I have no idea where the term “blind baking” comes from. It sounds counterintuitive to what it actually means, like how “nonplussed” doesn’t sound like a word that means “to be phased, taken aback by”. “Nonplussed” sounds like it should mean “unruffled, not bothered”, leaving “plussed” to mean what “nonplussed” actually means. Similarly, to blind bake a pie pastry means to bake the shell by itself without any filling. But it seems to me that if you put filling into an unbaked shell and put the entire pie complex into the oven to bake, you are going all in: the filling obscures what the crust is doing while baking and you have no idea what you’ll end up with at the end. That seems pretty blind to me.
That’s why I call it pre-baking. There’s no confusion about what you’re doing to the crust with this nomenclature, and pie can be pretty confusing as it is without unnecessary additional confusion.
We pre-bake when we use a filling that requires no baking, as with ice cream pies, chiffon pies, or custard pies. Sometimes pie crusts need to be partially pre-baked before the filling is added, after which both the filling and the pie crust finish baking together.
Pre-baking comes in two phases: the first to fully set the crust using pie weights to keep it in place and to keep it from shrinking, and the second to finish baking the crust once the pie weights are removed. Don’t buy pie weights specifically marketed as pie weights; they are a complete waste of money. I have a useless strand of metal beads intended to be used as pie weights, but I’d have to purchase about 10 strands in order for them to weigh anything down. Being made of metal, they also conduct a lot of heat, and I don’t want to think about how that might affect my crust. Or my skin for that matter, if I mistakenly touched them. Plus, they look like miniature anal beads, for the smaller, more discerning anus. Instead, use dried beans!
Well of course I know where those beads have been.
They’re cheap, they’re minimally affected by baking, and they last for years until you tragically spill them all over the floor due to a terrible foil-related disaster. Thankfully, they’re easy to replace because they’re cheap, minimally affected by baking, and they last for years… Ah, the beauty of recursion.
To pre-bake you need the following:
- one unbaked pie pastry, already crimped
- one freezer
- 3 bags of dried beans (kidney, black, cannellini, black-eyed, great northern white, adzuki, pink, pinto, mung, I don’t care)
- aluminum foil or parchment paper
- cooling rack
- in some cases, egg white and a pastry brush
1. Freeze the plated and crimped pie pastry for 15 minutes. Freezing the dough makes the pastry easier to prepare and helps to keep it from shrinking and warping.
2. Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C).
3. While the oven is preheating, tear off a piece of foil or parchment paper long enough to line the entire surface area of the pie crust with plenty of additional foil/parchment paper hanging off the edges. Foil is more malleable, protective of the crust, and readily available (everybody has foil!), but parchment paper has a lower risk of tearing when removing the beans.
4. Pour all your beans into the pie shell all the way to the top. Make sure to keep the beans within the confines of the foil/parchment paper for ease of removal. It’s no fun picking individual beans out of your semi-baked crust.
5. Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Gathering the corners of the foil/parchment paper, carefully lift out the beans and place them somewhere you probably won’t burn anything. Take care not to rip the foil/parchment paper while transferring the beans.
I know I’m belaboring this whole bean-spilling thing, but you spill 3 bags of piping hot dried beans on your floor once, and you learn your lesson. Not only is it both literally and figuratively a pain to get so many scalding beans cleaned up, but you also find surprise bonus beans you missed in the initial cleanup for days. With your feet. Parents enduring the neverending punishment of stepping on LEGOs and Asian children whose tyrannical and authoritarian parents forced them to kneel on rice know what I’m talking about. I’m just helping YOU out by repeating myself so much.
6. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F (191°C).
7. Turn the pie crust 180 degrees so that the part of the crust formerly facing the back now faces the front to bake all sides evenly, unless you have one of those fancy convection ovens and everything’s baking evenly anyway, in which case just leave it.
8. Bake another 10-12 minutes to partially pre-bake or 15-17 minutes to fully pre-bake. Place the pie crust on the wire rack to cool until needed.
Some recipes will tell you to “dock” the pie crust, which means to stab the dough 8-10 times with a fork to keep it from getting puffy. In effect, baking with pie weights accomplishes this as well, so it may be an unnecessary step. However, if you’re using an all-butter crust (which tends to get extra puffy), it might be sensible to do the stabbing and de-puffing after you’ve removed the pie weights. If you’re concerned about your pie filling oozing out the stab holes you’ve left behind, beat an egg white until it’s frothy, brush the egg white over the holes, and bake for 2 minutes. The egg white seals the holes up like spackle.
The beans you can store somewhere for use in the future. Just don’t spill them. I’ve warned you.