- Caroline B.
- Saturday, January 02, 2021
Baking isn’t supposed to make you cry, but it happens to the best of us.
Let's say you find an amazing recipe. You go to the store to buy the highest quality ingredients: organic, cage-free, all natural, etc. You even get the 2 lb. bag of pecans, and we all know how expensive those are. After carefully prepping your creation; you put your dessert in the oven with only a hope and a prayer.
The timer goes off and you tentatively use the oven light to peak at your glorious creation. And the sight is... well, devastating. (Cue the tears if you burned those pecans after the grocery stores have already closed). From soggy crusts to poor volume and uneven shapes, anything can and will go wrong at some point when baking. And with the luck we've been having in 2020, we don’t need to take any chances.
In this three-part series, we will examine some common baking mistakes and the solutions on how best to remedy them. First up, pie mistakes and solutions.
1. The bottom crust is soggy or raw.
The pie was not baked long enough. Bake that pie for the correct time folks!
Oven temperature is too low. Make sure the oven temperature is hot enough and that there is enough bottom heat. Place the pie in the lower half of the oven if necessary.
A hot filling was added to an unbaked crust. Allow fillings to cool to room temperature before filling unbaked pie crusts.
The wrong type of pie dough was used. Use a mealy pie dough when making fruit or custard pies because it resists sogginess. The baked dough will absorb less excess moisture from filling. To make a mealy pie dough, blend the fat more thoroughly into the flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal before adding any liquid. The shortening makes the crust very tender because less gluten develops.
2. My pie crust is tough.
There was too much overmixing. Overmixing develops the gluten, the proteins present in wheat, and that is not what we want for pies. Pie crusts should always be tender.
Too much water was added. Liquid is required, but just enough to keep the dough together. Too much liquid develops too much gluten.
The dough was handled too much. When handling the dough, make sure the dough stays cold. If you notice the dough is warming up and the butter is melting, put it back in the fridge for 15 minutes. Also make sure not to rework the trimmings and scraps back into the dough. Too much rolling and reworking will make the dough tough.
3. My pie crust shrunk in the pan.
The dough was overworked. In addition to making the crust tough, overworking the dough can cause shrinkage. When making pie or pastry dough, only mix the ingredients enough until it barely comes together.
The dough was stretched when placed in the pan. Allow the dough to fall into the pan instead of pulling and stretching.
The dough wasn’t allowed to rest. After putting the dough in the pan, chill dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.
Not enough shortening and too much water was added to the dough. This allows too much gluten to develop and causes your pie crust to shrink. Use a blend of butter and hydrogenated shortening. You can use all butter, but it tends to be a bit more expensive and since butter melts so easily it makes the dough harder to work with.
In the next part of this series, we will tackle some cookie mistakes and solutions. Stay tuned!
-Friberg, B. (2002). The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry, 4th Edition. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
-Gisslen, W. (2005). Professional Baking. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.
-Labensky, S. R. (2005). On Baking: A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson-Prentice Hall.