It’s pie season. Okay, fine—any season is pie season. Whether you’re making a stone-fruit pie in the summer or an apple pie in the fall, this crowd-pleasing dessert deserves to be treated right. That’s why we asked senior food editor Dawn Perry and assistant food editor Claire Saffitz about how people often get fruit pies wrong, and how to avoid those common mistakes. So, are you ready to bake the best darn pie you’ve ever made in your life? Read on.
1. All Fruit Is Created Equal
Before you mix your pie’s filling, taste the fruit! It often varies in sweetness, and you don’t want your pie to be either too sugary or too tart. A half cup of sugar is the average amount you’ll need for your filling, and think twice before adding any more than that.
2. As Long as It’s in the Oven, My Pie’s Gonna Be Fine
A pie’s place in the oven is on the bottom rack. The worst mistake you can make with your pie is under-baking the bottom crust—it makes for a soggy, doughy mess. Baking your pie on the bottom rack will ensure that bottom crust gets nice and golden brown. Speaking of which: bake your pie in a glass pie dish. That way, you can check to see if the crust is that perfect golden color. If it is, the crust is done, and chances are your pie’s fruit and its juices will have thickened into the ideal consistency, too.
3. Dough As I Say!
Alas, the pie’s schedule is not always your schedule. The dough has to be at the optimal temperature for you to roll it out—too cold and it will crack; too warm and it’ll be sticky and gummy. Expect to be moving your dough in and out of the fridge to maintain that perfect temperature. There’s no set rule for how many times you have to do this—you have to pay close attention to its consistency, and chill it when it gets too warm. It needs to be just pliable enough to roll out. If you’re afraid of your rolling pin sticking to your dough, put the dough between two pieces of parchment paper, then roll it out.
4. Beauty Is in the Eye of the Pieholder
While we appreciate pies with that “homemade” look about them—meaning a less-than-perfect lattice and slightly uneven crimping—we do like to give them some extra eye appeal. Brushing the crust with a simple egg wash and sprinkling it with sparkly coarse sugar will do wonders, and make your pie even more Instagram-worthy.
5. Throw It Right in the Oven
Before you bake your pie, put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Cold butter is the key to a flaky pie crust (trust us), and it’s probably a bit too warm after you’ve rolled out the dough, poured in the filling, and crimp the edges. Throwing it in the freezer first is your flaky dough insurance. And—pro tip alert!—put your pie on top of a sheet pan just in case your filling bubbles over, burns, and turns your oven into a smoke pit.
6. Serve It While It’s Hot!
Serving pie hot from the oven isn’t just a bad idea aesthetically—all that hot sugar is also dangerous. Allow your pie to cool for about an hour. The filling will set, and it will be cool enough to eat, yet still a little warm. Just don’t leave it on a windowsill because, you know, someone will steal it.