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Michele Stuart, Pie Expert

On Baking With Crisco

"Once I took baking to a professional level, I was always asked what makes the perfect pie crust. Without any hesitation at all, my answer is and will always be Crisco shortening. There is no other product that gives you the flaky, melt-in-your-mouth pie crust like Crisco shortening does."

MICHELE'S RECIPES

MICHELE'S TIPS

Avoid Air Bubbles

Pie weights are used when prebaking a pie crust for a cream pie or any pie that involves a precooked filling or prebaked shells. I prefer to use ceramic balls because they have more weight to them. To use your pie weights, lay your uncooked pie crust in your plate. Then, cut a piece of parchment paper into a square shape and place it on top of the rolled-out, crimped pie shell. Next, distribute the pie weights evenly on top of the parchment paper and bake crust according to your recipe. If you don't have ceramic pie weights, no problem! You can create makeshift pie weights using dried beans on a sheet of parchment paper.

Creative Venting

Before baking pies that have a pastry top, you should always puncture the top of the pie crust. Use a fork or a knife to puncture five or six holes in the top crust to provide ventilation, which allows steam and moisture to release during the baking process. Though these punctures serve a utilitarian purpose, you can also get creative with your puncture pattern. For example, when I make an apple pie, I puncture the top crust with an A shape.

Easy Clean-up

When baking pies in the oven, particularly fruit pies, I always suggest placing a sheet of parchment paper down on your sheet before lying in the dough to help with easy clean-up. I used to spend hours cleaning and soaking my baking sheet. Now, it's as easy as one, two, three!

Keep Dough Cool

When preparing pie dough, make sure all of your ingredients are ice cold before starting. I like to keep my Crisco shortening in the refrigerator before I begin to mix my dough. Also, I put ice cubes in the water that I use to mix my dough. Once my dough is mixed, I wrap it tight in plastic wrap and keep it cold until I am ready to roll it out!

Lattice Pattern

Making a lattice top is not as intimidating as it sounds! Roll out a 10-inch circle on your surface. With a pastry wheel, cut 1-inch-wide pieces so that you have 5 pieces of dough. Place the pieces horizontally on top of your filling. Then, roll out another 10-inch circle of dough, and cut 1-inch-wide pieces so that you have 5 new strips of dough. Take each new piece and weave it in and out of the horizontal pieces. Do this until the entire pie has been completed. Trim off the excess pieces and crimp lattice strips to the crust.

Mason Jar Pies

Give the unique gift of pie in a jar this holiday! I've found that it's such a welcome, yet unexpected way of creating a fabulous-looking treat. To start, use a wide-mouth, short, squat mason jar. Choose your favorite pie recipe. Then, use the top of the jar to cut out one disc of pie dough. Use the remainder of the dough to create a "pie shell" by lining the bottom and sides of the jar. Scoop your favorite pie filling into the jar and top with the dough disk before baking.

Perfect Pie Crusts

One of the tricks that my grandmother taught me in the kitchen was to always brush the edges and top of my crust with heavy cream. This will give the baked crust a golden brown finish and even make the crust flakier than it already is! If you don't have heavy cream in the house, you can also use milk or half-and-half. For perfect, evenly baked crust, keep your oven racks at mid-level in your oven. Then, place your pie in the center of the oven and rotate it during the baking process to ensure your crust and filling are finished baking at the same time, so you don't end up with a crispy crust and undercooked filling.

ABOUT MICHELE

Michele Stuart, owner and pastry chef of Michele's Pies in Norwalk and Westport, Connecticut, grew up baking pies next to her grandma's side. Her pies have earned her 27 first-place National Pie Championships® Awards in a wide range of categories and taken her to sets as wide ranging as Good Morning America, the Food Network, and the TODAY Show. Her best advice came from her grandma, who used to say that Crisco shortening made the perfect pie crust.

MICHELE'S COOKBOOKS

Perfect Pies book image Perfect Pies & More book image

Look for in stores next time you shop.