ask Martha: what are some tips for becoming a better baker?

Dear Martha, Especially around the holidays, there's nothing better to me than making homemade pies to give away as gifts! I love to cook, but baking has...
By: Anna Becker / 11/26/2016 /

For a beginner like me, where do you recommend I start, and what tips do you have for making the perfect pie? Thanks Martha!

With enough practice, anyone can become a good baker, and pies are a great place to start.

Here are a few basic tips:

To achieve a light, flaky, and tender crust, it is essential that the liquids and butter are chilled until very cold, and that you make the dough quickly without overworking it. It’s also smart to chill the dough before and after rolling.

Some recipes call for pre-baking or blind-baking your crust. This is useful when the filling doesn't need to bake as long as the crust or would make an unbaked crust soggy. To avoid a puffy and blistered surface, fit the dough into the pie plate and prick it all over with a fork. Cover the dough with a piece of parchment paper and then fill the center with pie weights or dried beans before baking. Let the baked crust cool completely before filling it.

If your pie’s top crust looks as though it’s browning too quickly, tent the pie with foil to shield it from the heat until it has finished baking. If it’s just the edges you’re worried about, cover them with a ring of foil.

Messes can be hard to avoid when baking, but I believe in cleaning up as much as possible as you go, so you aren’t overwhelmed. And you can keep your oven clean when making fruit pies by placing the plate on a rimmed baking sheet to catch dripping juice (this also makes it easier to rotate the pie halfway through baking).


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