Time-Tested Tips for Holiday Pie Success!

Holiday pie season is upon us! And if you’ve ever made these delectable desserts, you know there’s a lot that can go awry—whether you’re an experienced baker or a beginner.

But fear not! We’ve scoured old newspapers to gather tips, hints, and hacks that solve some common pie-making problems. Have you tried any of them?

Why Recipes Go Wrong: Misshapen Pie Shells12 Apr 1964, Sun The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) Newspapers.com

Tips for mixing pie dough

  • “Some good cooks like to chill vegetable shortening before cutting it into the flour in making pie dough.” (Valley Times, 1964)
  • “A pastry blender or blending fork will cut the shortening into the dry ingredients with more ease and with more uniform results than will two forks or two hands.” (Blairsville Dispatch, 1952)
  • “The preferred method of adding water to pastry or pie crust is to sprinkle a teaspoon of water at a time over the flour into which the shortening has been cut. Toss mixture lightly with a fork, just enough to make it hold together.” (Wilmington Press, 1938)

Hints for rolling out pie pastry

  • “Pie crust which has been made up at least a day in advance, wrapped in waxed paper and stored in the refrigerator, rolls out better than crust freshly made.” (Sheboygan Press, 1941)
  • “Dust board or pastry cloth lightly with flour before rolling out dough. The rolling pin should be lightly floured, too. If pastry sticks lift it with a spatula and dust board or cloth with flour.” (Opelika Daily News, 1938)
  • “For an even round shape when you are rolling out pie dough, use the rolling pin as if you were following the spokes of a wheel.” (Evansville Press, 1958)
  • “When making pies in hot weather fill a bottle with ice water and use it for a rolling-pin. The pastry will be delicate and flaky. A smooth round bottle should of course be chosen.” (Meriden Daily Journal, 1911)

Hacks for transferring pie dough to a pan

  • “Lightly place rolling pin near edge of pastry and roll pastry on pin toward you. Use a flat knife to start pastry on rolling pin if necessary. Roll all of it on pin, lift pin over pie pan, place top end on edge of pie pan, and quickly unroll pastry over pan.” (Akron Beacon Journal, 1943)
  • “To prevent pie-crust from breaking or sticking to the board, roll it out on a sheet of waxed paper. When ready to place in the pie-tin, slip your hand under the paper and turn the crust over once so that the paper will be between the folded dough. Place on half of the tin, grasp the paper and crust and fold over the other half on the tin. When the crust is in place the paper will be on top and can be easily removed.” (Pittsburgh Press, 1927)
29 May 1939, Mon Chattanooga Daily Times (Chattanooga, Tennessee) Newspapers.com

Advice for sealing and venting pies

  • “If you want a fine upstanding pie crust, be sure to roll out the pie dough one inch larger than the inverted pie pan. This will give you enough pastry to work with when you seal and flute the edge.” (Modesto Bee, 1955)
  • “To form a pie crust seal, lift bottom crust from edge of pie plate and fold overhanging top crust under bottom crust. Gently press both layers of pastry to edge of pie plate.” (Enterprise and Vermonter, 1953)
  • “The center, which is as a rule the highest point in the pie, is where the vents should be. This is the last place where juice will run out. […] Vents not only should be in the center of the pastry but also wide enough open to let all the steam out without forcing out liquid.” (Harrisburg Telegraph, 1947)

Tips for fluting or latticing a pie

  • How to flute pie pastry? After lining the pan, press your index finger on the pastry rim, then pinch the dough together using the thumb and index finger of your other hand.” (Daily Times, 1956)
  • “One deft cook has a neat way of preparing a lattice-top pie crust. She draws a pattern of the lattice on a square of waxed paper using one of her small fry’s crayons. Then she turns the crayoned side down and arranges the pastry strips in place. The latticed pastry and the waxed paper are flipped over the top of her filled bottom crust, then the paper is removed and the edge of the pie is finished by crimping.” (Evening Sun, 1958)
  • “When you are preparing a lattice-top pie, be sure to fold the bottom crust up over the pastry strips for a neat finish.” (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, 1956)

Hints for preventing misshapen pie crusts

  • “The pastry must be laid very loosely in the pie pan. If it is stretched at all, the pie crust will shrink away from the sides of the pan in baking. Leave enough pastry extending beyond the edge of the pan to build up a fluted edge. In building up the edge, pinch it, so that tiny points of the pastry hook themselves over the edge of the pan. This helps to ‘tie’ it in place.” (Minneapolis Star, 1937)
  • “All pie crusts shrink some but if yours show signs of excessive shrinkage it may be because it’s been handled too much or rolled unevenly.” (Auburn News, 1963)
  • “In making a pie shell for a fruit or cream filling, prick the entire surface with a fork so as to get rid of any air bubbles and prevent blistering in the finished crust.” (Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, 1948)
  • Various tricks are recommended to keep shell in shape while baking. Dried beans or uncooked rice are sometimes put in the bottom of pastry before baking. Sometimes a slightly smaller pie pan is set on top of crust. You may also put crust on the outside of a pie plate and bake in inverted fashion. A properly made pie shell holds its shape without any special treatment.” (Akron Beacon Journal, 1943)
03 Oct 1947, Fri The Sacramento Union (Sacramento, California) Newspapers.com

