Previous Back to Basics columns have explained how to prepare pastry for a single crust pie--mixing the dough, rolling out and fitting it into the pie plate and fluting the edges. Once formed, the crust may either be baked without or with filling.
Baking an empty crust is sometimes referred to as “blind baking.” The technique is used for pies with a precooked filling, such as coconut cream, or when fresh fruit will simply be mounded in the baked crust and glazed, such as strawberry pie.
When a crust is baked empty, it’s important that the dough not be stretched while it’s being fitted into the pie plate. Another technique that helps prevent the pastry from shrinking is to fold the edge under and flute it firmly on the lip of the pie plate.
Use the tines of a fork to generously pierce holes in both the bottom and sides of the pastry (Step 1). The holes allow steam to escape and help prevent large blisters from forming as the crust bakes.
Another way to keep the bottom of the pastry from puffing during baking is to line it with plastic wrap, then fill with pie weights (Step 2). You can also use 4 to 5 cups of dry beans or rice, which may be stored in a jar and reused indefinitely.
Bake the prepared crust at 425 degrees 10 to 12 minutes, just until lightly golden. Should the fluted edge begin to brown too quickly, cover with a strip of foil. Remove the weights and plastic wrap and cool the pie shell, unless the recipe directs otherwise.
For recipes such as pecan pie, a second option is to combine all the filling ingredients and pour into the unbaked shell (Step 3). Then bake the pie according to recipe directions.
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