9 Tips for Making the Best Pie Ever

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Is everyone ready to eat some pie? Pull out your stretchy pie-eating pants and get your forks ready. Pie Social is happening from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, November 16.

We all have our own methods for pie making. Many tips and tricks are taught at the rolling pins of our grandmother's and mother's. While our celebrity bakers are well on their way to debuting their pie perfection, we wanted to put together a few tips for our community bakers, to help them rock some tasty pies, too.

See Also: A Pastry Chef's Wedding Cake

Chill Out -- All your ingredients need to be cold. I put my butter, dry ingredients, and tools in the freezer before use. You don't want your butter to melt while you are making your dough.

Take A Break -- Pie dough can be a temperamental bitch. With our temps this week reaching back into the high '80s and possibly the '90s, if you are working with your pie dough and it starts to get soft, pop it back into the freezer for a bit. Don't let your pie dough become too soft. Your beautiful butter bits are what make that pie dough flaky, don't let them melt out.

My Grandma's Cure All, Vinegar -- A splash of vinegar in the water addition to your pie helps prevent the development of gluten in your pie dough. Though you do want some gluten (unless you are making a gluten-free pie) to give structure, you don't want to overwork the dough and have a tough crust. That little bit of vinegar helps keep that gluten development at bay.

Relax -- After making your dough, allow it to chill and rest. I make my pie dough the day before, to give it a day of relaxation before I start to work it. That pesky gluten needs to relax after getting all worked up during the mixing process. Told you that pie dough is a temperamental bitch.

Roll with Rice Flour -- There is a fine line between too much flour and too little flour. Too much can make for a tough crust and too little means your dough is stuck to the table. First, if your dough starts to get too soft, pop it back in the freezer. Second, you can always use rice flour! Rice flour has no gluten, keeps your dough from sticking, and it brushes off quite easily, so it won't be absorbed into your dough.

Freeze! -- Freeze your pie crust, rolled in the pan, at least for a few hours, though I prefer overnight, if possible. It helps prevent shrinkage in your pie dough.

Soggy Pie Woes -- Fruit in pies can get tricky, or rather, soggy. Using a thickener can help tremendously, but you have to make sure you bake them long enough for the thickener to activate. Even if your crust become golden, make sure that the juices are thick and bubbling up. You may have to cover your crust with aluminum foil, to keep it from becoming too dark, and continue to bake the pie till the fruit juice is nice and thick. You can par-bake your pie crust if you want too, before filling and baking. A last trick I have read about is using a thin layer of finely ground graham crackers on the bottom of the fruit pie, to help absorb any remaining juices, to keep your crust from the soggy bottom blues.

Glazed & Sugared -- Eggs, cream, milk . . . crystal sugar, raw sugar, granulated sugar. Using a variety of items will give your crust a beautiful golden brown and crunch with some sugar.

Cute Crust (Leave the Traditional Behind) -- I love interesting crusts. Play with the dough and some cool cutters and come up with some fabulously creative pie designs.

Good luck to all our bakers, celebrity and community. I can't wait to taste your pie creations at the 2013 Pie Social!

Rachel Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, and single-handedly keeps her local cheese shop in business. You can get more information about her pastry at www.pistolwhippedpastry.com, or on her blog at www.croissantinthecity.com.

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