The Best Approach to Baking
Whether you’re using a raw or cooked filling, it is critical to blind-bake your crust prior to adding the filling. To achieve perfect caramelization through blind-baking, use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of the crust so steam can release and the crust stays flat. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes prior to blind-baking to ensure it keeps its shape.
Once the crust is frozen, line it with parchment paper and add enough rice or dried beans to just reach the top of the crust. Bake the crust in a preheated 350°F oven until the edges begin to brown, and then remove the parchment paper and filler and brush the crust all over with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water). Add the filling and your pie topping of choice (such as a lattice crust, crumble, or closed-top, which requires cutting vents), then return the crust to the oven and continue baking until the filling is fully cooked and the crust golden brown. Failing to blind-bake your pie will cause the crust to be too wet and lose its flakiness.
Bake apple and pear pies until the fruit is soft and tender, and blueberry and cherry pies until the filling is bubbly. Pies with closed-top crusts will need to bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling at the vent hole. Custard pies, including pecan, should be baked until the center of the pie is just set, as they will continue setting as they cool.
After removing your pie from the oven, allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes so the juices have a chance to thicken and set. Then grab the nearest knife, cut yourself a warm slice, and top it off with a scoop of your favorite ice cream or a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream. The holidays have never tasted so good.
Nicole Kaplan is a chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and also an alumnus. She began her career at New York’s Sign of the Dove, then Osteria del Circo. Before joining ICE’s faculty, she served as executive pastry chef of Del Posto, the Plaza Hotel, and Eleven Madison Park.