Cooking for Daily Living

Pie Tips

Pie is most simply defined as that little three letter dessert whose light has never burned out. No matter what we do—contrive new crusts, conjure up new fillings, serve it hot or serve it cold, it still comes out p.i.e. pie.

I have tried all the pie hints I’ve ever heard of, including the paper cone in the middle, wet muslin strips around the edge, tried thickening the fillings before pouring into the crust. I’ve tried thickening with tapioca, cornstarch and corn flakes. I’ve tried lattice tops and pre-baked bottoms and swearing off pie altogether. None of them really worked.

Most new cooks and a lot of experienced ones feel that pies are just naturally unruly. They run all over the oven. They sit and sulk and get soggy on the bottom, while they brown too much on the top, or maybe not at all.

So I worked out these truths “by the sweat of my brow,” (no better way to say it). Combined with a few practice sessions I believe they will help you to make pies that come out no less than elegant.


 My Findings:

A lot of potentially good pies suffer from under baking. A nice brown crust does not necessarily mean that the filling is done. I am of the "old fashioned school of the pie", and like Granny, I prefer flour as a thickening agent. If there is raw flour in a fruit or berry pie, it came out of the oven too soon. If no raw flour is evident, and you still have to eat it with a spoon, the pie could have used a little more thickening and possibly a little longer baking time. I have found no hard and fast rules for measurements since fresh, canned and frozen fruits differ in juice content.

It is safe and sensible to bake fruit and berry pies an hour—sometimes more—until the juice boils up clear and syrupy. I start pies at 400°F for 15 minutes (bottom rack) then lower temperature to 350°F til juice begins to bubble. Finish at 300°F. Pies won’t boil over as badly if cooking is slow and easy.


Putting Fruit or Berry Pies Together


Line pie plate without stretching the dough and flute the rim (quite high), as if making a one crust pie before trimming edge. Mix the flour for thickening with half of the sugar, and sprinkle a thick layer of this on the bottom crust before putting in the uncooked filling. This gives the bottom crust a chance to begin baking before it gets a soaking.

Sprinkle remaining flour mix on top of fruit, then remaining sugar, lots of butter and specified seasonings.

Someone said “Necessity is the mother of invention." Consequently, during World War II and sugar rationing, I found that a drizzling of white corn syrup, 1/3 to 1/2 cupful, adds body to fruit pies, with a decrease of an equal amount of sugar, and the addition of a little more thickening. I still do it.

Roll a smaller crust and trim roughly the size of the pie plate top. Brush on thin coating of milk or soft margarine, and make slits—your own design—and lay carefully on top of the filling. Let it wrinkle. With fingers or the back of a spoon, gently push the edge to the inside the fluted rim. This allows the juice to bubble up inside the pie, instead of the bottom of the oven. This top dressing makes a crispy, glazed crust—unless of course, you happened to get the shortening in lengthwise!