If you’re intimidated by the idea of making pie from scratch, here’s expert advice from Nick Malgieri, author of many baking books and director of the baking program at the Institute of Culinary Education, and Marc Haymon, Associate Dean of Baking and Pastry Arts at the Culinary Institute of America.
1. The dough is so sticky it’s impossible to roll out.
Flour your work surface and rolling pin and dust the top of the dough with flour before you start rolling it out. If it’s sticky, add pinches of flour to the dough and work surface. But stick with pinches. Resist the temptation to dump in half a cupful of flour since you’ll wind up with dough that’s way too dry
2. The crust cracks as it’s being rolled out.
Be sure to chill the dough for at least an hour before rolling it out. Add water by the teaspoon to dough that is too dry, and keep it moving. Roll it in all directions, picking it up and turning it slightly to prevent sticking.
3. The crust is drooping over the filling.
Give your crust a decorative fluted edge. Hold the thumb and forefinger of your left hand together on the outside of the crust where it meets the pan. Gently push on the dough with your right hand, pinching it with the forefinger of your right hand as you go. Continue doing this all around the edges of the crust.
4. The recipe said to prebake the crust, and it shrank in the oven.
Don’t over mix the dough, which not only causes shrinkage but also causes a crust to be tough. Letting the pie shell chill out for an hour in the refrigerator before you bake it also helps prevents shrinkage.
5. The filling tastes bland.
If you sample the fruit filling before baking and it’s flat, adding a little lemon juice can help boost the flavor profile. For a custard pie, using a dash of an extract can revive the flavor.
6. The crust burned before the pie was done.
Always bake pies on the lowest oven shelf so the bottom crust gets good heat, and use a glass pan so you can easily see if the bottom crust is getting too dark. Generally, if you place the pie on the lowest oven, the top crust will bake to perfection. But if it starts to look too dark, cover the pie with foil for the remainder of the baking time.
7. My lemon meringue pie was “weeping” after a few hours (meaning the meringue got watery.)
Weeping happens in the presence of too much moisture. Put a very thin layer of bread crumbs, cake crumbs, or finely ground almonds between the filling and the meringue, and they’ll absorb excess moisture.
8. My crust was anything but flaky.
Make sure your butter or shortening is well chilled before you incorporate it into the flour, and use ice-cold water so the butter doesn’t melt as you mix the dough. Add a couple of ice cubes to the water before you add it to the flour-butter mixture.
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