Warm apple pie, chocolate cream pie, fresh strawberry pie — who can resist? Making a top-notch pie is simpler than you think. We'll show you how to assemble and bake a pie, from crust to filling to topping. Don't feel overwhelmed; we're here to help you learn, step by step. Because once you nail it, there's no better dessert than the classic American pie.
Want to make the perfect crust? See our pie crust guide.
Start with the crust
Roll the pastry into a circle large enough to overhang the edge of your pie pan by about 1/2" all around, then crimp it: i.e., shape the edge in a decorative way. Add filling as directed in your recipe.
Want to bake your crust first, then add filling afterwards? See directions for pre-baking (blind-baking) pie crust.
Divide the pastry into two pieces: 2/3 for the bottom crust, 1/3 for the top crust. Roll the larger piece of pastry into a circle big enough to line the pan, with about 1/2" of overhang. Roll the remaining piece of pastry large enough to cover the top of the pie, with just a bit of overhang. Once you've filled the pie, squeeze the bottom and top crusts together, then crimp them decoratively. Make several vents in the top of the crust, for steam to escape.
Leave the crust plain, or embellish it as follows:
- To enhance browning, brush the crust with milk or cream;
- For a shiny, deep-brown crust, brush with a beaten egg;
- For a shiny, golden-brown crust, brush with a beaten egg white;
- For crunch and glitter, brush with the liquid of your choice, then top with sparkling white sugar.
- For extra flavor, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
Pick your pan with care.
Most pie recipes are written to fit a 9" or 10" wide, 1 1/2"-deep pie pan. While a 1 1/4"-deep pan is barely acceptable, a 1"-deep pan won't be large enough to hold a typical amount of filling, which is about 4 to 10 cups (depending on filling type).
If you're following a recipe for deep-dish fruit pie, one calling for more than 8 cups fruit, use a pan that's at least 1 1/2" deep, preferably 2".
Material matters, too
Pie with a pale, soggy bottom crust is usually the result of choosing a pan that doesn't conduct heat well. Darker-colored metal pie pans tend to become hotter, and transfer heat better, than stoneware, ceramic, or glass pans, and therefore brown crust more quickly.
Stoneware or ceramic pie pans do have an advantage, however: their beauty. For Thanksgiving, a dinner party, or any time you're seeking a fancier touch, choose a handsome colored or painted ceramic pie dish instead of utilitarian metal. And clear glass dishes have a "clear advantage" as well: you can peer underneath to see when the pie's bottom crust is sufficiently browned.
Thickening fruit pie can be tricky. The juiciness of the fruit you choose will determine the amount of thickener to use, but it's never a sure thing; there are just too many variables, even within each fruit (think storage apples vs. fresh, juicy apples).
If you consistently make runny fruit pies, try this: prepare fruit pie filling by combining fruit and sugar - with or without thickener - and placing the mixture in a saucepan. Cook the fruit on top of the stove until it's about three-quarters of the way to the consistency you like. Cool the filling to room temperature. Spoon it into the crust, top with the second crust, and bake the pie as directed.
Freezing pie before baking.
Take advantage of summer's fruits and berries by assembling pies, then freezing them to bake later. See our post Freeze and bake fruit pie: the fastest way to fresh-baked. Note: Don't try this with custard or cream pies; they'll become watery.
Enjoy some of our favorite fruit pie recipes:
Cream pies are usually made by spooning a fully prepared filling into a pre-baked crust. They're often topped with whipped cream just before serving: the cream helps balance their sweetness while also offering an elegant presentation. Try these cream pie recipes:
Custard pies are based on eggs, milk, sugar, and often some other ingredient for flavor - such as brown sugar for a butterscotch pie. The uncooked filling is poured into an unbaked or partially baked crust, then the pie is baked. The most familiar and popular pie of this type is a Thanksgiving classic: pumpkin.
A custard-type pie will register about 165°F at its center when it's done. If you don't have a thermometer, stick a table knife into the filling about 2" from its edge; it should come out clean, even though the center of the pie still looks a bit jiggly. Over-baking custard pies will make them watery, so pay close attention toward the end of the baking time.
When America's Pennsylvania Dutch first enclosed sweetened fruit in a crisp crust back in the 18th century, pie transitioned from main-dish to dessert. But thankfully, savory pies remain a mealtime favorite today.
Tarts are distinguished from pie mainly by height (they're shallow), shape (they can be rectangular or square, as well as round) and presentation. While a slice of pie is often comfortingly homely, spilling its filling onto the dessert plate, a tart is usually military-looking in its neatness. In addition, tarts are often richer than pies, often incorporating a layer of pastry cream, or consisting entirely of cream.
- A typical pie recipe will have you start the pie in a hot oven, then reduce the baking temperature after about 15 minutes. Why the hot start? For best flakiness, it's important to get the flour/water flakes to set before the fat melts. A hot oven right up front helps accomplish that.
- Place your pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The baking sheet makes the pie easier to handle; the parchment catches any potential spills.
- Put the baking sheet on your oven's lowest rack; this will help brown the pie's bottom crust.
In case of leftovers
Fruit pie: Store under a cake cover or pie cover at room temperature for several days. If you don't have a cover, place plastic wrap over the pie, and store at room temperature. Freeze, well-wrapped, for longer storage.
Custard or cream pie: Cover with plastic, and store in the refrigerator for several days.
Alas, baking a pie isn't always "easy as pie!" Why is your berry pie so runny? How can you tell when your pumpkin pie is done? And what's the best way to freeze a pie: baked, or unbaked? Got a pie baking question? Contact us: we can help.
And we're not just pie perfectionists. Our seasoned staff of bakers knows bread and pizza, cookies and cake, scones and biscuits and muffins. If you can't figure out why your cupcakes crumble or your sourdough isn't sour enough, we can help. We're available via phone, email, or live chat 7 days a week.
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