Pie Troubleshooting Guide

Unworkable dough? Soggy crust? Learn how to fix–and prevent–common pie problems.

Blueberry Pie

Photo by justamom

Problems and Solutions

The dough cracks when I try to roll it
The dough is either too dry or too cold. If it seems to be crumbling apart, work a few sprinkles of water into it–a squeeze bottle works well–but try to handle it as little as possible. If it merely cracks at the edges when you run the rolling pin over it, it probably just needs to warm up a little. Allow it to sit on the counter for a few minutes, but don’t let it get too warm, or the layers of fat will melt together and your crust will not be flaky.

The dough sticks to the rolling pin
Chill the dough before trying to roll it out. Lightly flour the countertop and the flattened ball of dough. Keep dusting the pastry lightly on both sides as you roll. You don’t want to work in more flour, but you can always brush off excess from the dough. Pastry cloths and rolling pin covers are also available. These are made from thin machine-washable cotton, and they will help prevent sticking dough; be sure to lightly flour the cloth and the cover before using them. You can also roll the dough out between sheets of waxed paper.

The crust doesn’t brown on the bottom
Cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil, and place the pie on the bottom oven rack. Begin baking at a relatively high temperature (425 to 450 degrees F/220 to 230 degrees C), then reduce it after 20 minutes or so. The initial high temperature will help the crust to brown, and reducing the temperature will allow the filling to cook thoroughly before the crust burns. Even better: invest in a baking stone. Bake the pie–on a baking sheet to prevent spills–directly on the hot stone.

My crust is soggy
Brush the bottom crust with beaten egg white or heated jelly before pouring in your filling. Or try partially or fully baking crust before adding the filling. Partially baking the bottom crust can be a challenge if you’re making a double-crust pie, but it can be done–you just won’t get a good seal between the top and bottom crusts. VIDEO: How to Fix a Soggy Pie Bottom

The crust is too pale
Increase the oven temperature. You can also brush the top crust with beaten egg or milk for a golden, glossy appearance. If your crust recipe contains vinegar or lemon juice, this could be the culprit as well: these ingredients are used to make the crust tender, but they can also inhibit browning. Counteract it by adding about a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt to your flour before mixing in the fat.

I pre-baked my pie crust, and it came out shrunken, puffy, and misshapen
Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator both before and after rolling it out. Also be sure that you never pull or stretch the dough when fitting it into the pan. Use a fork to poke the crust in several places to allow steam to escape without forcing the crust to puff up. If you’re baking a custard pie where the filling is baked in the crust (as opposed to a cream pie, where the filling is cooked on the stovetop then poured into a pre-baked crust) holes in the crust allow the custard to seep through the holes. (You can save extra dough when rolling out the crust and use it to patch cracks and holes.)

My pumpkin pie cracked in the center
Custard pies–including pecan pies–need delicate handling. A too-hot oven or over-baking are the most common causes for cracking. Don’t let the filling puff up or “soufflé,” and don’t bake the pie so long that the filling is completely set in the center. VIDEO: How to Fix a Cracked Pie. See our tips for Pumpkin Pies and Custard Pies.

My fruit pie is runny
One way to ensure your filling is thick enough is to pre-cook it. Take half to two-thirds of the fruit-sugar-starch mixture, and bring it to a boil. Simmer the filling for at least one minute for cornstarch or tapioca, and three minutes for flour-thickened pies. Remove from heat, and stir in the remaining raw fruit. This gives you a thicker filling that still contains chunks of uncooked fruit for texture.

Also, be sure the pie has cooled completely before you slice it–the filling needs time to set properly.

Pie Tips From The Experts

1. Keep ingredients cold.

  • Butter should be kept refrigerated until using; vegetable shortening, like Crisco®, can be stored in the freezer without freezing solid.
  • Add ice cubes to a measuring cup and fill it with more water than you’ll need; add cold water to the pastry mixture a tablespoon at a time.

2. Refrigerate the dough after every step.

  • Chill dough immediately after mixing so that the flour can absorb all the liquid.
  • Chill it after rolling it out and lining the pie pan, to relax the dough and prevent it from shrinking in the oven.
  • For double-crust pies, roll out the top crust and refrigerate it on a flat plate or parchment-lined sheet pan while you prepare the pie filling.

3. Handle the dough as little as possible.
Try to patch cracks in your dough rather than re-rolling the crust. Over-handling makes the pastry tough.

4. Use as little flour as possible when rolling out the dough.
The pastry can absorb extra flour, which will also make it tough. After rolling out the dough, brush off loose flour with a pastry brush or gently brush it with the edge of a clean kitchen towel.

5. Bake plain crusts or filled pies in a hot oven to set the crust’s structure.
Most recipes call for a high initial temperature and then a reduced oven temperature for the rest of the baking time.

6. Vent double-crust pies.
Cut slits in the top crust or use decorative cutters. This allows steam to escape, which is especially important for fruits with high moisture content.

7. Use aluminum foil or “pie shields” to protect the crust.
Loosely fold two-inch-wide strips of foil around the edges of the crust to keep it from getting too dark during the long bake time. VIDEO: How to Fix a Burnt Pie Crust.

8. Bake pies on the lowest oven rack on a preheated sheet pan.
This helps prevent soggy bottom crusts. A rimmed pan also prevents juicy fruit pies from bubbling over onto your oven floor.

9. Bake your pies long enough.
Fruit pies, in order to thicken properly, need to be hot enough for the filling to boil. Custard pies are done when a knife tip inserted an inch from the center comes out clean (the center will firm up as the pie cools).

10. Let pies cool before serving.
The filling needs time to set or else the pie will be runny. Fruit pies should cool at least four hours before slicing; custard pies should cool for two hours before serving or being refrigerated. To reheat pie, cover the pie loosely with foil and warm in a preheated 300 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes before serving.

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