Pie

Kitchen Rescue: How to Fix 10 Common Pie Problems

November 19, 2015

In this world, there exists such a thing as perfect bakers. You know, people whose desserts always look like they were sent to hair and makeup on their way to the table. People who never, ever panic when their Swiss Buttercream seems to turn into a curdled mess. People who just "whip up" some cinnamon rolls on a weekend morning.

Pie Crust

I covet the ease and confidence that these people possess. Though I am an experienced baker, I still get a wee bit intimidated when making certain things: scones, sourdough bread, anything that moms specialize in

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And pie—especially pie crust

Pie Crust

I have become semi-comfortable making pie crust by following the two golden rules: use cold ingredients and don't overwork the dough. If I'm extra worried about impressing people, I'll blend the butter and flour in the food processor. Otherwise I just snap the butter in with my fingers because I like the feel of it, working quickly, hardly breathing until the ice water is added and the disk of dough is chilling in the fridge. Then I roll it out just as quickly, sending a little prayer up to the butter and flour gods while I work. 

My pies usually turns out perfectly okay. Sometimes they turn out excellent. Sometimes not. I make pie an awful lot (birthdays, holidays, Sundays, thank-you-for-fixing-my-oven-days), and there have been many struggles and failures, typically regarding the crust. Maybe it was too crumbly, too sticky, or too dry. Maybe this has happened to you, too. And through trial (many trials) and error (many errors), as well as a healthy dose of internet research, I have found some tricks to help fix pie crust woes, both before and after they're in the oven. And I transfer my wisdom to you.

Here's how to fix your pie crust problems if...

  1. Your dough is too crumbly.
  2. Your dough breaks when you press it in the pan.
  3. Your crust shrinks when it bakes.
  4. Your crust is pale and underbaked.
  5. Your crust is too tough.
  6. Your (pie's) bottom is soggy.
  7. Your pecan pie's pecans have gone soft.
  8. Your pumpkin pie is cracked.
  9. Your fruit filling is too liquid-y.
  10. Your crust is a total failure.

Pie Crust

Your dough is too crumbly. 

If your pie dough breaks and crumbles when you try to roll it out, it's probably too dry. This is a relatively easy fix. Just sprinkle some cold water over the dough with your fingers and work it in—gently!—until the dough comes together. If your dough gets too warm, send it back into the fridge to chill out. When you take it back out, it should roll more easily.  

Your dough breaks when you press it in the pan.

First of all, did you transfer the pie crust to the pan using the rolling pin method? To do this, put your rolling pin slightly to one side rolled-out dough circle, then fold the dough over onto it. Lift the pin and carefully move the hanging dough over to the pie pan. Lay the rolling pin in the middle of the pan and unfold the dough, then press it in. It's so much easier than attempting to pick it up with your hands, which will only result in pain and disappointment.

Whether you used the rolling pin method or not, a broken dough needs fixin'. The good news is you can camouflage tears relatively easily. After you've molded your crust into the pie pan, use the scraps you pinched off of the edges to patch up any cracks, smoothing the seams with your fingers. If the tears are on the top crust or the edges, sprinkle on a little bit of sugar to camouflage any imperfections. Press it lightly onto the crust and bake. 

Pie Crust

Your crust shrinks when it bakes.

If you pull a pie out of the oven and the crust has shrunk and hunched onto itself, it's a sign that you didn't let it rest before baking. Letting the dough rest is key because it allows the gluten to relax so that it doesn't seize up and retract on you later. This is why most pie experts will advise you to not only let your pie dough chill before rolling it out but to let it chill in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before baking, too. 

You can't fix a shrunken crust after the fact, but you can definitely camouflage it with some whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon or chocolate shavings. Or just serve the pie already sliced and plated, so your guests can't see how much it shrunk in the pan. No big.

Your crust is pale and underbaked.

Easy! Just bake it some more. To ensure a bronzed, shiny crust, I like to give the pie a quick brush with eggwash before sending it back into the oven. Make sure your oven is hot enough: 425° F or 450° F is ideal. Just set a timer first so that you don't end up with a burnt pie.

Blind Baking Pie

Your crust is too tough.

If your pie crust is tough instead of tender and flaky, you probably either overworked the dough or added too much water to it. There's not much to do in this situation but plate up a slice and throw on a scoop of ice cream. Don't sweat it: You'll do better next time. 

Your (pie's) bottom is soggy. 

There are a couple reasons you might have been a victim of S.B.S. (Soggy Bottom Syndrome). Maybe you needed to par-bake your crust. Maybe your filling was too liquidy. Maybe you were watching "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" while baking. 

This is a tricky problem to fix, but hope is not lost. If it's a fruit pie, try putting it back in the oven for a few minutes on the very bottom rack, thus putting the underbaked bottom closer to the heat source. If it's a custard pie, don't try to re-bake it; you risk compromising your lovely filling. Instead, scoop the insides into a glass serving dish and top with cookies or whipped cream. Looks, it's a trifle! That's totally what you intended all along, right?

