Soggy pie and tart bottoms- help!
Posted: 05 May 2008 04:46 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi everyone,

I’ve been lurking on Rose’s blog and here at the forums, and have recently run into a problem that I’m sure our combined brain-power/cooking prowess can solve.

We’ve just moved into an older apartment with a gas oven, which is pretty depressing for me. I have never had any problems with pie and tart crusts until now. Of course, when I was a pastry chef, I had electric ovens, and every other apartment we’ve lived in had electric too. In this old gas oven, the bottom crusts simply refuse to get crisp and golden brown - the sides and tops of my pies and tarts are as gorgeous as ever, but the bottoms are only pale golden, limp and floury-tasting.

The first casualty was an apple pie which was perfect in every way except for the soggy bottom. This was baked just on the rack, in the middle-upper position.

Then yesterday, I tried baking a sour cherry clafouti tart atop a upturned cast iron skillet. The oven (with skillet) had been preheated at 220C for a full hour, my theory being that the ripping hot cast iron would help to crisp the bottom. But alas, that didn’t work too.

Does anyone have experience with gas ovens, or ideas on how to fix this? I’d love to be able to turn out some pies and tarts, especially as winter begins to set in here in Melbourne. I would be most grateful for any insight anyone can cast on this problem.

Cheers,
Christine in Melbourne

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Posted: 05 May 2008 10:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi everyone,

Thank you for your speedy replies! I knew you guys would have answers!

I’ll try having the cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf/oven bottom the next time. I hadn’t tried this as I was working on the premise that heat rises, and higher rack = higher heat being transferred to my pie. I did choux puffs in this oven some time ago and there was a *marked* difference between puffs which I tried on the middle shelf and those on the top - the ones which has been in the middle required extra time on the top shelf to really puff and dry out.

The pizza stone is probably a good idea, but I haven’t got one and really, am sort of loth to go get one when I’ve got a perfectly good cast iron skillet. I figure that it does about the same as the pizza stone, given that they’re both dense, and good conductors and radiators of heat.

I definitely want to get an oven thermometer, specifically the Taylor that Cook’s Illustrated recommends. Just have to find an online retailer who ships internationally and doesn’t charge an exorbitant amount for it…

Matthew, I’d totally forgotten about checking what the Pie and Pastry Bible has to say about this, thank you for reminding me!

Christine, that idea about the grill is excellent…except that I haven’t a grill. Oh well. =) I’m glad to know that your cinnamon buns turned out well, though!

Barbara (or should I say Pie Queen?), thank you for sharing your insight! It’s excellent to know that other people are having success with gas ovens.

Cheers,
Christine.

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Posted: 06 May 2008 09:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Hi again, everyone,

Barbara, you’re right! It’s occurred to me that I actually know this - we had a gas oven many years ago when I was a teenager learning to cook, and I learnt to take advantage of the finer nuances of gas ovens. I suppose I’ve just been spoilt by a long line of electric ovens.

I may try the sour cherry clafoutis tart again this weekend, methinks…

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Posted: 07 May 2008 09:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Gene, would that it were. I’ll save that little tidbit of information for when we have a convection oven.

I’ve also thought of something - I have an Italian countertop pizza oven with a stone base. Tonight when I get home, I’m going to see if a small tart or pie pan will fit in there. I bet that would do the job…

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Posted: 08 May 2008 02:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi Gene, it certainly is, thank you for posting that!

I mentioned a little further up in the thread that I was keen to get the Taylor that they recommend, but I have to find a place that will ship overseas, and not charge something exorbitant for it! While I’m on a thermometer shopping kick, I’m also going to get myself a Thermapen and a remote probe thermometer (broke my last one last week).

Did you see the Cook’s tip some months back for checking your oven temperature with with a Pyrex jug filled with water? I thought that was quite smart.

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Posted: 08 May 2008 09:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Hi Gene, the tip I’m talking about was to put a precisely measured amount of water into a Pyrex jug, then measure its temperature after a certain amount of time to determine if your oven is running correctly. I would post a link, unfortunately, it’s a video and only available to Cook’s members.

If you have a membership to their website, search for “Oven Temperature”, its the first result.

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