Hacks for achieving flaky pie pastry

  • “Is your pie crust crumbly rather than flaky? Chances are that you are cutting in your shortening so that it is too fine; leave it in pea-size pieces and handle the dough as little as possible.” (San Antonio Express, 1965)
  • “When mixing pie crust, if the lard, flour and salt are mixed before adding the water, the crust will be rich and flaky.” (Shreveport Times, 1914)
  • “Add a teaspoon of vinegar to the cold water used in making pie crust. This will make the crust flaky without using a large amount of shortening.” (Ogden Standard-Examiner, 1953)

Tips for getting a perfectly browned top crust

  • “Pie crust will have a rich brown glace if you will mix one egg yolk with one teaspoonful of cold water and brush over the top of the crust just before putting the pie in the oven.” (St. Albans Daily Messenger, 1937)
  • “Spread a little cream over the pie crust before baking, and it will make the crust brown and flaky.” (Red Deer Advocate, 1957)
  • “Sometimes the pie crust will brown sufficiently before the filling is quite done. In this case, merely cover the pie plate with a pan, or another inverted pie plate, and continue cooking.” (Courier-News, 1933)

Hints for avoiding soggy bottoms in pies

  • “To prevent juices soaking under crust in custard and fruit pies, brush the bottom with slightly beaten white of egg.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1932)
  • “The crust will not be soaked with juice, in a fruit pie, if you sprinkle bread crumbs over dough as soon as your pie tin is lined with it. The crumbs absorb the juice of the fruit and the crust stays flaky and dry.” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1932)
  • “To keep under crusts from being soggy, the oven should be at 450 degrees for the first 10 minutes, then reduce the heat for the rest of the baking time.” (Miami Herald, 1956)
  • “When pie is taken from an oven, set it on a wire rack, where the air can strike the bottom of the pan, until it is cooled. This keeps the crust crip and prevents sogginess.” (Northwest Enterprise, 1927)
03 Jun 1943, Thu The Sheboygan Press (Sheboygan, Wisconsin) Newspapers.com

Hacks for preventing juicy pies from boiling over

  • “To prevent juices running out of berry pies, add flour or cornstarch to the sugar for sweetening the fruit (about one tablespoon cornstarch or two of flour to each cup of sugar). Pour off all excess juice before adding fruit to a pie so there will be less juice to escape.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1932)
  • “When making a pie that will be juicy, the best way to keep the juice from coming out is, after placing your top crust on pie, take a fork and with prongs press down on the edge of your pie all around. This makes your pie look pretty, as well as keeping in all juices.” (Los Angeles Evening Express, 1913)
  • “If you have difficulty with fruit pies boiling over in the oven, try this: Place pastry in pan as usual and fill with fruit. Then cut the top crust, cutting it about ½-inch smaller all around than the pie pan. Place on the pie and bake as usual. The ½-inch opening all around the edge prevents juices from boiling over.” (St. Louis Star-Times, 1941)
  • “Try placing 1 ½-inch pieces of uncooked macaroni in the openings on the top of fruit pies. The juice will boil into the little chimneys instead of boiling over the edge. Remove the macaroni before serving.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1949)

Tips for boosting the flavor of some popular pies

  • “Mouth watering for a spicy pumpkin pie? Try adding 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg to each pie crust. Or for a different flavor substitute chilled orange juice for the water called for in your crust recipe.” (Santa Barbara News-Press, 1956)
  • “In making blueberry pies, mix one teaspoonful of ground nutmeg with two tablespoonsful of flour and sprinkle on berries, then add sugar.” (Boston Globe, 1914)
  • “When baking apple pie, grate several tablespoons of sharp cheddar cheese into the pie dough before rolling it out. The cheese helps to make a crisp and delicious crust, and complements the flavor of the apples.” (Evening Journal, 1969)
  • “Next time you make chocolate pie and you have some leftover coffee, try substituting the coffee for about half of the milk. Nice flavor!” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1949)
  • “When making cherry pie, add ½ teaspoon of almond extract to the filling for an added flavor.” (Tampa Tribune, 1952)
  • “If a stronger lemon flavor is desired” in lemon meringue pie, add “more grated lemon rind, but not more lemon juice. If more acid is added, the mixture becomes thinner.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, 1954)


Got any pie-making tips of your own? Let us know in the comments!

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