In the future, there are a few ways to avoid S.B.S.:

  1. It's helpful to bake your pie in a glass-bottom dish so that you can see when the bottom is bronzed to your liking.
  2. Always par-bake the crust if the recipe calls for it.
  3. If your fruit filling seems extra wet, drain off a little bit of liquid before adding it to the pan.

If you're extra worried about soggy crusts (maybe you've had some bad experiences in the past), you can sprinkle flour on the crust before adding the filling, or even brush the dough with a beaten egg.

Pecan Pie

Your pecan pie's pecans have gone soft.

Whole pecans can cost an arm and a leg (unless you have a pecan tree in your yard!), so it's a real bummer when they turn mushy and soft in your pie. To avoid this, toast your pecans before adding them to the syrupy, sticky filling. Not only will it fortify them against sogginess, it will also bring out their lovely, nutty flavor. 

More: Vegan pecan pies deserve toasted nuts, too. 

Pumpkin Pie

Your pumpkin pie is cracked.

Oops! You baked it too long. It's best to take pumpkin pie (and sweet potato pie, and cheesecake pie) out of the oven when just shy of completely set. About five minutes before the prescribed baking time is up, gently jiggle your pie. When the only part that moves is a 1-inch circle in the middle, it's ready. The residual heat of the pie will carry it through.

Now you know better for next time. If you're worried about being judged for your cracked pie facade, you can camouflage it easily. Top your pie with crumbled ginger cookies, cover it with a facemask of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, or layer on some softened apples. You just made your pie even better. 
 

Your fruit filling is too liquid-y.

First question: Did you let your pie set at least thirty minutes before cutting into it? You need to give the filling a little bit of time to settle in before slicing, or all of the fruit's juices will runneth free. If you did wait and your filling is still too liquidy, then, unfortunately, there's not much to do to fix it. Pie shake time!

In the future, if you fear your fruit filling will end up a little wet (this is especially common with juicier fruits, like berries, especially if they are frozen), add a tablespoon of cornstarch before baking to thicken things up. Heads up: Adding cornstarch will make the filling a little bit cloudy. If this concerns you, invest in some tapioca starch instead, which dissolves clear.

Crumble

If all else fails and your pie crust is an utter disappointment.

If your pie is fruit-filled, you can always scrape the filling into a baking dish, top it with a quick buttery crumble made with whatever's in your fridge, and bake it until it's bubbly. Or make a speedy press-in olive oil crust, which never fails you. Or just cover the whole thing with so much whipped cream and ice cream that no one notices. Or just pour more wine. 

After all, it's just pie.

Do you have more pie problems? Shout 'em out in the comments -- we'll put our heads together and see if we can come up with a solution!

25 Comments

Cathy November 20, 2018
I don't know what I was thinking but I fully baked my crust before I put my pumpkin in the crust. Can I cook the pumpkin on top of the stove or put it in a dutch oven and then put it on top of the crust. Please respond as soon as possible thank you
 
Bobbie November 14, 2018
Hi, I was making pie dough and my kitchen was too warm so it’s like the consistency of play dough. I don’t want to waste the ingredients, but I know this won’t work for my pie. What can I do with my play dough LOL? Is there anyway to turn this into cookie without first creaming butter and sugar?
 
Debbie October 26, 2018
To avoid a soggy-bottomed fruit pie crust, I add 2 tablespoons of oatmeal on the raw crust. Then I add the fruit. The oatmeal serves to absorb any excess moisture from the berries. <br />When baking an apple pie, I take approximately half of the chopped apples, cook them for about 15 minutes (depending on the variety of apple) to release some of the moisture. The remaining apples are added to the cooked apples. The apples are set aside to cool then added to the crust.
 
Lois D. September 28, 2018
I make Pumpkin pie from scratch, and melted butter is part of the recipe. I am now seeing it rise to the top of the pie when it's done. It tastes great, but I do not want the butter to be on the top of the pie.
 
Em September 12, 2018
Hello, I make a ot of hand pies with an all butter crust and I regularly have problems where the butter melts out of the handpie. The buyer gets collected on the cookie sheet but then my handpies are just sitting in butter making them soggy. Any tips to helps prevent this?
 
Jeffrey S. September 4, 2018
Somewhere I've read that putting the egg wash on the bottom crust, prior to spooning in the filling, will help to keep the bottom crust drier through baking and therefore more ideal in texture. The proteins and fats presumably act as a barrier. I've found success with this minor practice. What's more, one egg is usually too much to spread over the top crust (if a double crust pie), so really, you shouldn't have to crack another egg. Also, I've been guilty of overworking doughs, trying ceaselessly to attain that perfect unbroken circle, and in my opinion the undue force makes a huge difference in texture. Be gentle with pin and aim for the fewest strokes possible. Finally, if I'm doing a double crust, I'm keeping the second dough ball (eventual top crust) in the fridge or freezer until I work and lay the first crust.<br /><br />
 
Christine A. March 20, 2018
Hello. My pie crust is delicious and very flaky, but fragile and falls apart after baking. I am using 2 1/2 c. King Arthur AP flour unbleached, 10 T. Butter, 8 T. Shortening, 1 egg yolk, 1 T. Lemon juice or vinegar, and up to 5 T. Water. I use a good processor. Any advice? Thank you!
 
