While pie is one of those desserts that's great any time of year, holiday season is filled with constant occasions for homemade pies.
Whether you're making a classic, fruit-filled apple pie, or a custardy pumpkin pie, we want to make sure your Thanksgiving dinner ends with the most delicious slice possible. Here are five common pie-making mistakes, plus our best tips on how to avoid them.
1. Using the wrong variety of apple.
Just because your favorite apple variety is perfect for eating out of hand, doesn't necessarily mean it's the best choice when it comes to making pie. Certain apple varieties, as well as overripe fruit, will break down quite a lot during baking, leaving you with mushy pie filling.
Follow this tip: Choose your apples with care. The best apples for baking provide a nice blend of sweet-tart flavor, and hold their shape well under high heat. Some of the best varieties for baking include Cortland, Empire, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisp. It's also nice to use a blend of apples to vary the taste and texture of the filling.
2. Not chilling the pie dough.
Nothing beats tender, flaky pie crust, and there's one key to making this happen every single time: chilling your pie dough. This step is important for two reasons: it re-solidifies the butter, and allows also the gluten to relax and deactivate. Not taking time to rest and chill the dough will result in pie crust that's tough and more likely to shrink during baking.
Follow this tip: When making pie crust, keeping it cold is the rule to live by, starting with using cold butter to prepare the dough. After making the dough, divide it into two equal portions (assuming you're making a double-crust pie), form it into disks, cover each with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Then chill the dough again after it's been rolled and placed in the pie dish before filling it. Also consider popping your fully assembled pie in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes before putting it in the oven.
3. Not using egg wash.
This last little step before the pie goes into the oven is so easy to overlook. Skipping this is also one of my pet peeves when it comes to double-crusted pie. Again, it's a small step, but it really affects the appearance of the pie. Egg wash gives the pie crust a nice golden-brown color and beautiful, glossy sheen.
Follow this tip: Whisk together 1 egg, plus 1 tablespoon of cream or milk, then brush over the top layer of dough once the pie is completely assembled.
4. Not pre-baking your pie crust (when making a custard-based pie).
If you've got plans to bake a pumpkin pie, or any other custard-based pie, you must pre-bake the crust. This step is also known as blind baking, and requires that the bottom crust be partially baked before the filling is added. Skip this and you'll find yourself with a soggy, under-baked pie crust that's totally inedible.
Follow this tip: Blind baking is necessary when making a custard pie, like pumpkin, or when the pie filling doesn't get baked.
5. Overcooking (and cracking) your pumpkin pie.
Have you ever taken a perfect-looking pumpkin pie out of the oven, only to have the center crack once the pie cools? This is the result of overcooking. Even though the pie might not looked overcooked when it comes out of the oven, residual heat continues to cook the dessert, and the overcooked eggs are the cause of the crack.
Follow this tip: Remove the pie from the oven as soon as the filling sets, but before it completely firms up.
What are your best tips for making a great pie?
(Image credits: Faith Durand; Nealey Dozier; Emma Christensen)