The Best Tip You Probably Missed in Chez Panisse Desserts

published Apr 22, 2015
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(Image credit: Dana Velden)

Lindsey Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts was first published in 1985, but it continues to be a relevant and beloved source for me today. From the Rose Geranium Pound Cake to the Pear Caramel Sauce to the world’s best Almond Cake, this book is constantly being pulled from my shelf and taken into the kitchen. Sometimes, I page through it just to enjoy the wonderful illustrations by Wayne Thiebaud and the beautiful design and typeface.

One tip that really stands out for me, though, is Shere’s method for parbaking a pie or tart shell that forgoes the need for those pesky weights.

I’m not sure why I find it a real bother to line and fill a pie shell with weights in order to keep it from puffing up in the oven and losing shape when I parbake it. It’s got something to do with fiddling with the beans or weights: finding a place to store them in my already-crammed cupboards, the way they always spill when I try to remove them from the shell. Sometimes I would skip them altogether, which usually ended in a sad, melted-looking crust puddled in the bottom of the tin.

So I was thrilled when I discovered Shere’s no-bean method!

Lindsey Shere’s No-Weights Method for Pie Crust

You simply line the unbaked shell with aluminum foil and freeze it for about 15 minutes. (Shere recommends freezing the shell as a way to help relax the dough and prevent shrinkage.) Then bake the shell in a preheated 375°F oven for about 20 minutes, or until the shell is set and dry on the bottom. Remove the pastry and turn the oven down to 350°F. Take the foil off of the shell and return it to the oven to brown, about another 15 minutes or so.

It’s important that the shell is tightly lined with the foil so that it conforms to the concave shape of the shell. It’s this tight contact that helps to prevent the shell from puffing up. I sometimes find that it helps to chill the already-formed shell for five minutes so that I don’t damage the crust when I apply the foil. Also, be sure to prick the bottom of the shell before lining it.

It’s not unusual for me to make a double batch of pie dough, thus making it possible to keep the extra foil-wrapped shell in the freezer (wrapped again in plastic) so the next time I need a single crust, it’s an even easier event: I just unwrap the plastic and pop the shell into the preheated oven.

Thanks, Lindsey Shere!

Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere