In school, you learn how to blind bake pie crusts by putting a piece of foil or parchment into the pie shell, then filling it with pie weights. Most people use some sort of cheap beans, like Pintos, that they buy in bulk. There are fancy pie weights — ceramic and a pie weight chain come to mind, but they’re practical more for the home baker than for someone doing a lot of pies. After the pie has baked a certain amount of time, 20 minutes or so, then you remove the weights and continue to bake the pie crust to the desired degree of doneness.
A tedious process, at best.
We buy pre-made pie shells. I’m not proud of it, but there’s no practical way around it since we don’t have a sheeter and half the time, I don’t have any help. I never have help that could make a pie crust. So we use pre-made frozen pie shells.
I had noticed that one brand of the shells would actually bake up just fine without weights, others wouldn’t.
After looking at the ingredients — which were basically the same — and docking the shells that needed weights (didn’t help), I turned one of the pie shells over, and Eureka!, the answer appeared in the guise of 30-40 very small holes in the aluminum pie pan. The holes aren’t big enough to let the filling ooze out (and besides, the shell would prevent that). They’re just big enough to vent the gas that is released during cooking, which means you can blind bake these shells without weights.
Sometimes the sides on some shells will bubble up because the sides are not vented, but about 20 minutes in, when I check them, I stab any bubbles with my steely knife and kill the beast.
I don’t have a problem with the shells slumping on the sides; not sure why, maybe it’s baking them while they’re still frozen, or maybe that’s an old wives’ tale. . . .
If you can eliminate the weighting/cooking/removing weights/cooking process, you’ll save yourself a lot of time.
So what about the shells that aren’t vented? The solution is to vent them. Pop the pie shell out of the pan (needless to say, the pie shell should be really frozen before you attempt this). You can take the opportunity to spray a little pan spray on the pan and/or bottom of the pie to make it come out easier after it’s cooked, then turn the pan over and make a bunch of tiny little holes in the bottom. I use a paring knife and put the pie shells over a wad of towels to that the pan doesn’t deform too badly while I’m making the holes. An ice pick or upholstery needle is ideal for this. (Poke the holes from the bottom in so that the rough edges of the holes are inside the shell so you don’t rip your hands up handling the pies). Then pop ’em in the oven and enjoy some quality time — uninterrupted — with your next project.