Pie

How to Make Perky Fruit Pies, Not Fruit Puddles

July 12, 2018

We’re in peak fruit pie season and there’s arguably no better way to enjoy your favorite summer bounty—but nothing ruins a great pie faster than cutting a slice to find a big fruit puddle. It’s a topic hot on our Baking Club members’ minds, as we bake through Melissa and Emily Elsen's The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book this month.

To ensure picture-perfect pies, we’ve rounded up a handful of strategies to help control juiciness. Test them out to see which ones work best for you.

Reduce the fruit’s juice

Literally, reduce it! Baking guru and pie whisperer Erin McDowell recommends tossing fruit with the sugar called for in the recipe (a process called maceration). Once the fruit has releases its juices, strain it, and boil until it reduces to about 1/4 to 1/3 cup. At that point some of the warm juice can be used to make a slurry with your thickener of choice (more on that in a moment). Freezing and thawing the fruit is another option for getting the fruit to release its juices, a technique the Elsen’s use for their Rhubarb Pie.

Precook the filling

Another one of McDowell’s strategies is to fully pre-cook the pie filling. This way you can control the filling’s thickness before it even goes into the crust. She especially likes to use this method for stone fruits, like peaches, cherries, plums, and their kin.


another berry good use for that fruit

Add something to soak up the juice

Another option for dealing with the fruit’s inevitable juiciness is to sprinkle something on the bottom of the crust to soak it all up, like breadcrumbs or crushed graham crackers.

Change up your thickening agent

Cornstarch, arrowroot, tapioca, flour—the list of options goes on and on. Generally, it’s best to stick with the thickener called for in the recipe (presumably it’s been tested and should work!), but if your pies are still runny, it might be time to play around with a different one. King Arthur Flour has a rundown on the differences between a few of the most common options, as well as a couple of ones they sell, like Instant ClearJel and Pie Filling Enhancer.

Add pectin

Pectin is what makes jam gel, and can be used to help pies set as well. When making a pie with a low-pectin fruit (like blueberries, strawberries, and peaches), try mixing in a fruit higher in pectin. One common combination is blueberry with grated Granny Smith apple mixed in. Mrs. Wheelbarrow uses kiwi to help set strawberry jam, and hardlikearmour ran with that idea and now adds kiwi in low-pectin fruit pies to minimize the amount of starch needed to set them. And packaged pectin works, too—Cook’s Illustrated uses a combination of pectin and cornstarch to thicken its peach pie filling.

Allow plenty of time for it to set up

We get it. It’s unbelievably tempting to cut into a pie before it’s fully cooled. Warm pie, cold ice cream, it’s a match made in heaven, right? Not if you want your pie to be fully set. Let you pie cool completely before cutting into it. Mark Neufang says, “I find that if you don't give it at least a solid 8 hours cooling, there is a greater chance for runniness when you cut into it.”

Ready to bake up some non-runny pies?! Find out how to get involved with the Baking Club here.

What are your best tricks for avoiding runny fruit pies? Fill us in below.

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5 Comments

Isabella August 18, 2018
Hummmm.....I do use products from King Arthur Flour such as the Pie Enhancer with great success!! NEVER have any of the pies that I made end up gluey, overly juicy, or linger on the tongue in an unpleasant way. The key is to not be"heavy handed"with ANY thickener and sometimes I may even add Panko bread crumbs to the bottom of the crust depending on the fresh fruit I am using, apple,cherry,peach,etc. You get the picture! Peaches are on my radar now and they are tasting terrific! Thanks Lindsay-Jean!! Peach pie tonight!!
 
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. August 20, 2018
Peach pie is on my list for the week, too! Happy baking!
 
Leslie R. July 14, 2018
Thank you Lindsay-Jean. Great to have all of these ideas brought together and the link to Erin's article is wonderful too. <br /><br />
 
Pat B. July 13, 2018
Humboldt Babs - you could have found a less rude way to state your opinion.
 
Humboldt B. July 13, 2018
I'm sorry but some of the suggestions for thickening your fruit pies sound absolutely horrid. Using some kind of gel set or pectin could produce the kind of pie one associates with a diner or truck stop..gelatinous and tongue-coating. Blech!~