~ How to: Blind-Bake a Pastry Shell (Baking Blind) ~
It's about 9:30AM and Joe just came in from his garden with about 8 pounds of rhubarb. Eating rhubarb pie out on our deck in the moonlight tonight will be an amusing way to end an otherwise humdrum workweek, so, I'd best get to work. Hardly. I'll mix a couple of pie pastries up in my food processor and blind bake them. Start to finish, I'll be done in less than 30 minutes. Relax, I'm not handing out blindfolds. But, the number of times I've seen that "doe in the headlights look" when I say, "I'm going to blind-bake a pastry shell" leads me to believe many folks don't have a clue what this odd term means.
Since the pie baking season is upon us, I think it's time to demystify this!
Blind-bake or bake blind, is the English term for baking a pastry shell before it is filled. There are two instances when you need to prebake your pie pastry: #1) A pastry shell that once the filling is added does not return to the oven for further baking. In this application the pie pastry must be fully-baked, nicely browned and completely cooled before you add the filling, and #2) A pastry shell that will get filled with a stirred custard, cream, mousse or fully-cooked/ready-to-eat filling and will return to the oven for further baking. In this application, the degree to which you prebake your pie pastry (barely brown, lightly brown, golden brown) is determined by the length of time it will take the filled pie to finish baking, meaning: the longer it will take for your pie filling to bake, the lighter in color your prebaked crust should be when it goes into the oven.
If you put it into the oven as it is, it is going to blister and bubble on the bottom and sides, and, shrink in size, which can cause a lot of unevenness and possibly even some cracks or tears in the finished pastry. The solution to the problem is to use: pie weights.
You have options here. Some folks like to use beans or rice. I do not. Some folks like to use loose metal or ceramic pie weights. I do not. In France, they like to use clean, round pebbles. I do not. What is my "beef" with these options? These loose, spillable, hard to control items are a hot accident waiting to happen. I like to use pie chains. Pie chains are basically large strands of metal beads. Lets prebake the pie pastry and you'll see why I like pie chains:
~ Step 1. To completely or partially bake a pie pastry, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using a fork, prick the bottom and sides of the pie pastry liberally. Prick with a steady hand. You don't want the fork to slip, causing holes that are too large or even a tear in your pastry.
Note: You can prep the pastry shell, to this point, one day in advance of blind-baking it. Lightly wrap it and the pie dish in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
~ Step 2. Using kitchen shears, cut a round piece of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) about 1" larger than the diameter of the bottom of the pie dish. Using your fingertips, gently/lightly press the parchment into the bottom and partially up the sides of the pie pastry.
~ Step 3. Add the pie chains, one at a time. You don't want a tangled mess when your removing them. My pie chains weigh about 4-ounces each and I like to add 4 of them (1 pound of weight).
~ Step 4. Bake on center rack of preheated 425 degree oven, until the decorative rim of the pastry is just set to the touch: It will look dry, it will be firming up, but it won't be brown, and if it is, it will just be starting to turn brown around the edges. This will take about 3 minutes, keeping in mind that all oven temperatures vary slightly. Remove from oven.
Using a fork, carefully lift the strands of pie chains, like spaghetti from a bowl, one at a time, from the pastry shell and place them on a plate to cool.
This, is what makes pie chains so user friendly, and, why I highly recommend investing in them!
~ Step 6. Return the empty pie pastry to the oven. For a pastry shell that will get baked further after the filling has been added, bake according to the specific recipe's instructions (if they give them to you, follow them), or until the crust is almost done, lightly browned, about 3 minutes longer. For a pastry shell that will not be returned to the oven after it is filled, bake until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes. Check your pastry shell several times during this process: If at any time it puffs up, prick it again with a fork. If at any time the decorative rim begins to look too dark, cover it with a pie crust shield or a few strips of aluminum foil. Here is a perfectly blind-baked pie pastry that will not be returned to the oven: Just fill and eat!
Special Equipment List: fork; kitchen shears; parchment paper (or aluminum foil); pie chains (or pie weights); cooling rack
Cook's Note: A blind-baked pie pastry can be baked and cooled 1 day in advance of using. For best results, do not cover it with plastic wrap or refrigerate it as either will soften the crust. For the same reason, I do not recommend freezing a blind-baked crust either!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)