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Help me crisp the bottoms of these tarts!


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This isn't an original problem, I know ... I've been making tarts, especially ones with fresh pumpkin, and have been having trouble getting the shells crisp on the bottom, especially in the center. The bottoms at the edges, and the sides and rims are perfect. The filling is perfect. I've been fixing them by sliding them on foil onto a 500 degree baking stone, but there has to be a better way.

Here's what I'm already doing. This all helps, but not enough:

-prebaking the shell, and baking the whole tart, on the bottom oven rack

-prebaking the shell almost all the way (more than 'half baked)

-precooking the filling on the stove (to the point where it just starts to thicken)

-filling the hot pre-baked tart shell with the half-cooked filling

-i'm using a 375 degree oven, and traditional tinned steel pans.

Here are some thins i'm considering:

-preheating the oven and a baking stone to a high temp, then turning down to the normal temp. then prebaking the tart shell by sliding the tart pan right onto the hot stone

-when prebaking the shell, after it browns a bit, covering it with a large sheet of foil to protect the top, and let the bottom cook another few minutes.

-doing the same thing but with a ring of foil that leaves the top part of the shell bottom exposed (this is starting to sound too fussy, but i'm trying to think of everything.

Any thoughts? How is this typically handled?

Notes from the underbelly

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When I make pumpkin pie I blind bake the crust virtually all the way through (probably 95%) then take it out of the oven to cool for a minute before brushing half an egg white on the inside. Then pour in the hot filling, place a foil ring over the top to protect the crust edges and finally back into a moderate oven to finish. If you are worried about overbrowning the crust you can try either reducing the amount of sugar or increasing the acidity in your crust recipe.

Edited by sheetz (log)
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There is another way. Cook the filling in a well greased pan ( same size of course) separtely from the crust. put the two together....and pipe the edges w/whipped cream..this works well with pumpkin, etc.

good luck.

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I'm not the world's greatest pumpkin pie expert (I make pumpkin pie very rarely), but here are my thoughts:

Your filling is too wet and that's keeping the bottom crust from crisping. The moisture is collecting on the bottom. This may be a problem inherent in using pumpkin, which can be watery. For a very similar flavor profile, but a drier filling, try substituting butternut squash for the pumpkin.

I cook David Lebovitz's recipe for Butternut Squash Pie in his cookbook, Room for Dessert. Lebovitz (former Chez Panisse pastry chef) says in his intro: "After years of making both pumpkin and butternut squash pies, I've decided that butternut squash makes the better pie. I like the sweet, intense orange pulp of butternut squash, and to me it has a superior flavor."

If I remember correctly, Lebovitz likes to use a glass pie pan so he can see the crust browning properly.

If you're wedded to your pumpkin pie filling, try using less of it so that less moisture drains down into the bottom crust.

good luck!

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I'm not the world's greatest pumpkin pie expert (I make pumpkin pie very rarely), but here are my thoughts:

Your filling is too wet and that's keeping the bottom crust from crisping. The moisture is collecting on the bottom. This may be a problem inherent in using pumpkin, which can be watery. For a very similar flavor profile, but a drier filling, try substituting butternut squash for the pumpkin.

Maybe the filling could be cooked longer? And any moisture added reduced?

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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I've thought about cooking longer, but I'm afraid the filling might curdle. not sure if this is a silly thing to worry about. Do you think a pumpkin pie type filling (with whole eggs, cream, sugar, etc) can be cooked on the stove until it starts thickening, but still remain pourable (like a creme angaise)?

I do use an egg wash on the inside of the tart. the recipe i stole it from said to use a whole egg (with 1/4 tsp salt) not an egg white. not sure if this makes a difference. Thoughts?

I'm not the world's greatest pumpkin pie expert (I make pumpkin pie very rarely), but here are my thoughts:

Your filling is too wet and that's keeping the bottom crust from crisping. The moisture is collecting on the bottom. This may be a problem inherent in using pumpkin, which can be watery. For a very similar flavor profile, but a drier filling, try substituting butternut squash for the pumpkin.

Maybe the filling could be cooked longer? And any moisture added reduced?

