Welcome to Baking Tips, an occasional series in which I whip up tips on how to become successful in the baker’s kitchen.
It is tempting to pull the pie out of the oven the instant it finishes baking, isn’t it? The texture, the vibrant colours, the smell... Oh golly, yes! It is begging to be devoured! ... Oi, why is this pie so pungent and runny?
Ach! Wie zum Teufel ist diese Scheiße passiert? :(
There is a simple science behind the phenomenon of freshly baked pies having a different texture and taste. Flour and unripe fruits, which contribute to the bitterness, are rich in high amylose starch (pectin). Pectin is a setting agent that forms and maintains a 3-D molecular structure.
When heat is introduced, starch molecules become overexcited and flow more quickly past each other. At high temperatures, they are too boisterous to interact with each other. Let alone form a molecular structure. This is why pies fresh out of the oven are a little runny.
What happens when starch molecules cool down? They are administered large doses of Ritalin. They flow more slowly, allowing them time to interact with each other and form a molecular structure. Once cooled, pies are more solid and capable of holding their shape when cut into slices.
As for the bitterness, depending on the fruit, it will fade with time. What’s left of the starch in unripe fruits—especially apples and citrus fruits—will break down into simpler sugars. When preparing the pie filling, go easy on pure sugar. Otherwise the pie will be too sweet.
So, what’s the best cooling method? Unless the recipe asks for a specific method, it is a personal preference:
- Set the baking dish on a cooling rack, silicone baking mat or stove grate. When it is cool enough to touch, it can be covered with a clean towel. Aluminium foil can be used instead, but let the pie cool first. Otherwise it will react to the metal and result in some discolouration.
- Turn off the oven and set the oven door ajar to allow cool air to enter the oven compartment more slowly.
- Turn off the oven and leave the oven door closed until the baking dish is cool enough to touch. Cheesecake recipes usually ask for this method.
The longer the pie cools, the more the molecules will finally sit still and look at the camera. Pies and other pastries are best served 12 to 24 hours after baking.
Don’t judge until it is actually ready. Cheers! :)