Whether it’s summer or winter, when your kitchen is hotter than 70º F / 21º C, it is a struggle to work with pie dough. You feel the butter melting on your fingers. The dough sticks to your rolling pin. Never fear. Check out these tips for baking pies in your burning hot kitchen and yes, you can rescue that pie crust!
Working with pie dough feels super challenging if you’re not a regular master baker. Unfortunately, an unexpected 86º F / 30º C heatwave makes the task even harder. This was my situation when I led a meetup group on how to make pies from scratch. Doreen, who generously opened her doors to us novice-pie-makers, shared her tips from the trenches on how to manage the pie dough and filling every step of the way.
RELATED: Check out Doreen’s No-Fail Pie Crust recipe.
If you find yourself in this similar situation during the holidays or summer, and you want actionable advice that’s better than “work quickly”, read on to learn the tips you need to save your pies!
1: Fridge and Freezer
Store all your ingredients in the freezer in preparation for making pies. As Doreen taught me, you can store your flour, butter, and pie-making equipment (bowls, forks, pastry blenders) in the freezer. I store my flour in the freezer these days regardless of whether I’m baking, and I always feel prepared for baking pies.
If your flour wasn’t already in the freezer, that’s OK. Measure out the amount of flour you need and stash it in the freezer now. Putting your ingredients in the freezer for as little as 15 minutes will help.
In between working on the dough, such as after kneading the dough, rolling it out, and filling it, store the pie crust in the fridge for at least 10 to 30 minutes to firm up the crust and cool down the pie dish. Although it extended the pie preparation time, frequent refrigeration kept the pie crust flaky and easier to handle.
2: Never Touch the Pie Dough
When unexpected warm weather is working against you, additional heat comes from everywhere, not only the air and your hands. Your bowls, countertop, and water will be warmer. This makes the butter or shortening melt faster. Avoid touching the dough directly with your hands with these strategies:
- Make your pie dough with a food processor. If you don’t have one, use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour. If you don’t have a pastry blender, use two forks instead. There’s always a way to avoid touching the dough with your hands.
- Add ice water to the flour and butter instead of tap water.
- Use a marble rolling pin and pastry board if you have it. If you don’t, use a wooden cutting board, which you can store in the freezer for 15 minutes. If you have to use your kitchen counter or dining table, you can put ice in a few plastic baggies and wrap them in kitchen towels. Then place on your table or countertop to cool down the surface.
- Place your pie dough on parchment paper or plastic wrap and manipulate it using the parchment paper or plastic wrap. This comes with two benefits.
- First, you can move the paper or wrap instead of directly touching your pie dough to maneuver it.
- Second, you can roll out the dough between the parchment paper or plastic wrap instead of touching your rolling pin directly on the dough. It significantly reduces chances your hands will touch the dough as you roll it out and form it into a round crust.
3: Use Butter Knives
I found the butter was easier to cut into the flour during butter knives instead of a pastry blender. When I used a pantry blender during hot weather, the butter squished down into a mush. It was very challenging to cut the butter into pea-sized chunks that are ideal for pie-making. Your mileage may vary depending on how your pastry blender is designed. But if you’re failing with your pastry blender, give two cold butter knives a chance.
4: Make Small Pies
Making small pies allows you to cool down the pie crust and filling faster in the fridge. It also helps avoid touching the dough because hand pies are easy to manage than larger crusts that require longer to roll out and fit into a pie pan.
5: Keep the Top Crust Simple
Avoid making very complicated top crusts. There isn’t enough time to work with complex lattice designs when it’s hot because the pies sit out for a while, and your hands touch the dough more to set up the lattice top.
Instead, you can keep the designs simple by using a top crust and cutting slits to make a design. Alternatively, you can make lattice designs on hand pies that require less time. Or you could use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of dough and use those as pie crust toppers.
6: Use Frozen Fruit
If your kitchen is too hot, use frozen fruit for your pies. I love frozen fruit for pies because it is already peeled and cut. If you can’t use frozen fruit, such as in the case of pumpkin pie or apple pie, make your pie filling ahead of time and refrigerate it to cool it down. Avoid cooking your pie filling on the stovetop and pouring hot pie filling directly into your crust. Give your pie filling time to cool or you could destroy the hard work you put into making a flaky crust.
7: Work Quickly With Help
Working quickly is critical. Have all your equipment ready (and stored in the freezer) and measure out all your ingredients to enable you to work faster.
Ask a friend to help you make the pies. You can make sure one person is constantly putting the ingredients back into the fridge, even the flour because it’s easy to forget it on the counter after flouring your surface.
8: Make French-Style Galettes
Instead of making a traditional round pie in a pie pan, you can try a French-style galette. If the dough is tearing easily or the butter is melting into your hands, opt for the galette which is more forgiving than a pie.
To make a galette, roll out the dough into a roughly circular shape and put your filling into the middle.
Fold the edges of the crust inwards towards the center of the dough. Overlap the dough until you form a circle. You can brush the dough with a beaten egg or a golden finish or simply bake as is.
9: Freeze the Pie Before Baking
Put the assembled raw pie into the freezer before baking for at least 15 to 30 minutes. It won’t be enough time to freeze the pie but it gives you dough a chance to relax so the pie will shrink less while baking. It also hardens the butter so it produces a flaky, crispy crust.
10: Make Fresh Lemonade
As long as you’re working up a sweat making pies in a hot kitchen, you might as well start by juicing up some lemons to make fresh lemonade. It’ll keep you refreshed and cool, which hopefully will translate into sweat-free pie-making.
FAQ about Making Pies in a Hot Kitchen
How Long Should a Pie Cool Before Cutting?
It’s critical to cool the pie before eating to avoid burning your tongue. Custard and fruit pies continue cooking from residual heat after moving from the oven. Fruit pies also thicken once cool which helps give you a better filling texture. Cool fruit pies for at least two hours before serving. Cool custard pies for at least one hour before serving. And make sure the pie isn’t going to burn your guests before serving.
Should Pie Filling Be Hot or Cold?
The pie filling should be cold when you fill the raw crust to prepare the pie for baking, especially if your kitchen is very hot.
For serving pie, hot versus cold pie filling is a personal preference. Most people like cool pies during the summer and warm pie filling during the winter, especially if it’s a freshly baked fruit pie. It’s more common to eat custard pies cold or at room temperature.
Can You Put a Pie Back in the Oven?
Yes, you can put a pie back in the oven if it appears to be undercooked when you removed it. You can also put a pie back into the oven to reheat it. This is helpful if you bake a pie ahead of time as part of meal prep to help you stress less when entertaining.
How Do You Reheat a Pie in the Oven?
You can preheat the oven to 350º F / 175º C. Place aluminum / aluminium foil over the top of the pie as a shield to avoid burning the crust. Tent the foil over the top crust and gently sit the foil to allow steam to escape. There is no need to wrap the foil tightly around the pie. Heat a regular 9 inch / 23 cm pie for 15 to 25 minutes. The smaller hand pies can be reheated for 10 to 15 minutes. Continue to check to make sure the crust doesn’t burn.
How Do You Separate a Pie From the Pie Pan If It Is Stuck?
Try using a toothpick to separate the pie from the pie pan. Loosen the edge of the crust with a toothpick and try to lift the pie out of the pie pan. Or use a hammer. Gently, knock the pie pan to see if the pie will lift out. Try the hammer with metal pie pans. Avoid using the hammer with a delicate glass or ceramic pie plate.
These are two excellent pie recipes from Stella at Serious Eats. She has great advice on baking pies: