7 Tips for Summer Fruit Pies

Jessica Maher's peach pie © Winslow + Co
By Chelsea Morse Posted July 16, 2015

Austin pastry genius Jessica Maher’s reputation precedes her: the pie workshops she teaches at Métier Cook’s Supply sell out immediately. Lucky for the rest of us, she's willing to share her secrets for baking with the oncoming onslaught of awesome summer fruit. Here, her top seven tips for perfect summer pies. 

Austin pastry genius Jessica Maher’s reputation precedes her: the pie workshops she teaches at Métier Cook’s Supply, the shop where she is a co-owner, sell out immediately. (She’s already booked through August!) Lucky for the rest of us, she's willing to share her secrets for baking with the upcoming onslaught of awesome summer fruit. Here, her top seven tips for perfect summer pies. 

1. Sugar smartly
My rule of thumb for fruit pies: if the fruit is ripe and juicy, add 20% by weight in sugar for the fruit. It seems to work with every fruit. Invest in a scale, and weigh in grams to be more accurate.

2. Go beyond butter
Try mixing other fats into the dough, using a ratio of 75% butter to 25 % other fat. I like using lard if my pie filling is a bit more savory, like mincemeat. You can also try tallow, if you have access to it.

3. Less water = more flavor
Use a butter that’s low in water content, like Plugra.

4. Experiment with thickeners
Try instant tapioca, arrowroot, flour or potato starch. You need to let tapioca sit with the fruit a bit longer, but it makes the filling texture like a lovely hybrid of jelly and pudding. You can substitute it in direct proportions for the other options.

5. Get tender
Adding a few tablespoons of any type of vinegar or kombucha to pie dough tenderizes it but doesn’t overwhelm the butter flavor.

6. Chill out
Put the pie in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before baking it. It'll help the butter firm up and give the dough extra time to relax.

7. Start hot, then cool down
Baking the pie at 450 (or 425 if using convection) for 30 minutes before turning it down to 350 will brown up the outside nicely, just like a chicken.

Related: Summer Pies
Fruit Pies and Tarts
How to Make Pie Crust

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