[Photograph: Lauren Weisenthal]

If you like to bake pies and tarts, sooner or later you're bound to encounter a recipe that instructs you to blind bake the crust prior to adding your filling. The term "blind baking" simply means baking the crust sans filling, and the method itself can feel a little strange and counter-intuitive to the uninitiated baker. To blind bake a pie or tart shell, you simply line the chilled, shaped dough with foil or parchment, fill it with pie weights or dried beans, and bake it until the edges have set and can stand up on their own. Then, hoist the parchment or foil with the weights inside out of the shell, and return it to the oven to finish baking.

There are a few different reasons that a recipe might call for blind baking. If the item contains a stirred custard (one that's cooked on the stove) such as a cream pie, the crust must be baked separately for obvious reasons. For baked custard pies (like pumpkin or pecan) blind baking may also be required to ensure that the crust is cooked through despite being filled with something wet.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when blind baking a pie or tart shell:

  • To prevent the pie from slumping or shrinking, be sure that the dough is extremely cold and has had ample time to rest in the fridge after being shaped.
  • If you are lining the shell with parchment, crumple the parchment paper up into a ball to make it wrinkled and yielding to the rounded shape of the crust.
  • For deeper pies, prevent the outer crust from slumping by gradually pulling back the liner from the edges to increase the flow of hot air to the edges of the crust.
  • Instead of buying expensive ceramic pie weights, purchase dried garbanzo, black, navy, or kidney beans instead. They can be reused over 100 times and cost just a few dollars at any grocery store.

About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute and holds a CS certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.


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