Practice has finally produced a flavorful and flaky pie crust, but
I still have one remaining problem: the top crust tents and sets
during baking. The filling (basic apple) expands, taking the crust up
with it, but it contracts as it cools, leaving a void between the
filling and top crust and making for a difficult cut. Any suggstions
on how to prevent this?
That is a very common occurrence. I like to mound the filling very high,
and that can result in a big void. I find that the crust sets and then the
The best way I know of to avoid the space is to pre-cook the filling. I use
a technique borrowed from Rose Beranbaum's "Pie and Pasty Bible." Take your
fruit, sugar and any salt or lemon juice and toss together. Let that sit
for 30 to 60 minutes. Place the fruit and liquids into a large skillet and
cook until the fruit is slightly tender and the liquid is reduced to a
thick syrup. Toss with your thickening agent (you won't need as much since
a lot of the water has evaporated) and spices and let cool. When the
mixture has reached room temperature, you can fill the pastry lined pie pan
and cover with the top crust. Bake as usual immediately. The fruit can be
cooked a day ahead and you can also prepare the pastry ahead and assemble
and bake the pie the day you need it. This not only eliminates the space,
but it help keep the bottom crust dry.
You notice "pictures" of fruit pies often have "criss-cross" top crusts?
It's a functional top rather than a "look". Also, I always cook the
filling before I put it in the shell,
all (most) of the expansion is done by the time it gets up to cooked temp.