Tracy Obolsky, a New York City pastry chef turned newly minted bakery owner, shares her tips on how to perfect your holiday pie.

By Elyse Inamine
Updated May 24, 2017
© Con Poulos

If Tracy Obolsky can turn a fluffy sticky bun into a smooth, silky sundae, as she did in the past at North End Grill in New York City during her time as pastry chef, then she can certainly fix your nagging pie problems this Thanksgiving.

“This is the first time I won’t be in a restaurant, so I’m going way overboard with dessert,” says Obolsky.

The former restaurant pastry chef, celebrated for her nostalgia-driven desserts, is dreaming of making three pies for the family (in addition to her grandma’s cranberry coffee cake and pumpkin whoopie pies).

And the list keeps growing, especially now after she’s just signed a lease to turn her semi-secret pop-up Rockaway Beach Bakery into a full-fledged bakery in the same beachy queens neighborhood. She’s hoping to open up shop in February.

For now, though, Obolsky has her eye on the Thanksgiving prize: perfect pies. Here’s how she fixes chronic pie problems:

The Problem: Soggy-bottomed crust

The Solution: Blind bake!

“It’s the worst thing when the bottom of your pie crust is raw,” says Obolsky. But it’s easy to fix when you discover the wonder that is blind baking, aka baking the crust ahead of time without the filling (and dried beans in place of pie weights because “they don’t get as hot as porcelain or metal ones”). She normally pops the crust into a 325-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes with the weights, then without and with a slick of egg wash for another 7 to 15 minutes.

The Problem: Watery filling

The Solution: Mix à la minute.

Water. It’s the thing that makes apples, berries and stone fruits so juicy and crisp but pie fillings soupy if not carefully assembled. Toss together the fruits with sugar and other spices only just before pulling together the pie. “Sugar is a hydroscopic, so it draws moisture,” says Obolsky. “As soon as you mix it, it will get wetter.”

The Problem: Oozing, falling-apart slices

The Solution: Cool down.

After all the elbow grease put into the crust and hours of waiting, the last thing you want to see if your slices of pie to collapse before your guests as you serve. “It benefits a lot of pies to make them the day before, so they can completely cool before you cut them and the filling is set up and not runny.” However, if you didn’t plan ahead, then at least leave the pie to cool down for 2 to 3 hours before serving.