Somehow, after a large, satisfying holiday meal, there's always still room for pie. A slice of pie and a cup of coffee is a traditional way to end many holiday feasts. A traditional way to spend the day before the meal is making pies, but if you want get a jump on the pie making, your freezer can be your best friend.
Betty Crocker recommends freezing both unbaked and baked fruit pies.
For unbaked fruit pies, assemble the pie as if you were going to bake it, but don't cut slits in the top pie crust. Wrap it in plastic wrap or in a freezer bag and freeze for up to three months. When ready to bake, unwrap the pie, cut slits in the top crust if desired, and bake unthawed at "425°F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F and bake 30 to 45 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits."
The Kitchn thinks freezing fruit pies unbaked is the best way to do it and suggests they bake up better than freshly made pies because the bottom crust doesn't get soggy. The crust has the time to bake before the filling begins to thaw and it doesn't "soak up the excess juices that would normally make it soggy." One important thing to remember: Glass pie pans may shatter from the extreme temperature fluctuation, so metal pans are the best choice from going to straight from freezer to oven.
Fully baked fruit pies should be cooled and then placed uncovered in the freezer until completely frozen, according to Betty Crocker. Once completely frozen, they can then be wrapped in plastic wrap or a freezer bag for up to four months. To serve, the pies can be thawed and served at room temperature. They can also be reheated by thawing at room temperature for one hour and then heated at "375°F on the lowest oven rack for 35 to 40 minutes or until warm."
Custard and cream-filled pies
Custard and cream filled pies don't freeze as well as fruit-filled pies. When they thaw out, they tend to be watery, particularly pumpkin pies. You can freeze them after they've been baked using the same method as you would a baked fruit pie, but if you want the best quality custard or cream pies, they should be baked fresh.
That doesn't mean you have to do all the work the day before or the day of the holiday. You can make the pie crusts ahead of time and freeze them unbaked for custard pies or baked for cream pies. If you're making pumpkin pie from scratch, you can make the pumpkin puree ahead of time and freeze it for up to three months. Fine Cooking suggests you can prepare the entire pumpkin custard for the pie and freeze that. If you have both frozen unbaked crust and frozen pumpkin puree or custard, baking pumpkin pie a day before, your feast will be much easier to pull together.
Pecan pies seem to be the exception to the custard rule. They can be frozen after baking and retain their quality.
Making pie crust ahead of time is easy to do, and if you don't have a lot of room in your freezer for whole pies, it's a way to get some of the work done ahead of time that takes up much less space.
To freeze unbaked pie crusts, roll the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or place in a freezer bag and freeze for up to two months. Or, roll the dough out to the size of the pie crust you'll need, place it on parchment paper or wax paper (or even the waxy cereal box liner) and then roll it up, wrap it tightly and freeze. Thaw unbaked pie crusts in the refrigerator for best results.
To freeze baked pie crusts, bake as usual and allow to cool completely. Place in the freezer and allow to freeze before wrapping tightly in plastic wrap or freezer bags so that no moisture will get trapped in and make the baked crust soggy. It'll keep for up to four months. Hillbilly Housewife suggests that if you want to freeze several baked pie crusts, remove from the pie pans once they're frozen and stack them on top of each other with wax paper or parchment between them. To keep them from getting broken, put them in a box. Thaw the unbaked pie crust for about 15 minutes before putting it back in a pie pan.
To make your freeze-ahead preparations even easier, try these tips.
- Tape the baking instructions right onto the freezer bag or wrap so you can pull them out and prepare them quickly without having to find the cookbook or website the instructions are on.
- Place pies on a preheated pizza stone in the oven to get a crispy bottom crust. (via Fine Cooking)
- Cheesecake also freezes very well if tightly wrapped. It can also be frozen in individual slices.
- Use cornstarch instead of flour in fruit pies to help keep the filling thick, even after freezing.