The phrase ‘easy as pie’ is deceptive. Pies may seem like the simple act of throwing flour and shortening into a pile and mushing it all together, but that’s like saying that Mozart just sat in front of the piano and banged the keys. Really good pies are rare. These are the ones that melt in your mouth, and are so good that you want to lick every last crumb from your plate. But in this article, you’ll find everything you need to make those perfect pies: secrets ingredients used by pastry chefs and experienced home cooks.
Once you know what they are, you’ll be hitting your head and saying, ‘Is that all it takes?’ Well, yes. These techniques work on nearly every pie recipe and are actually very easy. (Easy…as pie.)
Pie Secret Ingredient # 1: Ice
Use ice water when you make the pie crust. This prevents the shortening from disintegrating and leads to a delicious, flaky pastry.
Pie Secret Ingredient # 2 Lard
Many experienced pastry chefs will use lard, not vegetable shortening, to make pie dough. Lard helps create that flaky pie crust. True, it doesn’t have as much flavor—but that’s what the fruit filling is for!
Pie Secret Ingredient # 3: Nuts
Fruit pies are delicious, but the juices can seep into the dough and make a soggy, icky mess. The secret, then, is to ‘shield’ the pie crust with other ingredients. You can try mixing a little flour and sugar, than sifting a light layer over it before you place the filling. But a more flavorful alternative is very finely ground nuts.
Pie Secret Ingredient # 4: Oatmeal
Here’s a way to add a healthy dose of fiber (and a subtle nutty flavor) to your pies. When you’re ready to roll your dough, cover your surface with a thin layer of rolled oats (about four tablespoons will do). If you don’t have any oatmeal on hand, you can also mix equal amounts of confectionary sugar and flour.
Pie Secret Ingredient # 5: Macaroni
Air bubbles can cause the pie surface to break. To get a flawless, picture-perfect top crust, insert tube-shaped macaroni in the center. This will act as a kind of chimney or vent where steam can escape.
Pie Secret Ingredient # 6: Tapioca
If your pie has a lot of juicy fruits (which will release moisture during baking that will seep into the crust) add a small spoonful of tapioca to the filling. This will act like a sponge, sucking in all the excess juice.
Pie Secret Ingredient # 7: Egg white
Another way to prevent soggy pies is to brush a light layer of egg white on the bottom crust. This is very important if you’re making a pie that has berries and fruits.
Pie Secret Ingredient # 8: Milk
Do you want a golden crust? Just brush your pie crust with milk before you pop it into the oven. This will help create a deep, rich brown glaze that you see in the cookbooks.
Pie Secret Ingredient # 9: Butter
If you plan to freeze your pies, it’s crucial to brush melted butter on the crust before you store it. This will help prevent the crust from drying out while it’s in your freezer.
Pie Secret Ingredient # 10: Baking Powder
If you’re making a meringue pie, you can achieve those gorgeous high peaks by adding baking soda to the egg whites. Also, allow the eggs to ‘rest’ to room temperature before beating them. Don’t just pick them straight out of the refrigerator!