Kitchen Rescue: How to Fix 10 Common Pie Problems

In this world, there exists such a thing as perfect bakers. You know, people whose desserts always look like they were sent to hair and makeup on their way to the table. People who never, ever panic when their Swiss Buttercream seems to turn into a curdled mess. People who can just whip up a batch of cinnamon rolls in a weekend morning.

Pie Crust

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These people have a certain ease and confidence that I envy. Although I’m an experienced baker I still feel intimidated making certain items such as scones, sourdough breads, or any other specialty that moms have.

And pie—especially pie crust.

Pie Crust

It has been semi-easy to make pie crust. The two golden rules are: use cold ingredients, and don’t overwork. I blend the butter and flour in a food processor if I want to impress people. I prefer to work quickly and feel the butter. Then I roll it out just as quickly, sending a little prayer up to the butter and flour gods while I work.

My pies turn out usually perfectly. Sometimes they are great. Sometimes, they do not turn out well. (*10*)I make pie an awful lot (birthdays, holidays, Sundays, thank-you-for-fixing-my-oven-days), and there have been many struggles and failures, typically regarding the crust. Perhaps it was too crumbly or sticky, or just too dry. Maybe this has happened to you, too. And through trial (many trials) and error (many errors), as well as a healthy dose of internet research, I have found some tricks to help fix pie crust woes, both before and after they’re in the oven. And I transfer my wisdom to you.

(*10*)Here’s how to fix your pie crust problems if…

  1. Your dough is too crumbly.
  2. When you press the dough in the pan, it will break.
  3. When it bakes, your crust shrinks.
  4. Your crust is too pale.
  5. Your crust is too dry.
  6. Your pie’s bottom has become soggy.
  7. Your pecan pie’s nuts are too soft.
  8. Your pumpkin pie has cracked.
  9. Your fruit filling has become too liquidy.
  10. Your crust is a complete failure.
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Pie Crust

(*10*)Your dough is too crumbly.

If your pie dough breaks and crumbles when you try to roll it out, it’s probably too dry. This is a simple fix. Just sprinkle some cold water over the dough with your fingers and work it in—gently!—until the dough comes together. If your dough gets too warm, send it back into the fridge to chill out. You should find it easier to roll once it is back out.

(*10*)Your dough breaks when you press it in the pan.

First of all, did you transfer the pie crust to the pan using the rolling pin method? To do this, put your rolling pin slightly to one side rolled-out dough circle, then fold the dough over onto it. Lift the pin and carefully move the hanging dough over to the pie pan. Place the rolling pin in center of the pan. Then, unfold the dough and press in. It’s so much easier than attempting to pick it up with your hands, which will only result in pain and disappointment.

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No matter if you used the rolling pin method, broken dough requires fixing. You can conceal tears fairly easily, which is the good news. After you’ve molded your crust into the pie pan, use the scraps you pinched off of the edges to patch up any cracks, smoothing the seams with your fingers. If the tears are on the top crust or the edges, sprinkle on a little bit of sugar to camouflage any imperfections. Bake the crust lightly with the sugar.

(*10*)Pie Crust

(*10*)Your crust shrinks when it bakes.

If the crust shrinks when it bakes, it is a sign that it was not allowed to rest. Letting the dough rest is key because it allows the gluten to relax so that it doesn’t seize up and retract on you later. This is why most pie experts will advise you to not only let your pie dough chill before rolling it out but to let it chill in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before baking, too.

A shrunken crust can’t be fixed after it happens, but you can disguise it with whipped cream and some cinnamon or chocolate shavings. You can also serve the pie already cut and plated so that your guests won’t be able to see how it shrinks in the pan. You don’t need to be big.

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(*10*)Your crust is pale and underbaked.

It is easy! Bake it again. To ensure a bronzed, shiny crust, I like to give the pie a quick brush with eggwash before sending it back into the oven. Make sure your oven is hot enough: 425° F or 450° F is ideal. Set a timer so you don’t get a burned-out pie.

(*10*)Blind Baking Pie

(*10*)Your crust is too tough.

If your pie crust is tough instead of tender and flaky, you probably either overworked the dough or added too much water to it. There’s not much to do in this situation but plate up a slice and throw on a scoop of ice cream. Don’t sweat it: You’ll do better next time.

(*10*)Your (pie’s) bottom is soggy.

S.B.S. could be a problem for you in a few ways. S.B.S. (Soggy Bottom Syndrome). Maybe you needed to par-bake your crust. Perhaps your filling was too liquidy. Perhaps you were watching “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” while baking.

This is a tricky problem to fix, but hope is not lost. If it’s a fruit pie, try putting it back in the oven for a few minutes on the very bottom rack, thus putting the underbaked bottom closer to the heat source. If it’s a custard pie, don’t try to re-bake it; you risk compromising your lovely filling. Instead, place the contents in a glass bowl and serve with cookies or whipped topping. It looks like a trifle. You knew that this was what you had in mind, right?

In the future, there are a few ways to avoid S.B.S.:

  1. It’s helpful to bake your pie in a glass-bottom dish so that you can see when the bottom is bronzed to your liking.
  2. If the recipe calls, always bake the crust in a pan.
  3. If your fruit filling seems extra wet, drain off a little bit of liquid before adding it to the pan.

If you are worried about the crust becoming too wet (or maybe you have had bad experiences with soggy crusts in the past), sprinkle flour on top of the filling or brush the dough lightly with egg.

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Pecan Pie

(*10*)Your pecan pie’s pecans have gone soft.

Pecans in whole can run you a lot if they aren’t already grown in your garden.It’s not a good idea to use whole pecans in your pie. To avoid this, (*10*)toast your pecans before adding them to the syrupy, sticky filling. This will not only keep them from becoming soggy, but it will also give them a lovely, nutty taste.

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(*10*)More: Vegan pecan pies deserve toasted nuts, too.

(*10*)Pumpkin Pie

(*10*)Your pumpkin pie is cracked.

Oops! Oops! You have baked it too long. It’s best to take pumpkin pie (and sweet potato pie, and cheesecake pie) out of the oven when just shy of completely set. Gently shake your pie five minutes before the timer expires. The pie is ready when it has moved only a 1-inch circle in its middle. It will continue to cook due to the residual heat.

This will help you to be better next time. You can easily disguise your crack pie facade if you are worried about being judged. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top of the pie, and then cover it with whipped cream. This will make your pie even more delicious.

(*10*)Your fruit filling is too liquid-y.

First question: Did your pie sit for at least 30 minutes before you cut into it? You need to give the filling a little bit of time to settle in before slicing, or all of the fruit’s juices will runneth free. If you did wait and your filling is still too liquidy, then, unfortunately, there’s not much to do to fix it. Pie shake time!

In the future, if you fear your fruit filling will end up a little wet (this is especially common with juicier fruits, like berries, especially if they are frozen), (*10*)add a tablespoon of cornstarch before baking to thicken things up. Be aware: Cornstarch can make the filling cloudy. Tapioca starch dissolves clear if this is a concern.

Crumble

(*10*)If all else fails and your pie crust is an utter disappointment.

If the pie is fruit-filled you can always spoon the filling into an ovenproof dish. Then, add a quick buttery crumble with whatever ingredients are in your refrigerator and bake it until bubbly. You can also make a quick press-in olive oils crust that will never fail you. You can also cover it with whipped cream or ice cream so that nobody notices. Or just pour more wine.

It’s still pie.

Are you having more problems with pie? Share your problems with us in the comments. Together, we will try to find a solution.

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