Blind Baking: the Secret to Better Pumpkin Pie
Blind baking isn’t some party trick where you bake a cake with a sleep mask on. It’s actually an important step on the road to perfect pumpkin—and other custard—pies. I, for the record, am not into perfection but more than that, I am NOT into soggy pie. That’s why we’re here.
Think of blind baking as a head start for your crust, especially important when it comes to custard pies like pumpkin. It gives the crust a chance to dry out a bit before adding a wet filling—ensuring a crisp, flaky bottom and a pie that holds its shape. Here’s how to do it.
I don’t mean relax, although that will help no matter what you’re trying to cook or bake. I mean, literally, chill. Once you’ve rolled your dough, transferred it to your pie plate and crimped a beautiful edge, go ahead and stick it in the freezer until very firm, about 15 minutes. Chilling helps the crust hold its shape because the frozen butter takes longer to melt. This goes for all bottom crusts, whether you’re filling with fruit and topping with another crust or preparing to blind bake.
Once the dough is firm it’s time to line. Peel off a big sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Either will work just fine, but you want your piece to be bigger than the pie plate with an inch or two overhang. Line the pie with the parchment or foil, pressing gently into the corners and fill with pie weights. I know, I don’t have pie weights either. Instead, I try to use a pound of dried beans. Not for any particular reason except that they’re cheap. I’ve also used uncooked rice, oats, and sugar in place of the beans with excellent results. All you’re trying to do is weigh the dough evenly across the bottom and in the corners so the crust holds its shape as the butter melts in the oven. The only bummer is you can’t eat the beans after you’ve roasted them and they start to smell a little funny. But it’s worth it for sturdy pie.
Lots of recipes on the Internet will tell you to blind bake at 400°F. This is too hot. The butter melts too fast, creating too much steam so that the crust collapses on itself as soon as you remove your pie weights. Instead, bake at a reasonable 350°F for even browning and structural integrity.
Blind baking is part of a 3-step process. What we’re going for ultimately is deep golden brown, but you have three phases to get there. First, blind bake at 350° until the edges look pale golden. At this stage some recipes will have you remove the pie weights immediately and continue baking. But I like to let the crust cool completely before removing. This prevents the crust from slumping in on itself once it’s released from its supports. So, let it cool, then return it to the oven for phase 2 baking (10—15 minutes more). At this stage the bottom of the crust should look dry and start to take on some color. Remember it still bakes one more time with the filling in it so don’t worry if you’re not to that deep caramelized golden brown yet—you’ve got one more chance.
Fill and Finish
Now that your crust is lightly golden and dry you’re ready to fill. Add your filling and return to the oven to bake. What you’re looking for in the end is a deeply golden crust and a filling that just wiggles in the center when you gently shake the pie plate.
One more tip: I know that some of you have just one pie plate and you should go ahead and use it. BUT, if you’re in the market I would recommend buying an inexpensive glass pie plate. Ninety percent of pies are designed to work in this type of dish, plus you have the added benefit of being able to check the bottom of the pie. Go ahead, look. See that golden brown bottom? That’s what you’re going for.