How To Blind or Par-Bake Pie Shells
Published August 7, 2017 · Modified: August 6, 2023 by Cindy Gibbs
Have you ever wondered how or when to blind or par bake a pie shell? I’m here to take the guesswork out of it for you and answer any questions you might possibly have on pie shells.
The holidays will be here before you know it. Wouldn’t you love to make your own delicious pies using your own homemade pie crust recipe for the holidays? If you’re confused about how or when to par-bake or blind-bake a pie shell, I’ll clear it up for you.
Blind baking and par-baking are confusing terms for the novice baker who isn’t familiar with baking pies or making homemade pie shells. What do these terms mean and why are they an integral step in many pie recipes? What is docking a pie crust mean? Learn these simple basics and you’ll be a step ahead, anytime you get ready to make a pie!!
Par baking versus blind baking
Par baking also known as Partial-Baking means to partially bake a pie crust. The crust finishes baking once a filling is added and it’s returned to the oven.
Blind baking also known as pre-baking usually refers to fully baking an empty pie shell. The crust is fully baked and later filled with a stove top cooked filling.
Docking & Pie Weights
Docking the pie shell simply means using a fork to poke holes all over the bottom and sides of the crust. This keeps the pie shell from puffing up as it bakes.
Pie Weights can be either ceramic (store-bought), dried rice or beans. Pie weights are used to weigh down the pie shell as it bakes so it will not shrink or puff up while baking.
Option 2 for par-baking or blind-baking
I recently started using the method below for baking my empty pie shells and it works great. Simply place a second pie dish of the same size inside of the pie shell dish. No pie weights or beans needed. Simply dock the pie shell as you would with the pie weights or beans.
Pie crust vs pie shell
Some recipes, how-to articles, and posts related to pies will use the terms pie crust and pie shell interchangeably to describe pie dough that has been rolled out and placed in a pie dish. This no doubt causes confusion for the novice baker, and it’s incorrect information. A pie shell is a result of rolling out pie dough and placing it into a pie dish. It is in the raw dough form. The dough becomes an empty pie shell. A pie crust is a result of baking an empty pie shell in the oven until it becomes a browned crust.
Pie shells that must be partially baked (par baked)
The picture below shows a partially pre-baked crust that’s waiting to be filled with pie filling before being returned to the oven to finish baking. As you can see, the bottom crust has lost its raw dough appearance but is still not baked through. Also, the edges are just barely a light golden color.
In some cases, a pie shell is only partially pre-baked, such as pies that do not require a long baking time. This is done because the pie filling might get done before the bottom crust has time to thoroughly bake, resulting in a soggy crust. The empty pie shell is partially pre-baked for a few minutes, prior to pouring the filling into the shell. The pie goes back into the oven so the filling can bake while the crust finishes baking.
Some pie recipes such as pumpkin, custard, chess, and pecan require partially pre-baking the crust. This happens frequently with recipes that are baked in a shallow pie dish. The filling bakes quickly, not allowing the bottom crust to get baked through unless you partially pre-bake the crust first.
You can also fully bake the pie shell first if you want. Remember, once you pour the filling into the pie shell, you will be baking it for an additional amount of time, so cover the edges if they begin to get too brown.
Pie shells that must be fully pre-baked
There are some pie shells that get pre-baked (blind baked) until the pie shell is totally baked into a crust. These crusts are used for pie fillings that do not require getting baked in the oven, such as cream and refrigerator pies. These pie fillings usually get cooked on the stove top and poured in the baked pie crust.
The pies pictured below are pies that don’t require the filling being baked in the oven. The fillings get cooked on the stovetop and poured into a blind baked (pre-baked) pie crust. As you can see in the pictures below, I don’t like a really thick bottom crust. I like mine thin and flaky, therefore, I roll mine out to no thicker than 1/8-inch.
TIPS FOR MAKING A PERFECT BLIND BAKED (PRE-BAKED) PIE CRUST
- The first thing you need to do is choose a pie crust recipe for a single pie crust. Here’s my go-to recipe for my Aunt Elsie’s Flaky Pie Crust, if you don’t already have one. This recipe makes a double crust. You can use half and freeze half. It is also made with all shortening.
- Read your pie recipe to determine if you need to partially bake the pie shell or bake it until it’s totally blind baked.
- Make the pie dough and form it into a disc. Refrigerate for thirty minutes. Roll out the pie dough and place it in a pie dish. Trim edges, and fork or flute.
- DO NOT pull or stretch the dough. This will cause it to shrink as it bakes.
- Take a fork and prick the bottom and insides of the pie dough. This is called docking. Some bakers don’t do this if they are using pie weights, but I do both. This step keeps the pie dough from puffing up as it’s baking.
- Allow the pie shell to set for five minutes and rest. For a recipe calling for butter, place the pie shell in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes before baking. If your recipe calls for shortening, place the pie shell in the freezer for 20 minutes, as shortening doesn’t set up as firm as butter. If using a frozen pie shell, allow it to set out for about fifteen minutes prior to baking.
- Place a piece of foil or parchment paper in the empty pie shell. For years I used foil, but have since found the easiest thing to use is parchment paper. Crumple the paper into a wad and then un-wad it. Works perfectly!
- Fill the paper or foil-lined pie shell with pie weights. These can be store-bought ceramic pie weights, (found with baking supplies, such as rolling pins and pie dishes), or don’t waste your money and use what most bakers use…dried beans. Any dried lentils, peas, beans, etc.. will work. You can reuse these over and over. I’ve used the same beans for years.
- Bake the pie shell as your recipe directs. Pie crust is usually baked at a high temperature of around 425 degrees. The high temperature will quickly set the edges of the crust before they have time to fall or shrink. Place the pie shell on a cookie sheet on the lower-middle rack. Whether you are baking it until it’s all the way done or partially done, the recipe will direct you at some point to remove the pie shell from the oven, remove the pie weights and finish baking the pie shell. It usually takes about 12-15 minutes to partially bake a crust, and about 7-8 minutes longer, depending on your oven, to bake it until it’s all the way done. When the crust is baked until done, the edges should be a golden brown and the bottom should be very dry.
- Here’s another tip some bakers use. If baking the pie shell until it’s totally baked through, bake the pie shell, brush the bottom with an egg white. Place the pie shell back in the oven for about 45 seconds, just long enough to set the egg white. This will also keep your crust from getting soggy if you’re filling it with a cream filling and not returning it to the oven.
- If you have a pizza stone, you can preheat it along with your oven and place the pie shell on the pizza stone. This will also promote browning of the bottom crust.
WHEN IS IT NOT NECESSARY TO PRE-BAKE A PIE CRUST?
Double crusted pies such as fruit pies, don’t require par or blind baking the pie shell. This would be hard to do since you’ll have a top and bottom finished crust.
TIPS FOR FRUIT PIES
- I recommend baking them on a cookie sheet on the lowest oven rack.
- I also recommend baking them in a glass pie dish for even browning.
- You can also place the pie dish on a preheated pizza stone to help promote browning of the bottom of the crust.
Check out Pie Crust Washes – The Perfect Finishing Touch to see how to finish your pie crust and make it look beautiful.
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