Solving the Pie Puzzle



Pie Crust   is one of the great kitchen discoveries of all time. It is amazing that combining flour, salt, fat and water can produce a flaky, fork-tender, golden pastry. Pie crust appeared in America long before the Stars and Stripes flew from a flagpole. The early pies had more crust than filling because pioneer wives needed to stretch ingredients. Pies were also made in a round, shallow pan in order to economize. When the orchards and berry patches produced fruit, plump and juicy American pies became plentiful.

appie1.jpg (13892 bytes)Gradually,  each American region developed their own favorite pie. New England had pumpkin, the South had pecan, and the Pennsylvania Dutch had custards teamed with fruit. Once, the Connecticut colony did not celebrate Thanksgiving until the ships brought the necessary molasses for their pumpkin pies. No wonder New Englanders always include pumpkin pie for their Thanksgiving dinner. Pies have won their way into our culture and our sentiments. Grandmothers often use “Sweetie Pie” as a nickname for their grandchildren. Cowboys returning from a long day in the saddle called the chuck wagon spread the “pie box”. Some young men still refer to their home as “the pie house” S a tribute to their mothers’ baking skills. Men even to this day still request pie for their birthday treat instead of the traditional cake.


This Method   is fast and efficient, but it’s speed needs to be treated with caution. Use 1-2 second pulses rather than letting the machine run. Have all fats ice cold or frozen. Combine the dry ingredients in the food processor; process for 10 seconds. Cut fat into ” chunks and scatter over dry ingredients. Use pulse bursts until fat is the size of peas. Drizzle ice cold water over top. Pulse until dough begins to clump into small balls. If the dough adheres when squeezed, it is ready to use.


Baked Pie & Tart Shells:  Place on cookie sheet and freeze (don’t wrap). When frozen, wrap or place in freezer bags and return to the freezer. To use, unwrap and heat in moderate oven (375 degrees F.) for 10 minutes. May also thaw unwrapped at room temperature.

Unbaked Pie & Tart Shells:   Freeze dough in the pie pan. When solid, pry it out of pan and freeze. May stack with waxed paper crumpled between crusts for easier separation. Package in freezer bags and return to freezer. For single crust, unwrap and bake in very hot oven (450 degrees F.) for 5 minutes. Prick crust with fork and continue baking until browned (apx. 15 minutes).

Storage: The recommended storage time for unbaked pastry is two months. For baked pastry it is 4 to 6 months.


Recommended Varieties:    Apple, peach,, blueberry, mince, strawberry, or rhubarb freeze well. Cherry pie may be frozen only after baking.

Unbaked:  Do not make slits in the top crust. After pies are frozen, cover with a second pie plate (protect from crushing). Wrap with moisture proof film and return to the freezer. Use within 2 months.

Baked:  Cool baked pies to room temperature. Wrap with moisture proof film and return to the freezer. Use within 4 months for highest quality.

Thawing:  If frozen unbaked, remove wrapping and make slits in top crust. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 10 minutes, cut vents in top, bake for 20 minutes longer. Reduce heat to 350 and bake until juices bubble and crust is golden brown. If frozen baked, remove wrapping and let thaw. Bake at 350 degrees F. until knife inserted comes out warm (apx. 15 minutes)



  1. Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or two knives (scissor-fashion) until mixture forms coarse crumbs. To avoid a hard-tough crust, do not over handle dough.

  2. Sprinkle ice cold water over crumb mixture a tablespoon at a time. Toss quickly with a fork, mixing lightly. Too much water will make dough sticky and hard to manage. Too little makes the dough crack when rolling out.

  3. Stop mixing when mixture still looks crumbly but is moist enough to hold together under slight pressure. Gently gather dough together and shape into a ball. To avoid tough crust, do not over handle dough.

  4. Place ball on a lightly floured surface. Flatten and roll out from center to edge (in all four directions) using light, even strokes. Sprinkle with flour (top & bottom) to keep dough free from work surface.

  5. If bits of dough gather on the rolling pin, remove immediately so they don’t tear holes in dough when rolling. Re-flour rolling pin and continue shaping.

  6. To transfer the shaped pastry dough to the pie plate, wrap dough loosely around a rolling pin. Place over pie plate and unroll. May also fold dough in half and place gently over pie plate. Unfold and fit loosely in plate.

  7. Ease pastry into bottom and side of pie plate. To avoid shrinkage, make sure not to stretch or pull dough. Pat dough to ease out air pockets underneath.

  8. Trim pastry even with pie plate rim with sharp knife; add filling. Top crust should extend ” over bottom and be perforated for steam to escape; crimp edges. To repair tears, moisten edges with a little water and press firmly together.

  9. For single crust pie, use fork to generously prick bottom and side of crust. This prevents crust from puffing during baking. May also bake the crust between two pie pans without pricking (second pan holds crust in place).


Sealing Crusts:  Dab water or milk on edge of bottom crust. Add filling; place top crust ( inch overlap) on top and flute edge together.

Cracked Crust:  To avoid this problem, make sure the top crust is perforated enough to let steam escape. | Brittle Crust: The pastry was either rolled too thin or too much shortening was used.

Soft or Doughy Crust:  Used too much water, rolled too thick or baked in too slow an oven.

Shrunken Crust:  This is caused by either stretching dough before placing in pan or not baking in hot enough oven.

Bottom Crust Uncooked:   To avoid, must place on lower rack of oven. The filling may be too watery or pie was baked in too slow an oven.

Meringue:  To avoid small drops of liquid from forming on the top crust, make sure that the meringue touches the crust at all points. Also, use the correct proportions of sugar to egg white (2 tablespoons sugar/egg white). Bake in slow oven (300 degrees F.) for 20 minutes.

Soaked Crusts:  Fruit S brush lower crust with melted butter before filling. Bake in hot oven (450 degrees F.) for the first fifteen minutes and use a thicker filling. Custard S Slightly reduce water, chill pastry for an hour before adding the filling and bake in hot oven (450 degrees F.) for the first 10 minutes of baking.

Filling Overflows:   Oven too hot, lack of holes in top crust; edges not sealed, or too much filling.

Cream Pies Crack:  Too much starch in filling, filling is tough (lacks fat) or uses too many eggs.

Egg White:  For a glistening, sugary crust, brush slightly beaten egg white on top crust before baking; sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Evaporated Milk:  For a good crust, brush top crust before baking with evaporated milk; sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Butter, Margarine or Shortening:   For browning and flavor, melt fat and brush on top crust before baking.


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