This week's Ask a Baker is the beginning of a series, in answer to the question:
"How can I tell when a pie is finished baking?"
This is a pretty overwhelming question to contemplate: every pie recipe may have its own clues to signify when the pie is baked to perfection! Most recipes do fall under a few separate categories, however, and most of the pies in these categories follow a certain set of rules. So over the next couple of weeks, I will do my best to address these categories individually. This week, I am going to begin with what I personally consider the easiest:
the fruit pie!
So let's take a look again at the pie pop quiz I posted at the end of last week. Is this delicious Muddy's Strawberry Honey Pie ready to be pulled from the oven?
If you answered no, you are correct! Though it is somewhat difficult to tell, this pie is bubbling on the sides but not in the middle. AND those juices look quite watery. If the pie was pulled from the oven at this point, it would be a sloshy mess that fall right out of its crust. No good at all!
What about this delightfully bubbly Peachy Keen Pie? (Forgive the poor image quality--yes, those are bubbles peeping out of those vents.) Is it ready to be pulled from the oven?
Yes! Do you see the difference?
Whether you're baking a strawberry pie with the very first harvest of spring; a summery stone-fruit pie; or the quintessentially fragrant apple pie to greet the cooler weather of the fall and winter; the rules are virtually always the same. A fruit pie is ready to be pulled from the oven when its juices are bubbling in the center of the pie, not just the sides! Especially if it is a very juicy pie, make sure those bubbles are have a slower, thick appearance to them, as opposed to the faster, more watery bubbles that appear on the edges of a pie at first.
Just remember, we don't want this:
(Okay, actually, we do want it, we just want to be done first before we eat it!)
Occasionally a fruit pie may not have enough juice to ever come to a visible boil. If this is the case, have no fear! Well, depending on the fruit and the recipe, there might be some cause for fear. If the reason your pie is so dry is due to unripe fruit or an inherently flawed recipe, then there is PLENTY of cause for fear. But if that is simply the nature of the recipe, simply make sure your crust is good and brown and that a knife inserted in the center of your pie meets no resistance.
Are you sure you have a good juicy filling but not sure why your pie is not bubbling yet? Make certain that your center vents are open! As you can see from this handsome Bluesville Pie, Muddy's take on the classic blueberry pie that never, ever disappoints, smaller vents sometimes seal themselves in the oven and never show their true bubbly self.
Go ahead and insert a paring knife into the vent to reopen it (making sure not to burn yourself!) and continue to look for those bubbles!
And I will leave you with one final fruit pie tip: always always always bake your fruit pie on a baking sheet. Because this happens:
Better on a baking sheet than at the bottom of your oven, am I right?