Somehow it’s been 2 years since I shared a Recipe Testing post with you! Even though every new recipe I publish goes through multiple stages of testing, I haven’t had the time to sit down and share an entire post documenting my recent tests and baking blunders. (And trust me, there are a lot of fails!)
Without realizing it, my behind-the-scenes posts sort of took a pause in 2020—like most things in life did—and I just hunkered down and focused on publishing recipes as often as I could. My team has expanded since (welcome, Beth!), and we have a new system for in-house kitchen work. These days, new recipes you see on my website are tested more than they ever have been before, and we’re even going back and sprucing up old recipes to make them better—like honey soy salmon, breakfast casserole, and better-than-ever zucchini bread.
This means there has been SO. MUCH. BAKING!
(And I’m in the process of securing a publishing house for my 4th cookbook. I can’t wait to share more details, hopefully soon!!)
In today’s Recipe Testing post, I’m sharing the pie testing we’ve been doing over the summer. From-scratch pie can be hard work, so my team and I repeatedly tested the following pies so the results are worth your time and effort.
Better-Than-Ever Blueberry Pie
Reader reviews reporting a soupy filling inspired me to rework the baking instructions on my blueberry pie recipe (originally published in 2016), and make a slight change to the filling ingredients. My team and I tested a LOT of blueberry pies as we searched for the magic trick to a perfectly flavorful, non-runny blueberry pie. The magic trick is patience.
The previous version of the recipe was fine, but the results were never consistent. I often had runny, under-baked pies like this:
Even the dough was raw sometimes.
In the updated recipe, you need to bake the pie for longer, start with an initial high temperature and then lower it, and let the pie cool completely to fully set up. All the testing was worth the effort, because this truly is the best blueberry pie I’ve ever had. And the recent comments from readers who have made the new version seem to agree!
New version sets up so much better. Big difference:
Peach Pie Filling That Sets
For peach pie, I updated the baking instructions so it’s more similar to the new baking instructions for blueberry pie, and the filling sets better.
I also found that cutting the peaches into chunks instead of slices made a big difference! Unlike apple pie where you peel and cut apples into slices, cut your peeled peaches into small (approx. 1-inch) chunks. Because peaches are so juicy, slices bake into mush, while chunks retain more of their deliciously soft texture.
And like the blueberry pie, slicing warm will give you a soupy slice of pie. Cool for at least 4 hours at room temperature because the pie filling continues to set up as it cools. I promise it’s worth the wait!
Graham Cracker Crust Woes
Homemade graham cracker crusts are, by rule, super easy. Just 3 simple ingredients, and very little time, effort, or skill needed to have them ready for your filling (as opposed to traditional pie crust).
So updating the photos and adding clearer instructions for how to make a perfect graham cracker crust should be easy as pie, right?
Graham cracker crumbs are strangely complicated. Here’s why:
- The size and weight of graham crackers can vary, and manufacturers periodically—and without notice—change the amount or size you get in a package. For example, to get 1 and 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs, 10 full sheet graham crackers used to be enough. Now you need more like 12. So now the 30+ recipes on my website that use a graham cracker crust have all been updated, to account for this change. At least until next time!
- Not all graham crackers are created equal. Beth and I tested both store-brand crackers and the popular name-brand crackers, Nabisco Honey Maid, and we concluded that the Nabisco grahams make for the crispiest crust. I’m not at all affiliated with Nabisco, just my honest opinion!
- It’s hard to find graham crackers outside of the US! My team and I are frequently asked about graham cracker substitutions, so now we’ve tested and are very happy with a digestive biscuit crumb crust alternative. You can find the recipe for it in the graham cracker crust post.
As part of this recipe update, I did my best to describe how I pack and shape a graham cracker crust, so that it doesn’t turn out too hard, or too crumbly, but just right.
You know… the crust Goldilocks would choose:
I also filmed a video tutorial to demonstrate my graham cracker crust-shaping techniques, because when it comes down to it, this is the part of the recipe that can make or break—literally!—a great graham cracker crust. I hope you find it useful!
Cheesecake Pie Recipe Tests
My recipe for cheesecake pie was actually a byproduct of all the graham cracker crust testing. I needed an easy filling to add to the many graham cracker and biscuit crumb crusts we were cranking out, so a quicker, easier adaptation of a classic cheesecake was created.
I played around with the cheesecake ingredient amounts and ratios, to adjust for a pie dish rather than a springform pan, and tested leaving out the sour cream. Whoo, was that a fail! I don’t understand how the absence of sour cream actually made the cheesecake pie taste more sour, but my first thought was that maybe we left out the sugar?! (We didn’t! It tasted so very bad. Don’t skip the sour cream.)
So the cheesecake pie recipe uses the same 6 ingredients as classic cheesecake, but it features a shorter bake time, no water bath, and no cooling-in-the-oven step. I should really call it a cheater’s cheesecake! Some test pies & crusts:
Each topped with raspberry sauce.
Who eats all these pies? You’re probably wondering that! Luckily we have a lot of neighbors, friends, and family who are now all known as Sally’s Official Taste Testing Crew. 😉
Smoother-Than-Ever French Silk Pie
I’d been seeing some reader comments about the filling of this French silk pie tasting a little grainy, from the granulated sugar not fully dissolving. So I went back to the drawing board and tested the recipe with some tweaks.
Before, you cooked some of the sugar with the eggs on the stove, and creamed the rest of the sugar with the butter. Now you’re combining ALL of the granulated sugar with the eggs, so it has a chance to fully dissolve. The result is a perfectly silky chocolate pie:
Team member Trina topped it with the most beautiful chocolate curls. (It was the first thing I noticed when she sent me this picture!) All she did was take a vegetable peeler to the edges of a Hershey’s chocolate bar. HOW EASY IS THAT?! Better than ever French silk pie:
I think that’s all the testing worth noting for now! I have a few more recipes we’re working on right now, so expect another Recipe Testing update this fall.