Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Necessity: How to “Blind Bake” a Pie Crust

I had a vision that a man came unto us on a flaming pie, and he said, ‘You are Beatles with an A.’ And so we were. – John Lennon

Old-fashioned custard pie should have "blind baked" crust. If not the bottom crust
will be undercooked, taste of flour and be soggy – without fail.
Blind Baking (also called “baking blind” and "pre-baking") is the process of baking a pie crust or other pastry without any filling. This is for single crust pies only, never pies with crust tops (double crust).

Blind baking is necessary for several different reasons. The most obvious scenario is when you are filling your pies with fillings that do not require baking such as custard, cream, chocolate, or lemon. It is also useful when you are using fillings that take shorter baking times than would ordinarily cook a pie crust to flaky perfection or very wet fillings.

Never, never, never over-work your crust or it won't be flaky.
One prime example of the latter is quiche. Quiche bakes for the usual length of time as a regular custard pie (about 30 minutes) so one would think all would be well, but it is not. Baking quiche in a "raw" crust always results in a soggy bottom. Some people like soggy bottom crust. I'm not that big of a fan.

Quiche crust is much better when blind baked. If not the end result will be undercooked, taste of raw flour and be wet and non-flaky. What shame you will have brought on yourself!!!

Another tip to further prevent soggy crust is to brush the inside with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water) after it has been blind baked. Then return the crust to the oven until the egg wash is dry and shiny, which is about 3-5 minutes.

This technique creates a “seal” so the filling doesn’t soak down into the crust (as much as usual…). This is a good trick to know for any type of single crust pie, actually.

To blind bake a crust, make your favourite single crust recipe (my favourite is here). Press it into the pan and flute the edges. Then refrigerate the crust for at least 1/2 hour. This step isn’t entirely necessary but I fnd it helps the shortening or lard chill down so you have a flakier baked crust. That's always a good thing. (Never cut in your fat too finely. It's the pea-sized pieces that "blow" the layers of pastry apart and create all the flakes.)

While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 400°F. From here there are two different methods you can follow. It's a bit obsessive but I like to do both, just for safety sake.

Pricking holes in the bottom and sides helps prevent raised bubbles.

Blind Bake 1: Fork Method
Prick the bottom and sides of the crust with the tines of a fork and place it in the oven. Pricking holes in the crust helps air escape so you don’t have large raised bubbles. Bake for 15-20 minutes. It may be longer depending on how much colour you want on your crust.

The downside of this method is that the sides of your crust can “sag” making the walls of the crust lower than you may like or need.

Weighting the crust helps the sides retain their height.
Blind Bake 2: Weights Method
Alternatively you can fill the crust with weights. These weights can be specially purchased baking weights, or dry foods such as peas, beans, lentils, or rice. (Use something cheap you don’t mind discarding after use.)

Cut a piece of foil or parchment to fit the bottom and sides of your crust. Add in enough of your weights to fill and go up the sides. Arrange so they’re distributed evenly. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes. It may be longer if you want a browner crust.

This method helps support the edges of the crust so there is less likelihood of collapse.

I do both methods when I blind bake: pricking and weighting.

I usually do both methods. It doesn’t hurt the end result and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

It’s not particularly difficult work to bring together a pie pastry dough but why take the chance of ruining the work you have done to that point. Blind baking is a step we should all be familiar with.

In some cases it improves a pie; in others it’s an absolute necessity.

Come back to see uses for blind baked crusts later this week.


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