Pie combinations happen to me mostly by accident. I tend to hit the farmer’s market and buy ALL the berries (and cherries, and apricots, and peaches). I munch most alongside my kiddos straight out of the cartons and then I toss whatever’s left into a buttery pie, without a specific recipe.
How to make pie, any fruit pie, using one recipe.
The secret is, you can apply the same easy proportions to any fruit: 1 to 1 1/4 cups sugar, 6 cups of fruit, and 1/4 cup flour for a double-crusted pie.
(And before you get mad at me for promising simple then offering a sugar range, read on, I’ll explain.)
How do I know exactly how much sugar to use in the pie?
Let me walk you through the whole process.
Start by pulling your pie dough out of the fridge or freezer (because chilling your dough is non-negotiable if you want a tender pie that holds its shape and doesn’t shrink).
As the pastry dough comes up to a workable temperature, prep six cups of fruit (chopping/peeling depending on your choice) and toss it with 1 cup of sugar to start. Then let the fruit stand at room temperature while you roll out and re-chill the pastry for the top and bottom crusts (fit the bottom one into the pie plate before you return it to the fridge).
At this point, the fruit will have leaked some juices and the sugar will have dissolved into them. Give the fruit a big stir, then take a small spoonful and taste. If you imagine a sweetness scale where 1 is the fruit with no sugar added and 10 is jam, I am personally aiming for about a 7-8.
Add up to 1/4 cup more sugar depending on the type and ripeness of your fruit and your personal tastes. Rhubarb needs the upper end. As do sour cherries. Berries can vary wildly in their sweetness so taste and add more by tablespoonfuls, stirring well between each addition, until you hit the sweet spot (ba-dum tssss).
Don’t stress about this part if you’re not an avid pie-baker. When in doubt, stick with the 1 cup, erring on the side of less sweet, because with any kind of fruit, this’ll be enough to make a tasty pie. You can deliciously remedy a not-t00-sweet slice with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. But in any case, this 1 to 1/4 cup range is narrow enough that you really can’t mess it up in either direction.
Add the starch.
Only once you’ve gotten the sweetness where you like it and are done taste testing, stir in the flour (there’s a food safety issue with raw flour and many brands have been recalled for e-coli in the past few years, yuck).
Fruit also varies in the amount of moisture it contains and how juicy the final pie will be. Don’t stress about this either. The raspberry-blueberry pie in the first image was on the far end of the juicy spectrum, but I think the peek-a-boo puddles are lovely and it was delicious. The raspberries were so ripe straight from the market that they were practically a puree. A peach pie would not have burst so enthusiastically from its pastry with the same proportions.
This juicy pie pictured thickened up to perfect, tidy slice-ability once cooled.
What’s the best thickener for pie?
Stick with flour as your thickener. It’s always on hand, works reliably, is never too thick, and doesn’t go gummy (as some thickeners can). Use 1/4 cup of it per 6 cups of fruit. Keep it easy, folks.
How to substitute cornstarch for flour in pie.
If, for whatever reason, you want to use cornstarch instead of flour in any pie recipe, use half the amount called for. So when 1/4 cup of flour is listed, use 1/8 cup of cornstarch.
I don’t know if raspberry-blueberry pie is a thing that other people make, but I think it’s a fabulous combination. Tannic blueberries pair perfectly with the super-sweet-yet-tart thing raspberries have going on. Together, they puddle into the most beautiful shade of juicy purple a pie has ever seen.
Assemble and bake.
Take your crusts out of the fridge. Dump your filling into the bottom one, which you’ve already positioned in the pie plate. Place your top crust on top, trim the edges to leave a 1 1/2″ overhang. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust and pinch or crimp decoratively to seal. Cut a few vents on top and brush with a beaten egg for a beautiful golden crust. Refrigerate pie for 20 minutes minimum before baking (again, so it holds its shape and doesn’t shrink).
Preheat your oven to 450ºF with a parchment-lined baking sheet placed on the bottom rack.
Place the pie on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 375ºF and bake for about 60 minutes more, covering the pie (or just the edges) with parchment or aluminum foil when the crust is getting dark.
How to tell if a pie is done.
Any pie is done when the filling making slow bubbles toward the centre. If you’ve cut air vents (or used a lattice top) you’ll be easily able to see with just the oven light. Thick, slow bubbles mean the fruit has properly cooked down. It’s better to give a pie 10 minutes too long than 10 minutes too little. You want a deeply browned bottom crust and fruit that has not only released juices but thickened up to a luscious, glossy consistency.
Any questions or have I covered it all?? I’ll work on a step-by-step pie dough tutorial for you this summer! Happy pie freestyling.
Last Updated on September 26, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD