What is lemon zest?
Zest is the outermost skin of
citrus fruit, which is removed with the aid of a citrus
zester, paring knife or vegetable peeler. Only the
colored portion of the skin (and not the white pith) is
considered the zest. The aromatic oils in citrus zest
add flavor to food. Zest can be used to flavor raw or
cooked and sweet or savory dishes.
I'm having problems
with meringue pies. Sometimes a layer of water forms
between the filling and the meringue, other times the
meringue shrinks during baking. What can I do to solve
Spread meringue over piping hot
filling, and spread to the edges to seal. Hot filling is
necessary to ensure that the inside of the meringue
cooks, preventing weeping. Try this tip: fine cake
crumbs sprinkled lightly over the filling will absorb
liquid between the layers, another preventative measure
against weeping. The preferred baking method is one that
combines high temperatures with a short baking time.
This prevents overcooking the outside, and thus beading
and shrinking are avoided. Bake at 425 degrees F (220
degrees C) for 4 to 5 minutes.
When I pre-bake my
pie crust, how do I keep the pastry from sliding down
the sides of the pan?
To prevent sliding, first line the dough with aluminum
foil. Take a piece of foil long enough so that when
folded in half, it covers the pie plate. Fold it in
half, then shape it on the counter by pressing your hand
down in the middle and pulling up on the sides (making
sort of a bowl shape.) Now put the foil in your pie
shell and gently press it so that it evenly covers the
bottom and sides of the pie dough. Now put your pie
weights in - you can use beans, rice, rock salt --
virtually any small, heat-proof items to weigh the crust
down so that it neither puffs up nor slides down. Bake
it in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Take out
the foil and pie weights, and continue baking until
lightly browned. Alternately, if you are using metal pie
plates, you can line one pan with dough, lightly dust
the dough with flour, then place a second pie plate on
top of the dough. Invert the pans and bake upside-down
for about 10 minutes. Carefully flip the pans over, and
remove the top pie plate, then continue baking until
I want to use fresh
pumpkin in place of canned pumpkin.
If you have a fresh pumpkin you want to cook with, cut
the pumpkin into five or six big chunks; scrape out the
seeds and the stringy bits; place it in a shallow dish;
fill the dish with an inch of water and bake it at 350
degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes, until
the flesh is tender. Allow it to cool, then remove the
flesh and puree it in a blender or food processor until
Can pies be frozen?
Some pies can be frozen to save time on busy cooking
days. Here are a few pointers:
Double-crust fruit pies (such as apple) can be
assembled and then frozen in the raw state. Later, when
you are ready to bake, let the pie sit at room
temperature for 20 minutes to let the glass plate warm
up, then bake as normal. If you are going to glaze the
top with egg wash or sugar, do that just before baking.
Freezing the pie after it is baked is not recommended.
The crust will get damaged in the freezer and will
absorb liquid from the filling.
Nut pies such as pecan pies can be frozen after they
You can freeze meat pies before baking provided the
filling is fully cooked before freezing. It would be
best to cook the filling separately and let it cool
completely before putting it in the pie shell.
Custard and pumpkin pies do not benefit from being
How can I make the
top of my pie crust shiny?
The trick to shiny-topped pie crust is actually very
simple. Simply brush beaten egg on top of the pie before
baking. Use a pasty brush and try to avoid having any
"pools" of egg. Also avoid getting it on the outside
crimped edge, where it will get too dark when baked. You
can get the same effect by using egg whites rather than
the whole egg. Another trick is to brush the top with
water and then sprinkle on some sugar. The sugar will
crystallize into a shiny glaze when baked.
My pecan pie is all
hard and chewy - any advice?
You are over-baking the pecan pie. The pie is done at
the first signs of solidity in the center of the pie. It
will bounce back when lightly tapped and might start to
puff up a little, but don't let it puff up a lot.
How can I keep the
edge of my pie from getting too dark?
To prevent the crust from getting too dark, you can
cover it with a strip of aluminum foil or a pie shield.
You also have the option of reducing the oven
temperature if you notice things getting too dark.
I often find myself
adjusting recipes in order to make enough for my family,
but it doesn't quite work for some recipes. Do you have
any advice for me?
Changing recipes in order to make
more or less servings is called "recipe scaling."
Whenever you alter the amounts of ingredients for a
given recipe, you may also need to adjust the cooking
temperature, cooking time, pan size and seasonings. But
for food chemistry reasons, recipe scaling simply does
not work well for some dishes: delicate foods such as
soufflés, baked items requiring yeast such as breads,
and recipes for a single large item that is meant to be
later divided into smaller portions such as cakes, pies,
breads and whole turkey.
Recipe Scaling Page will give you a reliable
framework for successful recipe scaling: It offers detailed
guidelines for recipe scaling.