Ever wondered how professional chefs are able to make a perfect pie every time? What’s their secret? Is it magic? No, not really. Does it involve alcohol and a cheese grater? Yes, it just might! In order to save you years in culinary school, we asked our Corporate Director of Culinary Excellence, John Beardsley and Emily Newmark, our in-house Research and Development Chef, to share their five favorite pie-baking secrets so you can bake like the pros.
1. Build a Stable Foundation
Creating a perfectly flaky pie crust is like mixing concrete — you have to have the right ratio! Use the 3-2-1 rule of three parts flour, two parts fat and one part water — plus, a little salt and sugar — and you’ve got a dough that will be a solid, tasty base for your pie.
2. Use Cold Butter
When creating your dough, you don’t want the butter melting in too quickly with the rest of your ingredients, lest your dough becomes too tough or too much like a tart crust. The best way to ensure your butter stays stiff is to freeze it, then use a cheese grater to add in perfectly portioned pieces into the dough.
3. Booze Is Best
Gluten is activated by water, and too much gluten can make your dough chewy. To cut down on gluten, use ⅓ vodka and ⅔ water for a softer, tastier dough. You can even experiment with other alcohols like tequila — and even beer — to see how your dough reacts and tastes.
4. Weigh Down Your Dough
If you’re doing a “blind bake” — baking your crust first without the filling inside — be sure to weigh down your crust for the first 20 minutes of baking. Do this by coating it with parchment paper and filling it with dry beans, pie weights or even coins, so that you have enough space for the filling. After 20 minutes, remove the weights and continue baking.
5. Fix Your Filling
For a fantastic filling, be sure your mix isn’t too loose or watery. You can add in cornstarch flour or tapioca flour to hold together your filling and help it bind while baking. Let’s focus on two seasonal filling favorites; apple and pumpkin.
Making an Apple Pie?
Use a combination of both Granny Smith apples and Gala apples. The softer Gala apples will break apart and hold together the sturdier chunks of Granny Smith apples, creating a filling with a more robust, varied flavor profile.
Making a Pumpkin Pie?
Believe it or not, the best pumpkin pies aren’t made with pumpkins at all! For a delicious pumpkin pie, use butternut squash. In fact, the “pumpkin pie” premade filling you buy at most stores is mostly butternut squash anyway!
Start your journey towards better bakes with a few of our favorite recipes:
According to our experts, the most important part of pie baking is — don’t rush! Spend less time shopping, and more time baking, with safe, convenient Curbside Pickup or Delivery.