Pie Making Help Guide
My dough cracks or falls apart when I try to roll it out!
The dough is most likely too dry or it could be too cold. The dough should feel soft and pliable, not unyielding. If it is crumbly, it's too dry. Add cold water, a few drops at a time, but avoid over mixing. Handling your dough too much will make it tough, so try to knead in the water gently. If it's cracking around the edges only, it's probably just too cold. Let it sit on the counter for a 1/2 hour or so to warm up.
I can't get my pie crust off the counter, or it sticks to the rolling pin.
Try flouring the surface of the board adequately and flouring your rolling pin. You might also try chilling the dough before rolling as well. You can also roll the dough out between sheets of waxed paper.
My crust isn't flaky!
For soggy crust, you can lightly brush the bottom crust with beaten egg white before pouring in your filling. This forms a seal over the crust to prevent it from getting soggy. If the crust is tough and not flaky (but also not soggy), then the issue is likely that you overworked the dough when you mixed it, or that the dough got very warm so the fats melded together.
My crust isn't getting brown!
Many crusts contain vegetable shortening which won't brown until it is cooked for a very long time. To prevent burning your pie to get a brown crust, brush the top of the pie with milk, or with egg wash made from 1 beaten egg + 1 Tbl water.
I pre-baked my pie crust, and it shrunk!
Keep the dough refrigerated before rolling it out and be sure not to stretch or pull the dough when forming it to the pan. Use a fork to poke the dough all the way around on the sides and bottom. This will allow the steam to escape so the crust doesn't puff up. As soon as you take the crust out of the oven, use an oven mit to push down any dome-like shape in the middle.
My fruit pie is a watery mess and won't set up.
Be sure you're using enough thickening agent. Typically fruit pies that are baked in the shell use either flour, corn starch, or quick cooking tapioca as a thickener (or a combination of 2 or all three). Fruit is full of water naturally, so these thickeners combine with the natural fruit juice to make the 'syrup' for the pie. The other option is to cook your filling on the stove and then pour it into an unbaked pie shell. Be sure the pie has cooled completely before you slice it--the filling needs time to set properly.
How can I tell when my custard pie/pumpkin pie/pecan pie is done?
We like to use what we call the "jiggle test". Cook your pies on a cookie sheet. Typically these kinds of pies bake for about an hour. After 1 hour, jiggle the cookie sheet while looking at the middle of the pie. If it looks like liquid with a skin on top - add 15 minutes. If it looks like firm jello - you're done!
Help! My banana bread (or other sweet bread) sunk in the middle - it's like a moon crater! What did I do wrong?
This is one of the trickiest parts of high altitude baking. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for adjusting for altitude. Because the air pressure is greater at altitude, the leavening (baking powder or soda) in your bread reacts more quickly - rising up very fast while baking. The center isn't baked fast enough, so the bread rises quickly, then the structure of the bread can't support itself, so it sinks. There are a few things you can do - you just have to play around with it and through trial and error you'll get it fixed! First, add about 1/4 cup more flour, and cut the leavening (baking powder or soda) by 25 - 30%. Try a combination of adjusting those two things and eventually you'll get it!
I baked my famous chocolate chip cookies and they turned out like 5" pancakes! What can I do to make them "regular cookies"?
My suggestion would be to add extra flour - especially if your cookies have a lot of butter in them (or if butter is the only fat). Adding about 1/2 - 1 extra cup of flour per batch should do the trick!
My yeast bread didn't rise - what do I do with this brick?
"Brick bread" as we call it at the bakery can have many causes. First, you should always proof your yeast when baking yeast bread. This is a step where you put the yeast in a few Tbl of warm water (then subtracting that amount of water from the recipe total so you are still using the same total volume amount of water or milk). In a small bowl, stir the water, yeast, and 1 tsp sugar. Let it sit 15 minutes. If the yeast mix gets milky and foamy - you've done it right. Add it to the recipe during the 'add the yeast' step and keep on truckin'! Sometimes, the yeast is old and won't react properly, or sometimes you get carried away with water that is too hot and kills the yeast. This step will prevent that.
Secondly - don't over mix. This is a common problem when using a bread machine. Bread dough should be elastic and stretchy. You can cut back on the amount of flour you're using if your bread is stiff. (Wheat and multigrain will be stiffer than white, but it should still be stretchy).
Thirdly - watch your rising. Let the bread loaves rise during the rising stage until it crests the top of the loaf pan. If you let it rise too long, the structure isn't supported and it will fall (with a loud noise, slam of the oven door, etc.) Then - you get a brick!
Lastly - don't over knead. Kneading is basically to remove air bubbles and to smooth out the bread and work it into a pliable state. The more you knead, the more flour you are adding which can make bread stiff and dense.