12.5–12.6 Common Defects in Pastry and Pies and their Probable Causes

Tough Pastry

  • High protein flour
  • Substitution of equal amount of butter or margarine for fat
  • Insufficient fat
  • Fat not distributed well enough
  • Too much water
  • Uneven distribution of water, requiring more manipulation
  • Over stirring after water is added
  • Dough not rolled immediately
  • Re-rolling
  • Excess flour on rolling board

Crumbly, Mealy (not flaky) Crust and//or Too Tender to Remove from Rolling Board

  • Low protein flour
  • Too much fat
  • Fat too soft (warm) or melted
  • Fat cut in too finely
  • Too little water
  • Under-mixing after water is added

Reduced flakiness, or flakes not separated

  • Low protein flour
  • Not enough water to provide steam
  • Under-mixing
  • Over-mixing

Excess shrinking or misshapen crust

  • Dough stretched when shaping in pan
  • Dough rolled to uneven thickness
  • Excess re-rolling or patching dough
  • Also see “Tough Pastry”

Puffing of a pie shell baked without filling

  • Insufficient crust perforations

Crust too brown or browned very rapidly

  • Rolled too thin
  • Very dry

Uneven browning

  • Dough rolled to uneven thickness
  • Edges too high
  • Pie placed too high or too low in oven
  • Pie placed too close to oven walls or to other pan
  • Not enough filling

Crust doesn’t brown

  • Too little fat
  • Over-mixing
  • Too much flour used when rolling dough
  • Crust rolled too thick
  • Wet dough 

Soaked lower crust*

  • Shiny pie tin
  • Filling allowed to stand in crust before baking
  • Placing pie pan on foil or baking sheet
  • Too low oven temperature
  • Too short baking time
  • Cold filling
  • Also see “Crust doesn’t brown”
  • Custard pie:
    • Overcooked filling (syneresis)
  •  Two-crust fruit pie
    • Fruit filling not thickened before baking
    • Insufficient vents
    • Break or tear in bottom crust

* Suggestions to prevent soaked lower crust

  • Use high initial baking temperature
  • Custard Pies:
    • Brush crust with slightly beaten egg white and bake at high temperature for a few minutes to coagulate egg white
    • Use a filling with a high egg-to-milk ratio
    • Preheat milk for filling
    • Chill pie crust for 1 hour before filling
    • Partially pre-bake the crust before adding the filling
  •  Fruit Pies:
    • Coat with melted butter

One Crust Pie, e.g. Pumpkin or Custard

  • Crust rises through the filling
    • Tear or hole in crust

Two-Crust Fruit Pies

  • Top crust “tents”
    • Inadequate vents in top crust
    • Fresh fruit was not packed firmly
  • Pie filling boils over
    • Too much filling
    • Top and bottom crusts not sealed together well
    • Insufficient thickening of filling
    • Inadequate vents in top crust
    • Vents too close to edge of pie
    • Oven shelf not level
    • Uneven thickness of top crust
    • Over-baking

Cream Pie Meringues


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Basic Scientific Food Preparation Lab Manual Copyright © 2023 by Iowa State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.