shuna lydon

looking for something particular?

  • Google


Become a Fan

Bookmark and Share

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 03/2005

« here & there | Main | Figs. Bold, Yet Elusive »

21 July 2006


OMG. Must have pie. Right now. Luckily I am at a coffee house that has pie, but I'm sure nothing like yours! You've given me the bravery to attempt a piecrust as soon as we are back from vacation.

Best post I've read in a long time. I'd been planning on making peach pies this weekend -- you've talked me out of using shortening. Thanks!

I HEART PIE!!! Thanks for the renewed motivation, I, too, feel another pie baking day coming in the not so distant future....

I love when you write about pie!

Was it you that wrote that pie dough can smell your fear? I say: Be bold and remember that okay pie is better than no pie at all.

I made blackberry jam, does that count? Not for a pie though, huh?

These kinds of posts should be under a heading from your main page. Features baby, features. One will want this at their fingertips every second.


Hi Shuna,
I want to thank you for your incredibly valuable crust-making post. I am becoming more and more excited about pastry lately. I just made my first tart (with fresh figs!) and to me, it was spectacular. I want to do pie now and am on the lookout for summer fruit that is worthy of my efforts. It is not so easy to find in South Florida, believe it or not. I also really enjoyed your response to the review of Heat. I have not yet read it, but you make me want to read it much more now. It sounds like a really honest account, and I appreciate excellent writing. You emailed me awhile back about the distracting background pattern on my blog. It turns out that I had no idea that in Firefox and other browsers, the background took over the whole screen! In IE, all my text was on a white background. We finally realized what you were referring to and fixed the problem. I feel awful that you thought I would subject my reader's eyes to text on such a busy pattern! Thanks again for the pie post.

Your level of detail is awe inspring. As someone who used to bake hundreds of pies a week competing with a commercial bread oven, I learned some things just reading your post. I can't wait to get into my [now amateur] kitchen and put them to use.

Do ever have trouble with shrinkage when blind baking? I recently read about blind baking upside down with doughs sandwhiched between identical pie plates. Anything to this?

I went olallieberry picking at Swanton last weekend and made a big batch of jam, saving just enough berries to use in a peach olallie pie. Then I lost the nerve (and the time) and ate those berries and peaches in their pure, naked goodness. When crust phobia strikes again, I know where I'll be looking for help and encouragement. Go Eggbeater!

Thanks so much for this post! I love to bake, but I've always been intimedated by the pie crust. I just made one on Sunday with freshly picked ollaberries and it was really good -- but I did have some trouble with my dough. Your advice is great! It totally addressed my problems. I'm ready to tackle my next pie! thanks

THANK you. I now have a better understanding than ever before about the particular details that make or break a crust. There will be some happy campers in my neck of the woods before too long.

Wow, I'm going to make a pie right now. After reading this...I *can* make pie...I *can* make pie...Thanks so much for the excellent guide. Sandy

Yeah Pie making all around!!


DONE! Thank you for yet another fabulous improvement tip for eggbeater!

Joe Fish,

Shrinkage is indeed an issue with blind baking. The beeter your dough is made and rested between sessions the less it will shrink, though. Also it depends on the dough.

If a dough need gluten activated, like puff or croissant or brisee, than it is more likely to shrink.

What I do is I have everything as frozen as I can get it before it goes in the oven. The oven is HOT. This way I get baking before melting.

I also use way more beans than most people, as I feel the strength and the weight of them prevents the dough from any funny business.

Let me know if this helps!

Hi, I just saw your question on

and did my best to answer. Your site is great, looking forward to exploring it more!

I never wanted birthday cakes when I was little. I wanted my grandmother's butterscotch PIE. Her crust was like HEAVEN. I miss those pies, and her, terribly. Thanks for the great directions ... perhaps I'll try to carry on Maw Maw's tradition ...

you are amazing! this is such an awesome post.

