In The Kitchen

Autumn Pies

The chill in the air finally arrived, and with it, our urge to bake pies. Like swallows returning every year to Capistrano, we can’t help ourselves. So it was standing room only on a Saturday afternoon at New School of Cooking , while Briana Bielucke taught every level of piemaker how to turn out fabulous flavors for fall.

The class marveled at the ease and speed with which Briana rolled her pastry dough. “I have made THOUSANDS of pies!” she replied “You just have to practice.” As former head baker of Susie’s Cakes, she spoke the truth. Everyone learned that the butter needs to be really cold. Also, do not roll the dough out too thickly or your dough will require a longer time to bake. Your filling may be burned by the time the crust is done! Move the dough around on your work surface, lifting and rotating. It will transfer easily to your pie tin this way.

If you are making a custard type pie (think pumpkin!) you must refrigerate your dough (an hour is good) to let the gluten in the flour rest. This prevents the crust from shrinking when you put the shell in the oven.

Pre-baking the crust is called “blind baking” and is required for all custard pies. Cook the crust till it is no longer doughy, but not so much that it starts to brown. Every student handled their pastry like a pro!

Next we tackled the ever beautiful lattice topped pie. It’s best to pre-cook your fruit-filled bottom, without a top, to “almost doneness.” Let the filling cool slightly and then add the lattice top.

Return pie to the oven to finish baking. Why? Because if you drape your lattice work over a mound of raw fruit, such as seasonal apples, the filling will reduce in volume as it cooks and you will be left with a top crust that stands high above your pie, resembling a brand new baseball cap. Perky, crisp and tall. Not the look we are going for.

If a recipe states…”bake until center is set” there can be a little bit of jiggle, but the filling is still moving as a whole unit. Jiggle delicately so as not to open a crack in the custard, which will spill out the contents and ruin the smoothness. More setting will occur as the pie cools. An obvious watery circle in the center of the pie means it is not cooked enough. Be sure to bake top crusted pies to a deep, golden brown color.

Don’t be afraid to leave them in the oven to achieve that depth of color.

Pumpkin Pie With Ginger Streusel

Print Recipe


  • For pie dough...
  • 1 1/4 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces cold, unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
  • For Filling...
  • one 16 ounce can solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • For Topping...
  • 1 cup All Purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temp, cut into small pieces



Preheat oven to 300 degrees.


To make crust combine dry ingredients listed under pie dough.


Cut in butter.


Add water until dough just holds together. Form disc. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate one hour.


Blind bake the crust till cooked, but still pale. Do not allow crust to brown.


To make the filling, whisk all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl till well combined.


Pour filling into pre-baked pie crust. Bake (still at 300) until skin begins to form on the filling, and filling begins to set. About 50 minutes.


Remove from oven and let pie stand 10 minutes to set slightly. Leave oven on 300.


While pie is baking, make the topping.


Mix the first five ingredients in a medium bowl.


Rub butter in with your fingertips until mixture begins to form small clumps.


Sprinkle topping over pie delicately. A light touch will keep topping from causing filling to sink.


Bake until pie is set and streusel is golden brown, about 25 minutes.


Transfer to rack and cool completely.


Make single crust pie dough. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour before baking. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Pre-bake crust first. Then follow directions for filling. Pie will need to cool completely after baking.


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