Come Thanksgiving, two pies in particular make their way into heavy rotation: pecan and pumpkin. They actually have quite a bit in common: they’re both single crust pies, and their egg-based fillings are prone to some of the same pitfalls, like overbaking and cracking. In this episode, you’ll learn how to pre-bake single crusts before they’re filled, blend a custard filling so it won’t crack, and how to tell when these pies are done. And you’ll learn it all through two holiday-ready pies: Chocolate Pecan Pie and Pumpkin Praline Pie.
|Chocolate Pecan Pie||Pumpkin Praline Pie||Bacon and Cane Syrup Pecan Pie||Jamaican-Spiced Pumpkin Pie|
Blind baking is key to some of our favorite single-crust pies, including pumpkin and pecan. Blind-baking means partially, or in some cases, fully baking the crust before you add the filling. It’s important for custard pies, because it gives the crust a head start baking at a higher temperature before you add the filling and continue baking at a lower temperature. This helps keep the crust from getting soggy. So before you even start your pumpkin and pecan pie fillings, you want to blind-bake the crusts.
Roll out the crusts and fit them to their pie pans just like you did for a double-crust pie. You crimp the crust with your index fingers and thumb, again similar to the double-crust pie, except you’re just working with one layer of dough here. Now the crusts need to be chilled in the refrigerator (for about 1 hour) or freezer (for 30 minutes) until they’re firm.
When we’re ready to bake, you want to start out by weighting the empty crusts so they don’t puff and bubble up as steam escapes from the flaky dough. To weight the pies, you can buy ceramic or metal pie weights, or just use dried beans or uncooked rice. Line the crust with a large piece of foil and add enough beans to really fill the pie shell.
Bake for 12 minutes at 425°F, then remove the weights, and bake it just a little longer to get some nice golden color on the crust. Let the blind-baked crusts cool on a rack as you make your filling.
If you’ve ever had the top of a pumpkin pie crack after it bakes, here’s a tip to prevent it or at least reduce it–don’t overblend the filling–whisk it just until the ingredients come together, no more. Overwhisking once the eggs are added incorporates air, which then causes the filling to puff up as it bakes, then shrink and crack once it comes out of the oven.
It’s worth noting that filled pecan and pumpkin pies bake at a lower temperature than you used to blind-bake the crust. And with both of these pies, you want to be sure not to overbake–this is something that can also contribute to cracking. You want the edges of the filling to be set–and on the pecan pie it’ll also puff up, but the center should jiggle like Jell-o when you nudge it. That might seem underdone, but as the pie cools, the center will firm up a bit, for a perfectly baked filling.
Abigail Johnson Dodge is a contributing editor at Fine Cooking, and teaches cooking classes around the country. She studied at La Varenne in Paris, and worked with Michel Guerard and Guy Savoy, specializing in pastry. She has written six cookbooks, four of them about baking, including The Weekend Baker, winner of the IACP award. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.
|Episode 1: Press-in Cookie Crust Tarts
||Episode 2: Equipment Essentials for Pies||Episode 3: All About Pie Dough|
|Episode 4: Rustic Fruit Galettes||Episode 5: Double-Crust Apple Pie||Episode 6: Single-Crust Pecan and Pumpkin Pies|
|Episode 7: Pâte Sucrée and Lemon Tart||Episode 8: Lattice-Topped Mixed Berry Pie||Episode 9: Rough Puff Pastry Tarts|
|Episode 10: Classic Fresh Fruit Tart|