I agree with so much of this
Definitely no margarine
Always raw sugar
And I will have to try the no cooling required crust.
The other thing about homemade pie is how happy people are to eat it. It is truly a treat that someone put time and energy into. To share a homemade pie with someone shows them how important they are to you. I feel like it is a gift like no other.
PS I love your site - from across the country (NE Florida.) I was a chef for 5 years, pastry for 5 years, caterer for 5 years. Now starting my own place. I love the sense of community I get reading your site and knowing others think the way I do. If only our farmers markets were like yours! We'll get there!

I will try the freezing. FYI, I use pennies as pie weights, the additional weight helps, and although I can't offer empirical data, anecdotally the metal promotes interior browning (although they are more expensive than beans).

Thank you, Shuna! I'm with you about summer. I do more baking in summer than ever. The only challenge when I lived in California was saving enough fruit to bake. In Massachusetts, it's less challenging, because way too much of our fruit comes from Washington and California anyway, single hybrids bred for shelf life, picked green and never really ripening to full sweetness or nutritional value before they rot. No nectarines here leap into my hands, and the strawberries make me cry, and it's all made that much tougher by the fact that I'm a total stickler for organics. What we do see here does make some pretty good pies, though.

If you have not already done so, I highly recommend reading the book American Pie (absolutely no relation to the pop song or the stupid movies) by Pascale LeDraoulec. Basically it recounts the author's adventures with various friends and an old Volvo traveling across the country looking for people who still make pie by hand -- and their recipes. It's funny and beautiful.


That looks so great! Reminds me of summer in my mother's kitchen. Baking is love!

May I, may I, may I PLEASE, pretty PLEASE...

...come watch you make a pie?

PLEASE? My fear of dough makes me tremble at the sight of Trader Joe's pizza dough.

We've had a fantastic pie last year during a short visit in Durango (Colorado). I'm still waiting to get the promised recipe, but maybe yours is just as good ;)

I always use Martha Stewart's Pate Brise recipe. I can't stand shortening either.

Lots of great tips here, even for a long-time pastry maker. I lost the knack a couple of years back but am finally the pastry groove back ... it took returning to lard / shortening but I'll be progressing to butter again any week now! But only after re-conferring with this post! Thanks so much, this is just terrific. REALLY.

How nice to read about making pies! I went to visit my dad in Vermont recently, and we made six pies in three days. My favorite was peach/raspberry/strawberry. The main difference is that instead of sugar we used maple syrup (I guess thats what happens in Vermont---maple syrup finds its way into all your cooking). The maple syrup worked really well and had a rich flavor-- really delicious.
Shuna-thanks again for writing, I always love reading your posts!

Goodness! Thanks for all these comments! I hope y'all come back and tell me how pie making went!

Fatemeh-- you can come watch me anytime. but you know, you will need to BE in California to do it!

JF, pennies as pie weights will indeed speed browning. Copper is an incredible conductor of heat. But perhaps a bit dangerous as I often need to get my beans out while they're still hot, and with pennies that would not be easy.

Randi-- The brisee recipe is lower in butter than this one, but also very good. I like to use brisee for pies like pumpkin and pecan, as they get a little less soggy with a liquid filling.

And you're welcome-- I love writing and passing this stuff on. Who knows, maybe one day someone will make pie for me!

I can bake a twelve layer Dobosh Torte by I can't make pie crust to save my soul. My husband finally got desperate and called his mother for her recipe. Now when he's hungry for pie, he makes the crust and I make the filling. We call ourselves the pie squad

Today on EXTREME PIE BAKING: Hot Pennies!

Love the information you've provided about making pie crusts. I live in Australia, so we don't have the pie tradition that you do - I think our greatest exposure to the pie concept was thanks to Kyle McLachlan and Twin Peaks, which was a hit here. I've always been a pastry klutz, so I'm looking forward to trying your techniques, especially the directional rolling pin techniques! I wonder if you might not share your knowledge on the subject of what we call a fruit "crumble" ... I think it may be the same as your "crisps"... in which fresh, sometimes poached fruits, are topped with a butter-flour-spice mixture and baked. The most common here is apple crumble. I've lost my recipe for the crumble topping that I used to love and ever since I've had no luck with them whatsoever. Can you help???

