There is no better dessert than a fresh fruit pie. That’s why I’m on a quest to make one using every type of fruit I can get my hands on. (You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the joys of a sweet-tart grape filling betwixt a buttery top and bottom crust.) As I bake my way through an assortment of berries, cherries, stone fruits, and more, I’m always on the lookout for tips and tricks that will take my creations to the next level. So when my colleague and baking guru Andrea Geary mentioned that she was going to try an outlandish technique for her Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie, I was all ears.
She wanted to run the top crust under water before baking the pie.
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Make the Crust Shine and Sparkle
Once I understood how the technique worked, I realized that sticking a pie under the tap makes a whole lot of sense: Applying water to the pastry thoroughly moistens it so it can hold onto a generous sprinkling of sugar, which transforms during baking into a candy-like layer with brilliant sheen, crackly crunch, and notable sweetness. The lustrous browning that the water-sugar combination produces is really impressive, too.
Ultimately, Andrea opted for a safer (albeit less dramatic) method for the same result: She used a pastry brush to paint the pastry with water. With this approach, the crust was able to grip a full 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Formula for a Crackly, Sugary Coating
For a 9-inch pie, brush the top crust with about 2 tablespoons of water and sprinkle it evenly with 3 tablespoons of sugar. I’ve found that the sweet topping pairs particularly well with tart fruit fillings such as rhubarb, apricot, plum, and sour cherry–but I’m sure I’ll be adding to that list in the near future.