This is a follow up post to my previous one called "Mom's 'no fail' Pastry"...if you have ever taken the time to make homemade pastry, painstakingly roll it out to perfection, then have the damn thing shrink up to the size of a small frisbee when you pull it out of the oven...then you need to check out this post! I have made many "frisbees" over the years until I actually took the time to do it right! "Blind baking" just means that you are baking a pastry shell before it is filled (usually a single crust shell for pies such as, lemon meringue, fresh fruit tarts or cream pies).
Once you have rolled out your pastry, fit it into your pie plate, crimped the edges (see my post called "Mom's 'no fail' Pastry & a Giveaway" for rolling and crimping instructions) and preheated your oven to 425 degrees, you will want to prick all around the shell and up the sides with a fork to allow steam to escape which stops the pastry from puffing up...this procedure is called "docking". Next, cover the shell with a piece of plastic wrap...
...and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes to one hour. I like to freeze my pie shell before baking because it seems to give it that extra non-shrinkage insurance...every little trick helps when it comes to the elusive un-shrinkable crust!!
Remove pie crust from the freezer and replace the plastic wrap with a piece of parchment paper.
Next, you will want to "weigh" your crust down (this keeps the crust in place, which helps with the ole shrinkage!)...some people don't weigh down their crust if they have "docked" the shell, but I think it's better to be safe than sorry!). You can use "pie weights" available at most kitchen stores or you can simply use dried beans.
Fill the shell with beans or pie weights and place in your preheated, 425 degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking for about 10-15 minutes longer or until the crimped edges are golden brown.
Remove shell from the oven, then gather up the corners of parchment paper to remove the beans...let the beans cool before storing them in a Ziploc bag (you can keep these beans in your cupboard to reuse for another pie making day!). The edges of your pie shell will be golden brown but the bottom of the crust will still look slightly under baked...put the pie shell back into the oven for about 3-4 more minutes...
...watching carefully that the bottom does not brown too much (as I did!...clearly I wasn't watching carefully!)...oh well, nobody appreciates a "goody-two-shoes" in the kitchen! Place the (over baked) pie crust on a wire rack to cool before adding the filling. Sounds like a lot of steps, but there is nothing more rewarding than conquering the art of blind baking...okay, I'm sure participating in an Ironman triathlon or completing the Navy Seals training program is more rewarding but you have to admit, ain't nobody got time for a shrunken pie shell!