Camille January 2, 2018
I use King Arthur AP flour, all butter, an egg yolk and a little cider vinegar in my Cuisinart. The dough rolls out well on parchment. I refrigerate for 10 mins before putting my apple pie in the oven. Then 20 minutes into baking the fluted crust starts to fall off. What am I doing wrong?
 
Cheryl P. December 18, 2017
Ok,I have a new one for you. I have never had this happen but my pie was to fragile. When moved into the pie plate the edges cut themselves off as soon as they hit the sides. If you looked at it with a sharp look it fell apart. What did I do wrong? Never had this happen. It rolled out so nice and smooth, not to wet not to dry.<br />
 
Tracy December 23, 2017
Mine was like it was powdery, touch it and it fell apart. After baking.<br />
 
Kathy S. November 23, 2017
I read everything about pie crust you wrote. I'm using King Arthur all purpose flour, I use cold water and hard butter, but not cold shortening, the right amount of water. I use my Kitchen Aid to mix, then put into a ball and chill. It rolls fine, but when I try to transfer it to the pie pan, it totally breaks apart. Grrrr. Help.
 
Janet K. November 5, 2017
Is this a new problem? I am teaching myself how to make crust. For the first two attempts at blind baking, something dripped and a big black goop was on the bottom of my oven. The smoke alarm was triggered on the first attempt! What could this be?<br />
 
Lori July 5, 2017
I made a blueberry pie and the crust turned rubbery after I stored it for a day. I know that the dough was really nice because with the leftover dough, I made some cherry turnovers that were lovely, puffy, flaky - delicious. Any idea what went wrong with the blueberry pie?
 
Sol June 19, 2017
To transfer pie dough to the pie plate without it tearing or breaking I roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper then just turn the paper upside down onto the pie plate and and press it into it (then peel off the paper). I even use a protractor to outline a 12 inch circle on the parchment beforehand (it's not actually big enough but it's close enough to gauge the rest by eye). Also, if you're using an AP flour for your dough it's best to add cider vinegar to prevent gluten formation (or whatever; i just know it works).
 
Soha A. June 4, 2017
I got my pie crust out of the freezer to roll it out. When I tried to adjust it by my hands first, it broke up ! What can I do? please tell me :(
 
Sol June 19, 2017
I know it's too late for this but if it was frozen (or even just straight from the fridge) it might've been too chilled to roll out yet. If it wasn't too chilled then it might've been too dry (just press in some water with your fingers while rolling).
 
Cindy May 25, 2017
Every time I make a rhubarb pie it looks great going in oven but just before I pull it out of oven a crack appears and pie looks bad. What am I doing wrong?
 
Megan H. May 10, 2017
For soggy-bottom pie, you can try putting a cookie sheet in the oven while it heats up (so that its hot when the pie goes in), and then bake the pie on that. That added heat from the solid bottom helps bake the crust better on the bottom (vs the thin bars of the oven rack).
 
Lee Q. December 19, 2016
The shortcrust recipe I am using (Maggie Beer recipe)<br />for my fruit mince pies comes out crumbly ...I mean the actual pastry once cooked is totally crumbly just falls apart when you pick the pie up !! How can I fix this pleeeeaaaaassseee ??!
 
Violet F. November 22, 2016
How long do you let frozen pie crust sit out before using it also I've got a jar of mincemeat for a pie but I don't know how long to bake the pie for thank you
 
Kathleen November 18, 2016
I make one pie a year, and it's a nightmare. I cannot roll the crust. It sticks to the pin, or the board, is too thin or too thick, breaks when I move it to the pie pan. I could go on. Do you have any suggestions short of buying the crust from the grocery? That said I like the way a pumpkin pie looks when it's cracked - it looks homemade.
 
Jeff P. November 19, 2016
Kathleen, this sounds like a kitchen emergency! I wish I could drop in and see what's happening -- you list a number of different things, each of which makes me think a different thing. (Sticking to the pin or the board? Perhaps the dough is too wet, in which case dust with flour, and maybe use a sheet of parchment paper between the dough and the board, and another between the dough and the pin.)<br /><br />Here would be my two suggestions in general for tackling the types of problems in your list:<br /><br />- Try using a different brand of flour -- you may be having sticky issues due to gluten levels<br /><br />- Use a digital scale to weigh out the ingredients, so that you're getting consistent ratio of water to flour.<br /><br />Perhaps when you try making your next pie, if you hit an issue, try posting to Food52's Hotline and see if someone there can give a specific suggestion for the problem you see at the time?<br /><br />-Jeff
 
Kathleen December 20, 2016
Jeff - <br /><br /> Been meaning to tell you that my pumpkin pie this year was the best yet - Thank you for your suggestions. And it didn't crack! <br />
 
Donna D. October 13, 2016
I can't get my pie to hold its shape. My crimping looks great before it goes in the oven but then it loses its shape. I'm chilling my dough before and after rolling. I blind bake with pie weights in a 425 degree oven. Can you help? I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong.
 
boogie November 10, 2016
Too much water?