Solutions for Everyday Kitchen Mistakes

You can learn from your mistakes, but it may result in ugly cakes, calorie overloads, and even singed arm hair (ouch!).  Learn from our cooking, nutrition, grilling, and baking mistakes instead!

The Most Common Cooking Mistakes

Learn how to avoid these common mistakes for success every time.

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Your Piecrust Shrinks
Photo: Randy Mayor

59. Your Piecrust Shrinks

No shortage of home bakers have witnessed the Great Piecrust Disappearing Act—dough that looks perfect in the pan but contracts in the oven. The problem: too much gluten. The gluten in dough can become like rubber bands stretched to their limit: too much strain, and the proteins snap back into a tangled heap. You need some gluten for structure, but you need to treat it gently. By the way, even packaged pie dough can shrink.

The solution: Relax your dough. It's tempting to work homemade dough into a cohesive ball, but this over-develops gluten. The dough should just hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand, with bits of fat visible throughout. Form the dough into a disk, wrap, and chill at least 20 minutes—this lets the gluten unwind. To form the pie shell, gently roll the dough into a circle larger than the pan, at least 12 inches, and then trim and flute. Stretching a too-small circle to fit the pan will stretch the gluten. Chill the pie shell before filling. (If you feel you've stretched purchased dough, chill it, too; this will relax the gluten and help prevent shrinkage.) The fat, still solid from the fridge, will melt and steam in the oven, creating delicious flaky layers.

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