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Baking empty is an instruction you will find for preparing a baked or partially baked pie shell. Many recipes request a baking empty process for a fully baked pie shell so that you can later add ingredients. For instance, a chocolate or banana cream pie is baked without its essential filling. This is later added when the pie shell has cooled.
There are some very important general instructions for the baking empty process. Much depends on whether you will fully or partially bake the piecrust. These differ significantly, since adding wet ingredients to a partially baked crust can be a disaster if you don’t know how to properly prepare the crust for baking empty.
Baking Empty for a Fully Baked Shell
This is by far the easier process of the two. One of the dangers of baking empty is that the piecrust will bubble up and rise, leaving unpleasant lumps and bumps in your baked pie shell. Significant air bubbles can form in the baking process.
To avoid air bubbles but to get a fully baked shell, you merely need to prick the piecrust with a fork, about 6-10 times. Creating perforations in the crust will allow most air to escape from underneath it. If you notice a bubble rising while you are baking empty, simply give it another prick with a fork.
Baking Empty for a Partially Baked Shell
First off, ignore the previous instructions. You cannot accomplish baking empty the same way because it will have decidedly unpleasant results when you add liquids like quiche mixture or pumpkin pie filling. Instead your goal is to keep the crust from rising without allowing for any perforations in the crust.
There are many recommendations that will suggest you line the unbaked crust with aluminum foil, fill it with a weighted substance like rice or beans, and partially bake. If you’ve made an especially delicate crust, do not use aluminum foil. Foil can be extremely sharp and can easily perforate the crust.
Instead, consider using a tin, lightweight and smooth pie dish of the same size as the piecrust that you are partially baking empty. Place the pie dish on top of the pie shell, and add a cup to two of rice or beans. The weight should be enough to keep the crust from bubbling up or rising. If you notice any rise, add a little more weight.
What will occur if you are baking empty and perforate the crust is that liquid you add to fully bake the pie or quiche will get underneath the crust. This means you won’t have that nice hard crispy crust on the bottom. While it still may taste good, it won’t provide the nice contrast between crust and filling that is usually expected in a pie.
Baking Empty General Instructions
Many recipes will ask you to chill the piecrust and pie dish prior to baking empty. When a recipe calls for chilling, do not use any type of glass cookware. Many brands of clear glass cookware, including some of the most frequently sold ones can burst when transferred from a cold to hot (fridge to oven) environment. Always choose a metal pie dish if you need to chill the unbaked piecrust, so you don’t need to start over.
One thing to remember when empty baking a pie crust is to cover the fluted edges of the crust when baking the pie so the edges don't burn during the extra time in the oven. You can buy crust shields at kitchen stores, or just use strips of aluminum foil, and remove them when you've got about five minutes of baking time left.
I always completely empty bake a crust for a quiche. I've never had a bad result with it, so I never thought about just partially baking it. We have quiche fairly often, so I've done it a lot.
You can also use parchment paper for your beans or pie weights. Another pie tin isn't absolutely necessary. Nice, but not essential. One thing to watch when empty (or "blind") baking, is to keep a close eye on that crust! It can go from golden brown to burned in a short time. Set a timer and make sure your oven is at the proper temperature. Also, keep the oven light on so you can peek in at the crust without opening the oven to check it.
It's never a bad idea to check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer once in a while so you'll know if your oven is baking hot or cold.