Without thickeners (and chilling), fruit pies can end up soupy and impossible to slice. Here are some options to rescue even the thinnest of fillings. Which one you use is a matter of personal preference.
- Cornstarch makes for a shiny, glossy filling. A little goes a long way because it has twice the gelling power of flour.
- Flour thickens nicely but leaves more of a matte finish. You’ll need to use twice as much as you would with cornstarch.
- Quick-cooking tapioca (such as Minute Tapioca) and tapioca flour give a glossy, clear finish, and sometimes a little stippling if you use larger tapioca granules or if they’re not softened enough before heating. It’s made from yuca (not yucca, which is a different plant), the starchy root vegetable also known as cassava or manioc.
- Potato starch behaves like cornstarch and is usually used at Passover in lieu of flour.
- Instant ClearJel, a cornstarch derivative often used in canned pie fillings, has strong holding power, and unlike other thickeners, it won’t break down if the pie is frozen.
- Arrowroot thickens too quickly for baked pie fillings.
How much thickener do you need? It depends: Apples and blueberries have lots of pectin—a natural thickener— so they tend to need less added starch. Frozen fruits and those that are particularly ripe and juicy require more thickener because they’re wetter to begin with. Open-faced and lattice-topped pies need less because, when there’s no top crust, more liquid evaporates during baking.
Whichever you choose, stir it in with the fruit and sugar for even distribution before baking, and you (and your pie!) will be all set. —SandyG
This article was first published in the June/July/August 2015 issue of Allrecipes magazine.