Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blind Baking

Blind baking pie crusts, or baking them in the pan before filling them with something that needs to be baked for less time than the crust or not at all, is a little more than slamming an unbaked crust all by itself into the oven and hoping for the best. A little more, but still not difficult.

I use this technique to make quiches and things that are a lot like quiches and the Ham and Onion Pie with Rye Crust I made recently. Well, frankly, I blind bake crusts when the recipe I’m following tells me to do so and lays out the instructions for when and how long to do it. You may, however, come across recipes that call for a fully-baked or partially-baked crust (although according to Joy of Cooking, fully-baked is usually a better option for avoiding soggy crusts in almost all circumstances.) If a pie or tart is filled with uncooked custard, like a quiche, you can bet it’ll call for a blind baked crust. If the pie filling, like jam or a cooked pudding, custard or curd, needs no cooking at all, you can also count on blind baking before loading up the pie.

In my recent savory pie adventure, I tried a variation on a basic pie crust in which I added stone-ground rye flour. It went pretty well for a whim, turning out crispy and crunchy. Its whole-grain nature was apparent but the crust was still flaky and flavorful and held the pie filling as it was supposed to. I’ll post the recipe for the pie soon, but today I’ll give you the crust recipe as well as the details for blind baking.

Most of the time, blind baking involves getting the crust dough nicely into the pie or tart pan, lightly pricking it with a fork, lining it with foil, weighing it down with something and baking it in a hot oven. The foil and weights are then removed and the crust is baked a little longer, usually “until done,” which I’ve taken to mean browned, dry-looking and no longer doughy. Times and temperatures tend to vary slightly with the recipes, and you should probably follow the recipe writer’s instructions (chances are that they are a professional, unlike me). If you need a baked crust, however, and your recipe assumes you already know how to do that, you should get good results with the procedure I outline below.

Just a few words on pie weights: You can purchase pie weights, which usually look like a handful of ceramic or metal marbles. I have a set of ceramic weights, which were inexpensive and quite useful. If you don’t want to buy something that seems to have so few uses, many cooks, chefs and writers recommend using dry beans or rice, or even an identically sized pie pan (although the pan would ruin any decorative edge you put on your crust). I tried using beans once. They did the job, but I decided the ceramic weights were worth the tiny investment because the beans scorched in the oven, stinking up the place. Also, the beans were then inedible, so I felt like I had just wasted perfectly good food. Still, they are something that you might have in your kitchen if you find yourself with a burning desire to blind bake a crust.

The crust I made for the Ham and Onion Pie with Rye Crust was finished slightly differently than in the procedure below. Those details will be given with the pie recipe. This procedure will give you a fully baked crust that’s ready for filling.

Blind Baked Pie Crust
The Rye Pie Crust Dough recipe below is shown in the photos for this procedure.

1 single-crust recipe of pie dough
nonstick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll the dough into about a 12-inch circle. Gently lift and place it into a 9-inch pie pan, being careful to drape it into place and not stretch it. Gently prick the crust all over with a fork. You just want to make little marks, not stab through to the pan.

2. Spray nonstick cooking spray on one side of a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to cover the crust. Line the crust with the foil, cooking spray side down. Place pie weights on top of the foil.

3. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights, trying not to burn yourself or spill the hot weights everywhere.

4. Return the crust to the oven and bake at 400 F about 5-8 minutes more or until the crust is golden brown, and looks dry rather than doughy. Set on a wire rack and proceed as directed in your pie recipe.

Makes 1 9-inch baked pie crust.

Rye Pie Crust Dough

½ cup (about 2 ½ ounces or about 65 g) stone ground rye flour
½ cup (about 2 ½ ounces or about 65 g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine salt
5 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
scant 1/3 cup ice water, plus more if needed

1. Combine rye flour, all-purpose flour and salt in a large bowl. Sift together or stir well with a whisk to combine.

2. Add butter pieces and cut into the mixture using a pastry blender, knives or your hands, until mixture is crumbly and no chunks of flour-coated butter are larger than peas.

3. Add the scant 1/3 cup ice water. Gently work the water into the flour and butter mixture until most of the flour is moistened and the dough holds together when squeezed. Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary. Try not to overwork the dough, and do not knead it.

4. When the dough has come together, form it into a ball, then flatten it into a smooth disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use. The dough will be very stiff if thoroughly chilled, but still somewhat sticky. It is best to roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap.

Makes 1 crust for a 9-inch pie pan.

Other recipes like this one: Basic Pie Crust, Whole Wheat Pastry, Easy Cream Cheese Pastry

One year ago: Pasta with Chickpeas, Shrimp and Spring Greens

Two years ago: Whole Wheat Pasta Dough and Spinach-Ricotta Pasta Filling, Simple Tomato-Garlic Sauce

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