How to Make a Fruit Pie (12 Tips)
Summer fruit pie season is upon us. There's something so satisfying about rolling, folding, cutting and cooking inside a cool house with a glass of cold tea on a hot summer's day.
Summer fruits in the south are bright and sweet. Apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, pears and peaches all plump up just in time for sweltering days. We love to pair these delightful fruits with flaky crusts and complementary spices, like cardamom or fennel, to create light, refreshing summer desserts.
No matter what type of fruit you fancy, follow these 12 tips and your fruit pie will add an extra touch of sweetness to the end of any summer meal.
Sifting is essential when it comes to pie crusts. Get a lighter and flakier crust by sifting your dry ingredients together before mixing or folding in the wet ingredients. Sifting aerates, breaks up any clumps and adds volume. We advocate using the "spoon and sweep method". Gently spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level off the top. This keeps the flour from becoming compacted, which results in too much flour for your recipe. Sifting occurs after measuring with the spoon and sweep method.
PRO TIP: If your recipe calls for 1 cup sifted flour this means you sift the flour before measuring. However, if the recipe calls for 1 cup flour, sifted - this means you sift the flour after measuring.
When it comes to fruit pies, a crust can make or break your recipe. Fruit pies, or any pie with a wet center, should have a pre-baked crust. For a more detailed explanation as to why your pie crust should be pre-baked, check out our "Why and When to Pre-Bake Your Pie Crust" article.
In pie-making, much of the prep work can be done in advance. Pre-make cookie and graham cracker crusts by crushing crackers and cookies and saving the crumbs in an air-tight jar. Unbaked pie crusts can be frozen directly in the pie pan. Just wrap tightly in plastic wrap or place the entire pie tin in a freezer-safe plastic bag. This will make summer fruit pie making prep a cinch.
Size matters when it comes to fruit fillings. Chunks that are too big overwhelm your fork, leaving little room for topping and crust. Pieces that are too small have a tendency to fall apart and separate. We think the perfect size is about 1/2 a thumb's length and about as thick.
For juicy fruits like strawberries, cherries and peaches, after they have macerated, drain the excess juice prior to placing in the pie pan.
Adding acids to fruit pie fillings preserves flavor and color. Lemon and lime juice compliment a dense and sweet pie. Balsamic vinegar can also be delicious in berry pies. Plus, the acid cuts into the fruits, pulling out juices and natural sugars into the filling.
When your fruit pie recipe calls for a thickener such as quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch, make sure you give it time to set up before putting your pie in the oven.
Fruit fillings settle as they're baked. Pile on your fruit filling in an arcing heap. It will compact in the oven, which will leave you with a nice flat top when finished. Placing your fruit pie on a sheet of aluminum foil will make cleaning a breeze in case the filling bubbles over.
Always use the bottom rack of the oven when baking fruit pies. This will help keep the bottom crust from becoming soggy.
TRUST THE TIME
Often, the crust of a fruit pie will begin browning before the final bake time has been reached. Fruit pies, especially those with thickening agents, need their full listed time in the oven to firm up the filling. If the crust starts to brown too quickly, tent with aluminum foil and continue to bake as long as the recipe calls for.
COOL (or not)
Some fruit pie recipes are best served warm, others cold. As a general rule, pies topped with whipped cream or creme Chantilly are best served cooled. Pies served with vanilla ice cream are best served warm.
Pie baking can be challenging for beginners. For those "not so perfect crusts" a light dusting of powdered sugar can hide a multitude of sins. Or better yet, brush the crust with an egg wash and sprinkle with turbinado sugar prior to baking for a golden crust.