DEAR PEGGY: I have been a faithful reader of three of your publications for the past 7 years. I am hoping you can help me with a problem. I don't know how to flute the edges of a pie crust! Usually recipes say to line the crust with two layers of heavy-duty foil and bake for a period of time before filling and finishing, but every time I do this, my edges get smashed, and by the end of the baking time, my edges are brown and very unappetizing looking.
Also, most recipes say not to prick the crust, so I end up with huge air bubbles and the crust gets cracked. I need help! I use the pre-made refrigerated crust, as I have never been brave enough to try to make a crust from scratch. —T. M., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Working with pie dough can be tricky. It can be difficult to explain the motions of how to flute the edges of a pie shell, so I'll do even better and send you to our Web site for a video of how to do it!
Video: Decorative Pie Edges »
If you are going to prebake a pie pastry all the way through (this is called "blind baking"), this video will show you how:
Video: Pie Crust Tips »
You'll notice that the demonstrator folds the foil over the pie pastry's edges fairly tightly. I prefer to just gently arch the foil over the edges, so the foil isn't touching the pastry. This keeps my edges from getting damaged, but also prevents the edges from getting too brown.
If you are only prebaking for a short period of time before adding your filling, you might not need to add the pie weight/beans. But, if you are prebaking your crust for just a short amount of time and are having trouble with the crust bubbling up, add a double thickness of foil, arching the foil gently over the edges, then add some dried beans to help weigh down the pastry. After this initial bake, remove the weights and foil, put the pastry back in the oven for 2-3 minutes to bake up the bottom of the crust a bit more before adding your filling.
I like to prebake my pastry crust when I make quiche, too. I just pop it into the oven for 6-7 minutes without a foil liner. The pastry does puff up, but it's not in the oven long enough to set, so it's still pliable and settles back down when I pour the filling into the shell.
Making dough from scratch isn't hard at all. In fact, you can even make one in your food processor with a couple pushes of a button! Maybe after some experimentation with fluting and blind baking, you'll be in the mood to try a recipe from scratch. If so, here's a classic to get you started:
Recipe: Pastry for Single Crust Pie »