It is somehow gratifying to see someone else develops such detailed baking procedures (I say efficient, you say obsessive-compulsive...). This is why I am unable to commit to a food blog --my recipes are a miasma of notes and sidebars that would suck all but the most perfecting (not -ist!) baker straight to the Safeway frozen pie section.

Like you, I only do all-butter crusts. (I have thought about working on a what I think of as a traditional "American-style" crust that includes shortening, but I just never make that slightly gooey, American-style (diner style?) pie... ) One more suggestion towards keeping the ingredients as cold as possible that has made the difference for me in assuring flakiness: I keep premeasured containers of flour in the freezer.

This is amazing. I am awestruck by your details and beyond-helpful tricks. My mother-in-law is known for her pie crust, but she uses butter flavored Crisco. I am SO with you on that film it leaves in your mouth. It tastes flaky and dense, but the film and knowledge of what's in the crust always kills it for me.

I cannot wait to take a stab at "real" pie crust. Now I just need to go fondle some fruit.

PS-Met you at Blogher this weekend, and again, I really appreciated all the comments and questions you shared. Particularly what you said about food being political. I couldn't agree more. You have a new fan in me!

I was delighted to find the info you have posted regarding the making of pie crust. I, too, am delightfully obsessed with the making of a tasty crust. I particularly liked the rhythm you suggest for rolling pie dough. I always seem to have an issue with it sticking to the rolling surface. I try not to over flour the rolling surface b/c I know it can make the crust bitter. I was going to try that Tupperware rolling mat you suggest, as well. I also thought about buying a marble block on which to roll the dough. Thanks again!

Mmm... that sounds tasty! Question: I would like to make a gluten-free pie for my mom. Will it work all right if I just substitute rice flour for regular flour, or will that screw it up? How would I change the other ingredients to make it work?


With all honesty I am unsure about your question. I have never baked gluten-free and know little about how to substitute.

My friends who bake "alternatively" find that experimenting reaches the best results. I don't know enough about this area to even venture a guess.

I hope you find your answer!

Why is temperature so important when making pastry? Why the iced water and frozen butter and frozen pie plate etc?

Hello Kelli,

Everything should be cold so that the gluten in the flour is barely activated. If you overstimulate the gluten, the dough will become tough and it will shrink in the oven.

The colder everything is, the more likely your dough will be flaky. Although it's also quite important that you're not rolling the dough in a lot of flour...

Hope this helps!

Hey Shuna,
I was wondering about your thoughts for the filling of pies. How do you go about determining sugar, thickener and spice proportions?
Now that fruit season is upon us these issues are raised for me. I would assume you'd be dealing with different quantities for say strawberry-rhubarb than blueberry-peach.


You have no excuse not to come to my next pie class, yo! (You live here.)

Check out this post for where I start with a mixture of sweet and sour filling ingredients. But truly? I taste my fruit and guestimate. If you want to develop a recipe, use your scale, taste and go from there.

As you well know, all fruit changes as its season moves along...

Oooohhh...such a tease...that link isn't working.
I well figured as much about guesstimating, but I'm just sort of wondering where you start, what range, etc.
I'm just a bit intimidated, as it's not something like jam where you can cook for a while, and then adjust...when it's's sealed.

(the link is now working.)

a hint of where to start: start with 1-2 oz sugar per # of fruit... but remember that I don't like things sweet!

Thanks for all the tips!! I can't wait to try to make a butter crust!! How long can an apple pie keep? I am making a pie for a gift, but I don't know if I can make it the day before or if it would be better made the day they will get it.???


thanks for the questions.

I like to eat pie about 8 hours after it's made and has sat at room temperature for a while. I do not like to refrigerate my pie though, so I like to eat it a day or two after it's made.

pie slices can also be warmed in a toaster oven for quick reheat of crust if it has needed to go in the fridge.

I hope this helps.

I just want to say THANK YOU for this amazing post and the original recipe. I heeded all your advice and measurements and came out with the most fabulous crust, ever. Shhh, don't tell my Mom.