Notes from the underbelly

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I sympathize with your problem, as this has vexed me for awhile too. I've tried just about everything you have tried or thought of. The egg wash isn't going to help too much-- the key is getting the shell crisp in the first place (before you apply any 'sealants'). Ultimately, my solution was simple: cover the outside edge of the tart shell with a foil ring and blind bake the hell out of the crust (on the bottom oven rack)-- until the bottom of the shell is very golden brown (I usually start with weights, but remove them and bake alot longer). If it doesn't get totally crisp during this stage, it'll never be crisp I've decided. Allow it to cool completely before filling and continuing to bake.

Edited by cjsadler (log)

Chris Sadler

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I prebake on a pizza stone. Then I start the filled pie out (on a baking sheet) on the pizza stone, raise it after 10-15 minutes. I've never precooked the pumpkin custard.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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I prebake on a pizza stone. Then I start the filled pie out (on a baking sheet) on the pizza stone, raise it after 10-15 minutes. I've never precooked the pumpkin custard.

How well has this worked? it's on my list of things to try. i'm inclined to try it before trying the foil ring, just because it seems simpler (and involves one less disposable item).

do you think it would be worthwhile to preheat the stone to a higher temp than the baking temp?

does the baking stone help the inside bottom of the shell get crisp?

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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I've thought about cooking longer, but I'm afraid the filling might curdle. not sure if this is a silly thing to worry about. Do you think a pumpkin pie type filling (with whole eggs, cream, sugar, etc) can be cooked on the stove until it starts thickening, but still remain pourable (like a creme angaise)?

For the filling, I use basically the same method as Cook's Illustrated does in their pumpkin pie recipe, which is to cook the filling minus the eggs on the stove until boiling,then using some of that to temper the beaten eggs before combining everything together and pouring into the prebaked crust. Using this method the filling sets so quickly there's little time for the crust to get soggy.

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...blind bake the hell out of the crust (on the bottom oven rack)-- until the bottom of the shell is very golden brown (I usually start with weights, but remove them and bake alot longer).  If it doesn't get totally crisp during this stage, it'll never be crisp I've decided.  Allow it to cool completely before filling and continuing to bake.

Now this rang a bell. I used to have a problem with the bottom crust of quiche lorraine, very similar to your problem with the bottom crust of pumpkin pie. The bottom crust was never crispy and often mushy.

I solved the problem with a combination of Chez Panisse and Julia Child techniques. From Chez Panisse: cook the tart shell completely. You can do this and bake a filling in it later because pie crust is so slow to brown anyway. From Julia Child: Unmold the pastry shell, let it cool, set it on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably a rimless baking sheet), fill it and bake it. (See Julia Child, Mastering the Art of Fine Cooking, vol 1, page 146.)

I found that unmolding the tart shell was key. More moisture could evaporate out that way.

Also, if you are going to cook your filling in an unmolded tart shell, make sure the walls are strong. Julia Child suggests a double thickness of dough for the tart shell walls to make them sturdier. (See Julia Child, Mastering the Art of Fine Cooking, vol 1, page 144.)

I also suggest making sure the dough next to these walls is also sturdy, i.e., not too thin, or the extra weight of the walls will cause cracks where the walls meet the tart bottom. (Sturdy walls, sturdy foundations, cf. medieval castles. :biggrin: )

I don't know if these techniques will work for your pumpkin pie, but my quiche lorraine has nice crispy well-cooked bottom crusts now.

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Thanks for the responses, everyone.

I made an apple tart last night and put some of these ideas to use. Worked well (though apple is less challenging than a soupier custard based tart).

my plan now includes

1) prebaking and final baking with the tart pan right on a hot stone on the bottom rack of the oven

2) prebaking thoroughly, and using a ring of foil for the last few minutes to keep the rim from getting overdone

3) precooking the filling thoroughly to set it up and give it less chance to soak into the shell. for pumpkin I plan to try the cook's illustrated order of operations (cooking the pumpkin/spices, then adding milk and cream and bringing to simmer, then mixing in the eggs).

Notes from the underbelly

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