How to Bake the Perfect Pie, According to Martha Stewart

The culinary legend shared her best baking tips at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.

During her event at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Martha Stewart demonstrated how to make beautiful, seasonal fruit desserts. Perhaps just as valuable as the recipes, which will appear in her new cookbook Fruit Desserts on October 12, is the wisdom behind them. While baking gorgeous treats like apple crostatas and mixed-fruit hand pies, Stewart shared her tips for making perfect pies every time.

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Start with high-quality butter

Stewart says she always makes sure to use high-quality unsalted butter when baking. "A lot of people prefer using salted butter in their crust," she said. "I usually add the salt to it so I can control the salt. some butters are really salty." If you end up using a salted butter, just make sure not to add additional salt.

Stewart said she's recently been cooking with Vermont Creamery butters and Irish butters like Kerrygold. As for salt, she prefers baking with kosher.

Make sure your dry ingredients are fresh (you'd be surprised!)

Stewart urged the audience to always test their baking powders before using them; same goes for spices or any other ingredients you can't remember the last time you used. "A lot of people keep things in their cupboards for years," she said.

Remember to pulse!

When making pie crust, Stewart said it's incredibly important not to rush through the process of pulsing the pastry dough in the food processor. If you let the processor run at at full speed, you'll compromise the flaky texture. "Pulsing is so annoying but it works," she said. "Because if you keep running it you overwork your pastry."

Make your own glaze

Before putting her apple crostata in the oven, Stewart painted the apples with her own apricot glaze, which is easy to make at home. She melts half of a cup of apricot preserves in a pan, then puts it through a sieve so there aren't any visible pieces of fruit. "I love apricot," she said. "If you were using plums [in the crostata], I would use maybe a raspberry or current jelly. I have a lot of currents growing in my berry patch."

Avoid under-baking

"People are often afraid of baking their pies and cakes and tarts too long," said Stewart. But pies especially "should be baked until they're really a good color golden-brown. That may seem like a very long time because that will definitely be worth it in the final product. It should be nicely browned beneath."

Of course, another step in achieving that perfect golden-brown exterior is topping your crust with sugar: "Sugar on the crust not only helps make it pretty, but it gives it a nice crunch."

Serve with the perfect garnish

One lovely topping for pie is whipped cream, and Stewart said that it lasts longer and stays much more stable if you incorporate sweetened quince syrup into it. On her farm, she grows quince that she cooks down without the skins to make her own syrup.

To serve her apple crostata, she places a small slice of cheddar on the plate next to it.

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