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Blind baking is a process by which a pastry, typically a pie crust, is baked before adding any sort of filling or other ingredients. This is usually done to firm up the pastry, or to bake a crust for use with a pie filling that requires only a short baking time or no baking at all. The crust is placed in a pie pan or similar baking dish, and is baked either partially or completely, then allowed to cool and used for finishing the dish. Blind baking is called for in a number of different types of recipes and is quite easy.
The first step for blind baking a pastry or pie crust is to actually make the dough for the final product. Different types of pastries will require different ingredients and processes to make the dough, and proper handling and preparation will depend on the recipe. Once the dough is prepared, it should be placed in an appropriate dish for baking in the oven. Most recipes will suggest temperature and time requirements, as well as the dish that is appropriate for use in blind baking, but for a generic pie crust it should be placed in a pie pan.
This is most easily accomplished by rolling the dough out to a desired size, turning the dough or rolling pin to spread the dough out evenly in all directions. Once the dough is the right thickness and size to properly fill the inside of the pie pan being used, it should be folded lightly in half once, then half again the other direction to create one-quarter of a circle. This can be easily picked up and placed inside the pan, with the tip of the quarter circle shape at the center of the pan, and unfolded then adjusted to fill the pan.
Blind baking then is typically done with some type of filling to keep the dough properly shaped during baking. Some recipes also recommend chilling the dough in a freezer for about half an hour to help it keep its shape during blind baking. The dough should be covered inside with parchment or wax paper, and then this is covered with something to weigh the dough down. While baking weights consisting of long strings of metal beads are available for this purpose, dried rice, beans, or lentils will work just fine.
The crust can then be baked for a certain amount of time, at the temperature indicated by a recipe. A general guideline is to bake at about 400° F (about 204° C) for about 20 minutes. The bottom of the dough or crust may need to be pricked with a fork a few times to release built up steam, and longer blind baking may be required to completely bake the dough. If the crust is going to be baked again for a short time with filling inside of it, the outer crust should be covered by aluminum foil or a baking shield to prevent burning.
I generally blind bake my pie crusts, but I have yet to figure out the origin of the term "blind" baking. Pie shells you buy in the grocery store always need baking before you fill them, so I'm accustomed to doing it. Not like it's a difficult process, although I rarely use weights. I just prick the crust with a fork.