One of the problems with making a custard or fruit pie is a soggy bottom crust. To avoid a soggy bottom you not only want to start out with a good hot oven, you also want to first brush or dust the bottom of the crust with a sealant.
Here are a few tips to prevent soggy bottoms in your pie crusts -
- Moisture proof the bottom of the crust before chilling and filling. There are several ways to seal the bottom crust depending on the type of pie you're baking. You can brush the bottom crust with melted butter, egg white wash, sieved preserves for extra flavor, or melted chocolate for the most effective moisture-proofing of all. Then place the crust in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before assembling pie.
- An alternate method of moisture-proofing is to dust the bottom of the crust with a 50/50 mixture of flour and sugar to set the crust. In Hoosier Mama's pie kitchen this is referred to as "crust dust" and is always included in any fresh fruit pies.
- Use a hot oven temperature (425º plus) for the first 15 minutes of baking.
- Place pie on lowest rack on a preheated baking sheet or for certain juicy pies, bake the pie directly on the floor of the oven for the first 20 minutes.
- Thicken the filling prior to placing in the pie shell. For the purest flavor of fruit pies, macerate (marinate) the fruit in sugar for at least 30 minutes, capture the juices and reduce the liquid by half or 2/3 or until very thick (you can use the microwave but spray the liquid measuring cup with non-stick vegetable oil to keep it from boiling over.) Add liquid back to the fruit filling. You will only need about a 1/3 of the thickener the recipe calls for.
- Use a pan that readily absorbs heat, such as glass or ceramic.
If you're pie is only going to have a bottom crust, you can blind-bake the crust than moisture-proof it. Blind-baking is when you partially or fully-bake an unfilled pie shell. This is especially key for custard based fillings, or for fillings that are cooked separately or not at all.
To blind-bake, follow these easy steps for a par-baked (partially baked) crust:
- Once you've placed your crust in a pie pan, dock the dough. Docking simply means to prick the dough all over with a fork to keep it from puffing. Make sure to not only get the bottom but the sides as well.
- Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes or longer, before baking.
- Preheat the oven to 350º F.
- Butter shiny side of aluminum foil, and butter side down, place the foil tightly against the crust. Since the crust is frozen there is no need to add pie weights. Bake on baking sheet on center rack for 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press down on it gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust another 10 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool crust to room temperature before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
- As an optional step, if you're worried about the filling leaking through the holes you can apply an egg white wash to the bottom and sides of the crust with a pastry brush (although, the holes usually close up during the blind-bake process.) Pop back into the oven for another 2 minutes until the egg glaze sets. Remove once again, and allow to cool before adding pie filling.
Note: Some bakers only use parchment paper and are adamantly against using aluminum foil because they feel the dough doesn't bake the same.
An alternate method is to use pie weights. If using pie weights, there is no need to dock (prick) the dough. Do one or the other as they both accomplish the same thing. This blind-bake method may be preferable if there is a risk of the liquid filling leaking through the holes.
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Place parchment paper or sheet of aluminum foil (shiny side buttered for easier removal) over bottom crust, making sure to cover the edges too.
- Place dried beans, dried rice, or actual pie weights over the surface of the covering. This prevents the crust from puffing.
- Place in oven and bake blind for 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and carefully lift off the covering with pie weights. Return the pie shell to the oven and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until light golden brown.
- As an optional step you can apply an egg white wash to the base to prevent a soggy bottom. Or instead of an egg wash, you can boil and strain apricot or raspberry preserve to brush on the crust to seal it. Or melted white or dark chocolate, or even clarified butter. Once the crust has been sealed and cooled to room temperature, add the filling and bake until the filling has set.
Note: It is important to either dock the crust or weigh the crust down as it bakes to prevent the crust from shrinking or puffing up with air bubbles.