It’s common for the crusts of pies with fruit fillings to get soggy when baking and turn your beautiful masterpiece into freshly baked disappointment. We’re no strangers to the soggy-pie pitfall: Early tests with our recipe for Sweet Cherry Pie consistently delivered pies with bottom crusts completely saturated with cherry juice. We wondered if getting the bottom crust of the pie to heat more rapidly would help prevent the juices from soaking through. We ran an experiment to find out.
We baked two identical cherry pies, one of them placed directly on the oven rack and the second placed on a baking sheet preheated for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
The bottom crust of the pie baked directly on the oven rack was soaked with cherry juice, while the pie cooked on a preheated baking sheet had a solid, intact bottom crust.
Why did the baking sheet make such a difference? In its raw state, pie dough is made up of cold, solid fat distributed among layers of moist flour. These layers are easily permeated by juices from the filling, which stay in the dough for the duration of baking, producing a soggy crust. The key to protecting the dough is to partially liquefy the solid fat as quickly as possible so that it can better fill and coat the spaces among the particles of flour, creating a watertight barrier and preventing the juices from soaking in. By placing the pie plate on a preheated baking sheet, we give the bottom crust a jump-start in the liquefying process.
USING A PYREX PIE PLATE?
World Kitchen, the company that now owns the U.S. Pyrex brand, cautions against putting cold (or even room-temperature) Pyrex pie plates and baking dishes onto hot baking sheets because they conduct heat so efficiently that they could shatter. Our recommendation is to place the pie plate on an unheated metal baking sheet before sliding it into the oven. The metal pan still helps conduct heat to the bottom of the pie but without risk of cracking the Pyrex plate since it heats up gradually. To apply this new approach to any of our existing recipes calling for a preheated sheet, bake the pie 5 to 10 minutes longer to guarantee a crisp, browned bottom. (Times will vary depending on the moisture of the filling and whether the pie has a single or double crust.)
RECIPE FOR MEMBERS: Sweet Cherry Pie
To tame the cherries’ sweetness and get them to break down to the proper, juicy texture in our Sweet Cherry Pie, we cut back on the amount of sugar and added some pureed plums. We also cut the cherries in half and toss some of them into the food processor along with the plums, then strain out the chewy skins for a soft filling. And, of course, we finish the pie by baking it on a preheated baking sheet.