It's really too bad that my family isn't crazy about seedy raspberries and olallieberries. Sigh. I'll have to eat it allll by myyyyyself. ;)

to shuna: you, i like. :D

Help !
I am trying to create 50 small chicken pot pies and I can't easily get the pie dough into a small ( 3" )pie tin. We are going camping and I want to feed 45 people a special treat. I plan on using an America's Test Kitchen recipe for the filling and I had hoped to preform and freeze the shells before we leave town. I am hoping for a technique that will make the dough more flexible.

I have done a test run and the end result was o-k but the dough kept cracking when I tried to fit it down inside the tin. Our R-V ovens are not large or predictable which limits my choices. I do not plan on a top crust. I am planning on prebaking the bottom crust during the early part of the day and filling it with a hot mixture at the last moment. So if anyone can help me out I would appreciate it and would happily share with them any pies that are left over.

P.S. I am used to handling pie dough but only seasonally ( My job is making the pies during the Holidays )

Thank You
Tim (Papa)

Hello Tim,

This is a complex question. If you want your dough to be more flexible, add a smidge more fat. But also know this: it will make the dough more delicate and will need a higher heat oven to blind bake.

When dough comes to room temp. it becomes more pliable. If you freeze little circles, take them out a few at a time and "warm them up" slightly between both hands before forming them into their vessels.

The "tighter" your dough is, = the less fat to flour ratio, the more it might shrink in the little pie plate.

But it sounds like you need a dough that can be a little "abused" since your surroundings are posing great challenges.

You may also add an egg or an egg yolk to some doughs to make them more pliable and a little bit hardier.

I hope these hints help.

Are those people worth it? Or better yet: Do they know how LUCKY they are??!!

Best of luck!

Hi Shuna. I also thank you for the wonderful detail to pie crust making. I used to make wonderful pie crust, but somehow that talent got lost along the way. So now, I search for what I'm doing wrong. A butter pie crust sounds wonderful but I was wondering. I have never used shortening, not sure why not, but now that you've given your take on it, it's highly unlikely I'll ever try it!! What I normally use is lard. It's what my mom has always used and of course, passed down to me. Like I said, I used to make wonderful pie crust, but not now. Would you know the difference between the lard and butter and I suppose 20 - 25 years ago.. they made lard different so products turned out different?? I'm guessing the butter would make a lighter crust, which certainly sounds good. My husband is a pie freak, a depressed pie freak since he married me and I have given up on pie crust!! Maybe you can rescue us both!! Thanks Shuna!!

Shuna - many thanks for your amazing PIE post! I love the Baker's Dozen book. You are an inspiration to all of us who love to bake. Happy Baking, always!

Prob a few years late on the comments.... but man!!! Am I motivated in making a pie now or what...!!! I will and you will read it in my blog soon. Thanks for the instructions...

I so love your blog.
And now I'm inspired. Pie dough in SoCal in August? Why the hell not give it a try? Audacious.

Pie makes me happy too, fruit pies especially. I love the way you brought the whole doughy issue together. Just felt like I've been to pie school, and have a sense of clarity in my mind now. Big thank you!!

Wow, thank you thank you! Your recipe is 10X better than the one I've been using for over a decade. Your instructions were wonderfully detailed. I just taught six 12 yr olds how to make this pie dough and they all had mini pot pie sized pies done to perfection by the end of the night. Thanks again!

I must have missed this post; I've been looking for a good step-by-step guide for making the pie crusts and this looks like it's worth a try. Thanks much!

I am making your pie crust at 1am the night before Thanksgiving. I just baked small bit to test it first. I only have so much filling and am snowed in. All I can say is: Who needs turkey?!
This is an amazing pie crust - and it is only the third time I have tried to make crust. I don't have a processor so I did it by hand with a fork. It is really one of the best new things I have made at home in a long time.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • eggbeater

Find Me Elsewhere ~

Chef Resource

  • Chef & Restaurant Database

Eggbeater Archives