze your fruit filling in. Place the unwrapped frozen pie filling (no need to defrost!) into the crust and top a second crust or crumb topping. Bake according to the original recipe's instructions. Then, thank your "summer-self" for thinking ahead!